As I've said before on these pages, I believe black history is American history, and have never felt myself restricted to "celebrating" it only one month out of the year.
However, as I've also said before, it does allow us to showcase some inspiring stories centering around African-Americans and their accomplishments.
And as photographers and writers (of which I am both) nearly always love a good theme, I am more than happy to oblige by drawing your attention to a fun, yet historically significant story I had the pleasure of shooting back in 2006 for Lake & Sumter Style Magazine.
The article was written by friend Mary Ann DeSantis, and the subject was the Lake Mount Steppers, a youth dance group based out of Mount Dora, Florida.
For those of you who are not familiar with "stepping" - and I am not ashamed to admit I was one of you before I covered this story - here's the clinical explanation from the Stepping Wikipedia page:
"Stepping or step-dancing is a form of percussive dance in which the participant's entire body is used as an instrument to produce complex rhythms and sounds through a mixture of footsteps, spoken word, and hand claps. Though stepping may be performed by an individual, it is generally performed by groups of three or more, often in arrangements that resemble military formations."
And yeah, I find this a bit funny; a reference source trying to coldly define an ethnic art form that is both rhythmic and soulful. But it should give you a basic idea of what's involved.
Stepping became popular with black college fraternities and sororities in this country in the early 1900s, and some trace its origins all the way back to African foot dances. So even those these kids probably had no idea how far back this tradition goes, you can easily understand its significance simply by examining its history.
Because this was a feature story, I had to provide photos that told a more detailed story as well. Which meant scheduling several shoots with the group, including marching along with them in a parade through downtown Mount Dora. But that's really the best part of my job sometimes. Getting to spend more time with fun and interesting subjects, and these great kids were not only wonderful and expressive performers, but seemed to enjoy being in the spotlight as well.
That makes for some good photos...
Sadly, the Lake Mount Steppers disbanded some years after this story ran. From what I hear, it was either budget issues or a lack of participation. Either way it's a shame, as I felt the dual purpose of this group's activities, giving young people something purposeful as well as celebrating tradition, to be a good investment in our community.
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All photos ©Steven Paul Hlavac. All rights reserved.