Once again, the P.L.A.Y.E.R.S Club step team put best their foot forward.
Thursday evening, the Bronx-based step team returned to Rowan After Hours (RAH) to perform for the eighth time.
“We love Rowan and Rowan loves us. As long as they want us here, we’ll be here,” said founder and CEO Edward Nelson.
The show combined intricate steps paired with comedy and audience participation. Stepping is a form of dance where the performers make beats and rhythms using mostly their feet, hands and chants. At one point in the show, Nelson explained the origins of step, which date back to slavery, and how it was used for other slaves to communicate.
In 1906 when Alpha Phi Alpha, the first black fraternity, was founded, it incorporated stepping as a remembrance of the art form. Stepping was adopted by other black sororities and fraternities which are known as the Divine Nine. As of today, numerous Greek organizations incorporate stepping and strolling in their chapters.
For many of the P.L.A.Y.E.R.S, step is more than a career or hobby; it is a second chance at redemption and a way to be a positive influence in their neighborhood. Nelson founded the P.L.A.Y.E.R.S in 1996 after joining his step team three months prior.
During the show he gave his testimony of how he was engaged in street life but left it behind for step. The name itself is an acronym which means “Participating in the lives among youth to educate and restore society.”
“We were kinda forced into it. Being performers you start to realize that people look up to you,” Nelson said.
Once Nelson realized how step could affect change, he started introducing it to schools and other outlets to reach young people.
Ortega “Kayo” Mack, 25, is one of those young people. Ortega joined the P.L.A.Y.E.R.S at 19 after seeing them perform one time.
“It’s working. I’m a former gang member and I don’t do that anymore, because of this. This was my chance out,” Mack said.
Over the past 20 years, the team has danced on tour with Beyoncé and Alicia Keys, won at the Apollo over a dozen times, and has been sponsored by Metro PCS. Nelson said that the secret to the group’s success is being open and willing to change.
Highlights of the RAH performance included the finale when the P.L.A.Y.E.R.S recreated famous beats from hit movies “Coming to America” and “Drumline,” as well as a dance circle where the audience joined the troupe on stage to dance.
“I came last year, and they’re amazing,” said junior law and justice major Atiyannah Jean-Baptiste. “I hope they come again next year.”
Many students expressed similar reviews of the show.
“It was beautiful, they killed it,” said sophomore Jamira Price, who was selected to go on stage with the group as they taught a handful of students a new step.
“Rowan needed this, more culture and more diversity.”
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