This Weekend Steppers from across the nation converged on Chicago for the 25th Anniversary of the World’s Largest Steppers Contest. Pete Frazier, Casper, and Cee did an excellent job MCing and keeping the contest rolling. Mellow Khris and I believe DJ Cross did an excellent job on the music. The contest ran smoothly for the most part, with the exception of the music stalling during one of the performances. This also happened at the Pre Party and might have had something to do with Tinley’s Park’s junction box not being able to handle those powerful amps and speakers.
The energy for the early portion of the contest felt flat because the lights were so dim on the stage. Once this was corrected, the contest seemed to liven up … but only little. There were bright spots at points in the contest but for the most part it felt like watching Steppers dance at the club. I believe there’s a reason for this, which I’ll explain a bit later on.
On a different note, I’ve been thinking of a way to discuss the performances without undermining the judges or the winners. The judges selected who they selected and I think they’re decision should stand as they are. We all appreciate different things when we watch Steppin, so it’s unnecessary to rain on a couple’s parade considering all of the hard work that goes into preparing for the contest.
With that said, I’d like to highlight some of the performances that were most entertaining (to me), regardless of whether they placed or not. My favorite performances of the night in order were …
1. Pharies Henderson & Dana White Scott
2. Nikee & Tori Lynch
3. Drew Alexander & Ann Hunter
4. Carlton Puckett & Lauren LaGrone
5. Maurice Dixon & Ericka Jones
6. Ed Donaldson & Amanda Anderson
7. Steppin LP & partner
A lot of other couples did very well, and some of the couples I missed because I was running back and forth preparing for the after party, but the couples above really entertained me. Speaking of entertainment, I heard a lot of people say the contest was boring this year. It’s really frustrating to hear this but I know why it happens year after year.
Real Steppers want to see talent on the dance floor. As Steppers, we aspire to be great, and more than anything be respected by our peers and the great dancers that came before us. Real Steppers know that other Real Steppers don’t appreciate the tricks and gimmicks that take place in the contest. The funny thing about the WLS contest is that you can actually win with tricks and gimmicks and lose respect among your peers. It’s the weirdest thing ever.
On the flipside, the audience could care less about the technical elements of the dance. Some people paid $50 dollars a seat. Ringside people $100 a seat. Well, I could damn near get a Beyonce ticket for $100 a seat, so mentality is … if I’m paying that kinda money I WANT TO SEE A DAMN SHOW! The contestants have to figure out who they’re going to please each year … The Judges or the Crowd. Sometimes you can do both, but depending on what kind of dancer you are it can be very difficult.
Personally, I enjoyed the contest because I love to watch Steppin in any form but there is a difference between appreciating something and being entertained. For instance, I go to a lot of art shows and I appreciate the great works that have been created and even marvel at the level of skill that went into creating them, but rarely do I leave entertained. Steppers are performance artists, and while I appreciate their skills in much the same way, performance art has a different expectation. For the sake of the contest, these artist should be allowed the creative liberty to draw outside of the lines a little bit for the sake of entertaining.
If you look at New York Fashion week, some of the top designers in the world put together runway shows of clothes that most of us would never wear on the street, but they’re granted this creative freedom for the sake of entertaining us and showing us the depth of their skills. The energy created at these shows produces so much hype that we look forward to the next year to see what they’ll come up with. In Steppin however, we just complain and point fingers at creative expression … 1) Too much turning 2) I Don’t like the dips 3) It looks like Salsa dancing 4) They’re adding Latin hustling into Steppin 5) No hip hop moves 6) If you add all of these extra ingredients into Steppin, it’s no longer Steppin … etc, etc, etc. Then in the very same breadth they’ll say, “Steppin needs to be on Dancing With The Stars,” like America at large will be entertained by a smooth ballroom style dance. The last thing we do to undermine the contest when we feel it’s boring is simply blame the contestants. We figuratively strip them of their arms and legs with respect to creativity, and then say they can’t dance when they don’t entertain us.
Nevertheless, congrats to all of the winners. I predicted last year that Cali was on the rise and they showed up big time this year. Congrats to Carlton, Lauren, Showtime, and Martha for a historic year for California. With regard to fashion, I don’t have pictures yet, so I’m being very honest in saying the my memorable contest outfits were: Ed Donaldson & Amanda Anderson; Nikee & Tori Lynch; Shawn Bandy & Keisha Reese Boram; Carlton Puckett & Lauren Lagrone (Include Showtime for the Trio as well); Mark Alexander, Tabitha Hicks, & Theresa (Trio); Drew Alexander & Ann Hunter; Maurice Thomas & Martha Stephens; Kevin Dockery & Sunshine; and Wayne Pierce & Pamela Pearson (the yellow African attire really popped on stage). To be honest, I thought the contestant body as a whole (for the most part), dressed very well this year.
Aside from the contest, it is always great to see so many Steppers from around the nation gather in the motherland of Steppin for a fun weekend. You all looked great. Sadly, my Friday night pictures from the photographer seemed to disappear into thin air, so hopefully I still have the Saturday photos to share. More on the entire weekend later.
Here is the final list of winners
1st – Tony Dow & Charnice Simmons (Grand Prize $5,000) (City: Los Angeles – via Chicago & Chicago)
Original Old Skool
1st – Shawn Bandy & Keisha Reese Boram (Grand Prize $2,500) (City: Chicago)
2nd – Pharies Henderson & Dana White Scott (Prize $1,000) (City: Chicago)
3rd – Maurice Thomas & Martha Stephens (Prize $500) (City: Chicago & Los Angeles)
Original New Skool
1st – Royce Banks & Christa Lee (Grand Prize $2,500) (City: Chicago)
2nd – Carlton Pucket & Lauren LaGrone (Prize $1,000) (City: Los Angeles)
3rd – Ed Donaldson & Amanda Anderson (Prize $500) (City: Detroit)
1st – Carlton Puckett, Lauren LaGrone & Showtyme (Prize $1,500) (City: Los Angeles)
1st – Christopher McMellan & Oni Faulkner (Prize $500) (City: Detroit)