Marcus Reynolds and Cheri Lilly took a bold chance in the World’s Largest New Skool Prelims last night adding some pretty daring tricks into their performance. For better or for worse they were the talk of the night. Almost immediately after the contest and into the morning I received text messages with opinions on the performance. It’s no secret that I’ve established a reputation as a traditionalist over the years, so I’m not surprised that people were expecting me to trash the performance … at least personally, if not in public.
To that end, Marcus and Cheri were certainly not dancing in a traditional format. Tall Rick told me I was getting soft last week, and my posture on what’s acceptable in Steppin is becoming too lax. Maybe Rick has a point, because I actually enjoyed Marcus and Cheri’s performance last night. To me it was more of a representation of Freestyle Steppin than New Skool Steppin, but everyone MUST remember, Pete Frazier changed the rules to allow this type of performance in the New Skool category. If you want to be mad at somebody, be mad at Pete.
To the point of preserving the integrity of authentic Steppin, it is true, I’m a borderline snob, but I also love to be entertained. Quite frankly, this is the type of stuff that audiences pay to see. Let’s not forget that the Freestyle Category of the World’s Largest Steppers Contest was unquestionably the most popular category in the contest. Crowds haven’t reached into the 6,000’s since the category disappeared. The antics in that category had long surpassed original Dungeon-Era Steppin, yet the general public could have cared less.
I know that this is terrible to say, but just as much as I look forward to seeing breathtaking Trio performances, I also look forward to seeing who’s high heel shoe is gonna break, who’s breast is going to pop out, and who’s going to damn near fall off of the stage. It makes for an entertaining night of Steppin. Even so, I don’t want to write Marcus and Cheri off as some sort of clown show. Master dancer Andre Blackwell once said to me, “I dance for me. I’d rather go out there and dance the way I want to dance and lose, than dance the way someone else wants me to dance and lose.” Steppin is about personal expression, and if that’s how Marcus and Cheri felt inside, I encourage them to go for it. I know my eyes will be glued on them in the contest because I want to see what else they’re going to do.
To that end, sometimes you have to do something drastic in a competition to make people pay attention to you. Imagine how many people dance in the contest year after year and don’t get paid attention to. We don’t know their names, and we have no expectation for them to win. They’re like a side dish of carrot slices next to a New York strip steak. Steppers are acting so outraged now, but deep down inside they know they’re excited to have something to talk about. Yes, a few will soap box on how true Steppin is dying and blah blah blah, but the reality is this … Freestyle never killed Original Steppin and we all know Marcus and Cheri can dance in the Original New Skool format without the tricks.
With that said, I’m going to enjoy reading all of your criticisms of this article, but I want to encourage Marcus and Cheri to come even harder in the finals. I want to see a double back flip, step across back toss, into a carousel. God speed!