Meet Martha Shelley and The Steppers of Nashville


Hi Martha, believe it or not, I’m slightly familiar with Steppin in Nashville.  In 2011, we interviewed Meme Warren from the Music City Steppers.  How has Steppin in Nashville grown since 2011?

Meme Warren is a large part of the growth in the Nashville Steppin community.  She was the person who started teaching the dance here.  She will always be very dear to Nashville for all her efforts and commitment to seeing that Nashville learned this dance.  She doesn’t live here any longer and from her teachings we have about 7 to 8 instructors/teachers now in the city that teach regular FREE classes during the week.  The community is built up of five different teams today and it also includes the city of Clarksville, TN.  We have more than 70 steppers today that have consistently stayed with the dance and grown so much.  Nashville travels to other Steppin communities and always turns out in large numbers.  We are very proud of our growth and our Steppin family.

What is your role in the current Nashville Steppin landscape? 

I have been Steppin now for almost 7 years.  My role would be doing what is needed to continue our success of growth.  We have some wonderful talents in our Steppin community and we pull from all those interested in this one goal of making this a fun and enjoyable GROWN/SEXY environment.


Martha Shelley

How did you gravitate to Steppin?

I was introduced to the dance by my husband, Frederick Douglas Shelley, and we were taught under Meme’s leadership.  Once I saw the dance I loved it.

One thing that surprised me when we spoke previously is that all of the Steppin groups in Nashville come together for the national Steppers weekend.  Usually there’s a lot of bickering between Steppin groups in one city, how does the Steppers of Nashville manage to pull this off? 

I am pleased to say we have a really good group of Steppers here in Nashville and we are all able to come together to make our annual event a great success.  We understand there will be different opinions on the planning but we also can appreciate the vote of the majority and go with that vote.  With any group you will always have some disagreement but this is a GREAT group and as I mentioned earlier I am so proud to be here in Nashville with this community.  We have learned to focus on the positives and control putting energy into the negatives.

Would you say the Steppin community in Nashville has surpassed Memphis in total number of dancers?

No, the Memphis Steppin community has been around a lot longer than Nashville but we are most definitely getting close.  We love Memphis and we support each other 100% since were are only 2 to 3 hours away depending on who is driving.  We have our monthly sets and we travel each month to Memphis to support and they do the same for us.  Memphis is my home so I love having them there when I travel home to see my family.  It allows me the opportunity to get some Steppin in and visit family and friends.

Years ago Meme shared that it was difficult getting new Steppers away from hip hop music and club dancing to try something new.  Is this still a challenge in Nashville? 

I would agree with Meme a few years ago but we are finding many people that are ages 25 and up coming out to learn the dance.  I think they are finding this dance is a beautiful thing and it is for all ages.  We hope to see more growth from this age group.  They found out that the mature crowd knows how to have fun too.

What other challenges do you all face as a dance community?

In the past our challenge has been not having enough classes for those interested in learning the dance.  Due to our growth we have been able to overcome that challenge.  Today we have Steppin classes 4 days out of week and in different areas of the city.  This allows people to be able to get to a class close to their home or work.  This is due to the dedication from our wonderful teachers/instructors given this FREE labor of love.  These teachers/instructors are Troy Logan, Frederick Shelley, Carla Hart, Pamela Scott, Angela Ridley and Nelson Harper.

How would you say the majority of dancers in Nashville go about improving their dance?  That is to say, do you bring instructors in regularly, travel to national sets and take workshops, drive to Atlanta, or is there another strategy? 

Today most of our steppers travel to different locations to support other Steppin events and they attend workshops there.  We do have instructors brought into the city for our steppers to also improve their dance.  Also the consistency from many attending the weekly classes has proven to keep them sharp and developing in the days.  That old saying practice makes perfect is one to live by in this dance.  It allows them to develop technique and confidence.

I had a vision of Nashville in my head of being very slow and country.  Then Dre Blackwell and I stopped in Nashville to eat on our drive back from Atlanta and I was very impressed with the city.  Downtown was pretty big, the people were very nice, and outside of the southern dialect, nothing felt slow about Nashville.  What can you tell us about the culture of the city of Nashville? 

It is funny you say that because as I mentioned earlier I am from Memphis and before I arrived in Nashville I had the same thought.  However you will find Nashville is very progressive and just a beautiful city all around.  There are so many things to do here in the city of Nashville.  The people are also very nice and the food is good.  There is nothing like our Southern Hospitality.

The Steppers of Nashville is hosting its national weekend pretty soon.  Give us some info on the dates, highlights, and why Steppers should put it on their dance calendar? 

We would love everyone to put on their calendar to support our 7th Annual Nashville Steppin event on August 5-7, 2016.  We are going to be at the newly renovated Airport Embassy Suites.  We are planning to roll out the red carpet for all our attendees.  We want to make sure they feel the love of this community and want to return in 2017.  We are doing some very special and different things for all the attendees.  How can you go wrong with plenty of good food, music, Steppin and fellowship?  We are offering two FREE workshops for the weekend.  If you purchase the weekend pass these workshop are FREE to you.  The Steppin workshop will be conducted by Ms. Meme Warren of Atlanta and the Walkin workshop will be conducted by Mr. Greg Dixon of Memphis.  All the events will be in the hosted hotel.  All the guests staying at the hosted hotel will be able to take advantage of the FREE made to order breakfast each morning and the cocktail hour each evening for 2 hours.  You can enjoy yourself and never have to leave the hotel.  However we are only 5 minutes away from the Opry Mills mall should they want to do a little shopping.  We will kick the weekend off with our Roaring 20’s Friday Set.  On Saturday we will have our Silver Ball with a touch of purple with a full dinner buffet and Sunday we will have our Farewell Set where attendees can wear t-shirts to represent their city if they have one or just be comfortable to get one more step in before safe travels back to their homes.  To purchase tickets and get more details you can go to our website at or contact the Steppers of Nashville at  We are so excited and will be awaiting all those coming to support.

Any closing thoughts? 

Many thanks to you Terrance for allowing us the opportunity to share with other steppers what is going on in the city of Nashville.