MSBU hosted the 12th Annual Milwaukee’s Largest Steppers Contest last night, where a host of Steppers came out to cheer on 8 couples in the Original Old Skool and Original New Skool categories. The winners in the New Skool Category were Carlos Fortune and Bendetta Wright (1st place) and Shawn Bandy and Tina Melendrez (2nd place). In the Original Old Skool Category Kevin “Doc” Dockery and Vicky Henning took 1st place honors, while Nikee and Tori Lynch took 2nd place honors. Videos from all of the performances will be on ChiStepper’s Facebook Page and/or ChiStepper’s Youtube Page (ChiStepperTV), with the exception of Nikee and Tori Lynch (my camcorder crashed and deleted their performance).
In the Old Skool Category, 1st and 2nd place was decided by 1 point, and that’s about how close that category appeared. Doc and Vicky put together a strong performance that was all about style and footwork. On the other hand, Nikee and Tori put on a show as they usually do with a number of signature moves and overall entertaining presentation. I really enjoyed both performances. Milwaukee Walt also returned to the stage with a partner I couldn’t identify.
The New Skool Category was a lot of fun. Carlos and Bendetta made a statement right off the back dancing to one song only, “Talking Loud Ain’t Saying Nothing” by James Brown. If they were trying to send a message to the other competitors they certainly did, because they impressed the judges with a dance that combined some of their vintage acrobatics with some classic new skool Steppin. One thing about Carlos and Bendetta is that they go to work from the word “Go.” There is no warming up process for those two veteran performers. Much deserved 2nd place honors went to Shawn Bandy and Tina Melendrez. This was my favorite performance so far from Shawn Bandy. For a long time I thought Shawn’s dance lacked direction – it was like he was getting so much input from great dancers, he didn’t know what to do with it. Last night I saw him put it all together in a performance that was fluid with great footwork, style, turns, floor movement, and charisma. Shawn is going to be a serious force in the years to come. I was also happy to see Tina Melendrez make a much deserved walk to the podium. Tina is an amazing dancer that doesn’t get the credit she deserves, so I enjoyed watching her dance and win last night.
It was also a joy seeing dancers from the new generation step up. Arnell and Oni Faulkner did an awesome job last night. They have a little ways to go before they’ll be competitive on the big stage, but they’re doing the right things to get to the top level. They both showed class, style, and footwork and they were well received by the crowd. Another couple that has been working hard is Karron and Onekki Louris. They’re in a similar boat as Arnell and Oni, doing all the right things to be a force in the years to come, but still not at the top level yet. Karron and Onekki are improving so rapidly I can see improvement every time they get on the floor. Karron’s footwork is starting to come together well and he has a lot of charisma.
Finally, Alfred Johnson and his partner whose name I didn’t catch performed well last night. They had the unfortunate task of following Carlos and Bendetta, who had just set the stage on fire, but he put together a solid performance. Alfred kept it cool last night, and although I’ve criticized some of his freestyle performances in the past, I was actually thinking he might need to bust out a split last night after Carlos’ performance.
In all the contest was very entertaining and a lot of fun. It was good to see some new talent challenge “some” of the greats, but not too many of them. It was important for the audience to see the new generation of talent step up (Arnell, Oni, Karron, Onekki), and when you have too many heavy hitters in the contest they can be overshadowed. Shouts out to DJ Cross and DJ Kel C, who did an incredible job on the 1’s and 2’s and Pete Frazier who MC’d the affair.