The Chicago “Old Skool” preliminary just wrapped and based on the audience applause, legendary Old Skoolers Dre and his wife, Sheila Watkins along with Kamaal and Nicole Sadeeq were the crowd favorites. For those who may not know Dre, he is a beloved member of the Chicago Steppin community for both his suave personality and his incredible dancing. Dre is truly a dancer that can do it all, from the Original Dungeon era Steppin, to the fancy turns and tricks used today. I was elated to finally see him in the World’s Largest Steppin Contest, as he is a true representation of Original Steppin, and an individual I’ve admired since I first learned the dance. To that end, Dre’s wife and partner Sheila is a great smooth dancer in her own right, with style, class, and elegance. Sheila has a lot of footwork of her own, but she’s going to have to bring more of it out in the big contest to match Dre’s. They will be fun to watch.
Another standout from this past preliminary was Kamaal As-Salam Sadeeq. Since moving to Chicago, Kamaal has improved tremendously. He has learned to calm down and allow the dance to come to him. Kamaal gets a lot of comparisons to Tall Rick, but I don’t see many similarities at all, outside of the fact that they’re both tall and they both move their feet well. Rick has a classic style where 90% of the time he is both facing and mirroring his partner in dance. Rick is generally moving left to right with his partner. Additionally, Rick dances under the beat and transitions between very fast and very slow movements, similar to a roller coaster ride. Kamaal on the other hand dances in a standard pattern, in the middle of the music, which is totally fine, just different. As for Nicole, I did enjoy seeing her transition to the boppers rhythm when “Ain’t That A Groove” came on, but Nicole needs to match Kamaal’s footwork to make an impression on the judges in September.
As for the Detroit prelims, you can’t help but think that Drew Alexander and Ann Hunter are going to give the other contestants hell in the Original New Skool category. One of the great leaders and followers of the modern era combining for what is essentially a “freestyle” category with a few original rules leaves room for some very fun things to happen. It will be interesting to see who will Step up and challenge them for the title. I’m hoping the community won’t just hand Drew another title.
Conversely, I see Drew, Richard Cochran, and Ann being very vulnerable in the Trio this year, but it will all depend on who Steps up to challenge them. I would love to see Cali’s Carlton Puckett, Lauren LaGrone, and Showtyme come back to defend their title. This would also be a great year for Feo, Keesha, and Candace to bring their precision Trio game back to the contest. Detroit’s Darryl, Angela Ireland, Chelita Walker felt a little sluggish in their Trio performance, but a lot can change with two months of practice.
Here are my thoughts on what I’ve seen from the contest so far. The guys are doing a lot more than the ladies, and this is not going to bode well for the couples in the contest. Some of the ladies in the Original Old Skool Category basically stayed in their basics while the men showed out. The Synchronization category of the World’s Largest Stepper’s Contest suggests that the partners dance together in unison. With that said, if the man is showing out and footworking, the woman should be matching his energy. Ladies take heed – Step your game up if you want to win in September.