I was dancing at Donnie Davis’ class and in walks Sue Watson. Sue saw me struggling with a move that was pretty basic for her and she spent about 30 minutes helping me learn it. Whenever we get a chance to catch up we talk about Steppin history, footwork, and much more. I’ve always been intrigued by her relationship with Steppin Icon, Lil Alfred, a very close friend of hers prior to his death in 1992. In this interview, we talk about Lil Alfred, the current state of the dance, and a few female Steppers from the current generation that she enjoys watching. Check out Sue’s first ChiStepper interview …
Sue, it’s a pleasure to have you on ChiStepper.com. For those who may not know, tell us when you started Steppin and how you learned.
Hello Terrance, thank you for inviting me. Well I started this dance called Steppin in 1977. I was 15 years old. I learned this dance by watching my brothers and his friends and the ones before me on the north west side (Cabrini Green). [I tried] dancing with my brother [but] when he turned me one way I wasn’t getting it [so] he wouldn’t dance with me. So I learned on my own, really by watching and at home I would dance with a chair, broom, mop, [and] door. [I used] the wall to get my foot work [Laughing] Outside using the pole … Yep she did that. I basically taught myself.
How do you feel about how Steppin has progressed nationally?
I really don’t feel no type of way Terrance. Progress is a wonderful thing. People all over ‘Love This Dance’ and want to learn it. I think that’s awesome.
You were really close friends with Lil Alfred, who is revered as one of the greatest Steppers to ever grace the floor. What was Lil Alfred like as a person?
Yes I was close with lil Alfred. He was a cool guy – very funny, loving, happy, caring, very respectful, motivating, a good sense of humor. Just fun to be around. He was a true legend. I miss him so much!
What kind of lead did he have? That is to say, was he heavy-handed, light, etc.?
He had an unbelievable lead. I say a little bit of both. But it depended on the other person’s hands also. I think once he started to dance with you he can feel the moment in the hands.
I’ve watched him dance. He was very agile and limber. I think you told me once that it was because it was a martial artist. Is that right?
Yes Lil Alfred was a professional black belt in martial arts. Used to carry around his license for being a black belt in his wallet. He said to me if he had to kick somebody in the head he would do it to knock them out because that will be self-defense. He never left home without it.
Do you think he knew how great he was?
I truly believe he knew that. [Laughing] Great he was.
Lil Alfred died from AIDS and you were friends with him until the end. What were his last days like?
Yes he told me about his sickness but that didn’t change not one thing about how I felt about him. He was my friend all the way to the end Terrance. I loved him like a brother. We shared a lot together. You could talk to him about anything. His last days well … his last birthday party was at the Keyman Club on the west side. There was lots of dancing with all the ones that loved and cared about him. [This was] in 1992.
Okay, back to you. [Laughing] Are any of your dance partners from the 70’s and 80’s still dancing today?
Yes Terrance. Just a few.
You have extremely fast feet and you’re very coordinated. Do you feel that you’re talent came through a lot of practice, or was it natural?
To be honest, I would say both. Practice and natural. You’re funny! [Laughing]
Are they any ladies that are dancing and competing now that you really like to watch or that really stand out to you?
Yes, I love watching Lady Margaret, Sherry Gordon, that young lady Ann (Hunter), Pat Clay, Sheila Watkins – really love to see her. Paris White, Tori [Lynch] just to name a few. It’s just too many to name right now.
What advice would you give to this generation of female dancers?
Just get along, keep doing you, [and] enjoy this dance that you do. That’s my advice. Yep!
A lot of Steppers from years back disappear and never come back. Why have you stayed so involved with the dance for so many years?
Because I love to step. I do! I love seeing other people dance also and the music sometimes be off the chain. [Laughing]
What is your greatest Steppin memory?
My greatest Steppin memory? The Dungeon on 109th and Michigan. How I used to go with Sam Chatman and Barry and hang posters on the pole for the Steppin’ set. [Laughing] How I used to dance with Lil Alfred. How me and Jannice won a contest on the west side … we broke them off. She did a split and it was all over. [Laughing]
Any closing thoughts?
My closing thoughts. This dance don’t belong to no one. Get in where you fit in. Yep she said that! Thank you Terrance!