Synergy Steppers hosted its annual “Steppin Into The Colors of Summer” event in downtown Raleigh at the Holiday Inn Hotel. The location was perfect, surrounded by tons of great restaurants and bars, and just blocks away from the state capital building. The weather in Raleigh was incredible, averaging around 88 degrees during my stay, extending summer just a little bit longer for us Chicagoans where temperatures are already creeping down in to the mid 70’s.
Bill Perkins, the groups co-founder, greeted Steppers as they arrived from different parts of the country. He showed us the ballroom on the first floor where the event was held and then ushered us up to the 20th floor suite, which overlooked the city, that he reserved for the after parties and lounging. Friday night’s opening event was casual and an intimate crowd showed up to party to the sounds of Lady V, who opened the set, and DJ Limo who closed the occasion. Of course, many of my Chicago Steppin fam were in the house, including Darrell Davis, Maddie B, Keith Randale and his lovely wife, Cynthia Shanks & Stan, Terri Rodgers, DJ Robert (Mayback Entertainment), Swan, and many others. I tried to dance Maddy B until she couldn’t take it anymore, but ended up hurting my own knee instead (as usual).
Following the party, which ended at 1am, we went up to the sky lounge and ate pizza, listened to music, and talked all night. Me, Darrell Davis, and Drew (St. Louis) talked until security kicked us out of the room at about 4am. On Saturday, I spent most of the day with my homie Tall Rick, who has an incredible home in Raleigh with two decks, incredible original art, a theater room, two guest bedrooms, and an L shaped walk-in closet … and that’s just part of the house. While at Rick’s, Sharvin Whitted, Cora O’Kelly, Purhman Lockman, Gloria (Fancy Dancer), and some more friends stopped through to kick it.
I returned to the hotel just in time for the Main Event, where couples dressed elegantly for what turned out to be a really good party. Not only was the Atlanta fam in the house, Word of Mouth CEO Iary Israel stopped in, as well as my buddies Desi Smith, who I always love dancing with, Alonzo (After 7), Jodine Basterash, and Ericka Little. I danced until I was drenched in sweat before they opened the floor for Maddie’s Line Dancing set, Brian Henly Lordson’s performance, and a special tribute to The Afro’s, a popular Chicago social club from some years back.
I was pooped by the party’s end, so I decided to check out all of the drunk college kids in the downtown Raleigh area instead of going to the after party. In all, I had a great weekend in Raleigh with the Synergy Steppers. To that end, a lot of people asked me if I thought the weekend was a success. I explained to them that success is determined by a person’s goals. Bill told me out of the gate that he was not trying to become the next GDI Heritage Ball. Basically, he said, “I just want to throw a good intimate party in Raleigh and bring some of my friends out.” With such clear and simple goals, the Synergy Steppers event was a resounding success.
I learned that Bill Perkins has a deep appreciation for classical Steppin, and there is no ambiguity on where he stands in this regard. He caters to a more classic Steppin crowd and classic Steppin music. You get the feeling from talking to him that he’s a big supporter of his wife Vivian, who DJ’d a lot of the weekend, and it’s almost as if he gets even more pleasure out of hosting the weekend because it allows his wife to do something that she loves. One thing you also learn about Bill from speaking with the community is that he can be a very polarizing figure in the dance community. That is to day, he has a strong personality and most people either like him a lot or not at all. To that end, Bill told me that he is a 34 year military veteran who did 7 tours of duty dating as far back as Vietnam, which might speak to his very strong and deliberate personality. Luckily, I happen to be on the side that appreciates his discipline, hard work, and love for Steppin, so we’ve always gotten along great. Bill, Maynard, and the rest of the Synergy Steppers crew took good care of us this weekend and I wish those brothers much success moving their program forward in the future. Check out pictures from the weekend on ChiStepper’s Facebook Page.