This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the World’s Largest Steppers Contest and also features the Master’s Category, which only happens once every 5 years (with the exception of the Original Old Skool Master’s contest held in 2009). You would think that achieving such a feat in a monumental contest celebrating 25 years would bring a lot of the big dogs out of the woodwork, yet many are wondering if anyone at all will show up tonight.
I can recall a time about a decade ago when Steppin began to grow nationally, before Facebook and Youtube, that Steppers traveled to different cities anointing themselves as Master instructors and dancers – some going as far as calling themselves the very best in Chicago. While winning the Master’s category may not be the only criteria for the determination of Master status in the dance, competing in the category at least places you in the argument. It would be different if many of the previous winners decided to sit out this year, but they haven’t. They’re still dancing, just in lessor categories.
For those who may not know, the list of previous Master’s winners is short: Greg Adrow & Cynthia Shanks (2 times); Maurice Turner & Tina Moore; Adrian Haywood & Diane Haywood; and Andre Blackwell & Shareda Newbern. With only four couples in the history of the 25 year contest having achieved this feat, you would think dancers would be jumping at the bit to place their names in the history books.
The lack of interest in the Master’s Category, while the other categories continue to swell as usual, speaks to an interesting irony in the dance. Year after year we hear the best dancers say they don’t want to compete because the contest is watered down and eliminations aren’t taking place, yet when the opportunity is presented for the best to dance against the best, very few answer the call. So far only Drew Alexander and Ann Hunter out of Detroit have answered the call, but I’m interested to see if that number increases after tonight. While Steppers will still have until next week to enter the contest in a make-up prelim for all categories, tonight will be a telling sign of what we can look forward to in the Master’s Category this year.
[Editor’s Note: Shouts out to previous Master’s contestants for Steppin up to the plate: Lady Margaret Fisher; Tyk Myn; Dominique Robinson; Danielle Wordlaw; Ken Amorio & Lou Kimbrough; and Royce Banks & Sherry Gordon.]
The Prelims take place at Mr. G’s in Chicago, IL on 87th and Ashland. Doors open at 7pm and admission is $5.