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New Victory Blog

The New Victory Blog is a place to learn more about New York's theater for families and the shows we produce. Find out what we do and what we're passionate about—exploring the arts as a family.

Step Afrika! began as a collaboration between American dancers and members of Johannesburg's Soweto Dance Theater in 1994. They have since emerged as one of the top stepping companies in the United States. Their most prolific work, The Migration Series: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence, is now on stage at the New Vic! In this, they bring to life The Migration Series, a landmark painting series by Jacob Lawrence inspired by the journey of the millions of African Americans who moved from the rural South to the urban North to rebuild their lives after World War I. We sat down with founder C. Brian Williams to discuss the cultural context surrounding the show.

1. How do you think The Migration: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence reflects today's landscape? 
 
The Migration is an extremely important work for Step Afrika! Every time the cast walks onto the stage, I think of those brave men and women who left the South with its unbearable restrictions on African American life and took a journey without truly understanding what awaited them on the other side. No one ever wants to abandon their home, unless there's no other reasonable alternative. Every performance of The Migration is a percussive tribute to the strength and resilience of these migrants. Their movement truly transformed our country.
 
Seeing the devastating, forced migration of families in Syria, Myanmar and the Central African Republic, alongside our own country's heated dialogue about immigration, I'm reminded that the issues Jacob Lawrence painted about in 1940 remain relevant today. My hope is that those of us not currently in motion demonstrate even more compassion for those who are. 

The Migration
 
2. What do you want audience members to walk away thinking? 
 
First and foremost, I want the audience to have an incredible time at the theater. For Step Afrika! and our incredible team of artists, the theater is a special place where the audience and artist create a very special moment in time together. We all need to make more room for live performance, especially in challenging times, because there's nothing quite like it.
 
The Migration also gives the audience a chance to reflect on their own individual migration stories. The  journeys taken by all of our ancestors make us who we are. Although we focus on the Great Migration, you can compare Lawrence's paintings and our show to photographs taken at Ellis Island in the early 1900s, videos of migrants heading towards the border in the Southwestern United States, and the images of the tens of thousands of Syrian families escaping the challenges back home in the hope of peace and a better life elsewhere.
 
We want to remind the audience that within each and every one of us lies a migration story. When we see the challenges faced by the migrants of today, we should never forget that many of our ancestors once walked in those shoes.
 
C. Brian Williams3. Tell us about stepping and why do you think it's now, finally coming into mainstream culture.
 
Stepping is such an unique art form and dance tradition and we've enjoyed sharing it with audiences around the globe for over 23 years. With its origins in the early 1900s, stepping was created by African American men and women on college campuses who became members of fraternities and sororities. These Greek-letter organizations, like Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., of which I am a member, or Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the first African-American sorority created in the United States, led to the development of stepping on college campuses. It took over 85 years before mainstream America took notice. 
 
In 1988, famed director Spike Lee released his film, Skool Daze, which brought an incredible amount of attention to both African American college life and the tradition of stepping. Just a few years later, in 1994, Step Afrika! began and we have been spreading the word non-stop ever since.
 
The Migration In The Migration, "two art forms meld, and then painted images seem to come to life," according to The Washington Post. Tickets are available today!


Photos: William Perrigen
Posted by Beth Henderson

Play with magic, tricks and crafts together, as a family! For each show in the season, we post a new Family Activity. You can find all of our past posts here on our blog or at at Pinterest.com/NewVictory.

To be an official magician, you must recite the Magician's Oath: 

"I, (your name here), a magician, hereby stand by the Magician's Oath:
—I promise never to reveal the secret of any illusion to a non-magician. 
—I promise never to perform any illusion for any non-magician without first practicing the effect until I can perform it well enough to maintain the illusion of magic.
—I promise never to ask a magician how their illusion was done honoring the practice and tradition of the artform."
 

Disappearing Coin

What's a magician without a few tricks up their sleeve? In this activity you will learn your very own trick—making a coin disappear!

Materials: A clear glass cup, two sheets of paper that are the same color, scissors, pencil, glue
 
Step One

Step One: Watch the trick!
Step Two: Now you try! To set up the trick, trace an outline of the glass' opening onto your paper.

Step Two

Step Three: Using scissors, cut out the circle and erase any pencils lines that are left over. 

Step Three

Step Five: Using your glue stick, trace the edge of the circle and attach it to the top of your glass. Make sure it's as seamless as possible. If there's paper hanging over, trim it with your scissors.

Step Five
Step Five

Step Six: Place your second sheet of paper on a flat surface. This should be the same color of the paper you glued to the cup. Place a coin and your glass cup upside-down on the piece of paper.

Step Six

Step Seven: Now it's time to practice!
  • To perform your trick wrap your hand around the rim of the glass.
  • Then very slightly lift the glass over the coin. Make sure you do not lift the glass too much because that might reveal your trick.
  • Once the glass is fully over the coin, you've tricked your audience into thinking the coin has completely disappeared!
  • Then, lightly lift the cup again and place it in the spot you started to show your audience that the coin can reappear.

Step Seven
Step Seven
Step Seven

Step Eight: Make sure you practice it a few times to get the hang of it before you show it to your audience. 

Multiplying Coin

Now that you've learned how to make a coin disappear and reappear, make your audience think you can make coins multiply.

Materials: Tape, paper, scissors, two paper or styrofoam plates, three coins

Materials
Step One: Watch the trick! We've made the magic pocket visible in this video and the following steps to help you learn it.
Step Two: Now you try! To set up the trick, cut out two squares with a width and height of approximately one and a half inches.

Step Two

Step Three: Place the two paper squares on the back of each plate and tape down three of the sides. You're making a tiny pocket.

Step Three

Step Four: Take one coin and slide it into the pocket of one plate. Take the other coin and slide it into the pocket of the other plate.

Step Four

Step Five: Flip your plates over. Make sure that the two openings in the pockets you created are facing each other. Place your third coin on one of the plates.

Step Five

Step Six: Now you are ready to perform your trick! If you are using a white paper plate, make sure your audience stays at a distance to avoid seeing how the illusion is done. HINT: Drawing a fun design on your plate with markers before the performance helps the illusion.
  • Show your audience the plate with the coin. Keep a steady hand, remembering that two coins in tiny pockets are under the two plates.
  • Tip the plate onto the other plate so that the coin on top transfers to the other plate. The coin in the pocket will slip out too, magically turning your coin count to two.
Step Six
  • Repeat the action to the other plate. TADA, three coins! Magic.
Pitter Patter

Magicians often converse with participants and audiences to engage them while doing their magic—it also helps to distract audience members so they don't carefully study your sly moves! This dialogue is known as patter. Write a short magician's introduction filled with one liners to use when performing your magic tricks. 

Watch these magicians' patter for inspiration!
Jason Bishop
Jen Kramer
Smoothini

Step One: Now that you have two magic tricks ready to go, come up with your Magician's Name and the name of your magic show! 

THINK:
  • What kind of magic do you specialize in? Levitation? Hand Tricks? Contortion? 
  • Are you performing in a stadium? In a living room? For a panel of judges?
Step Two: Write out a short magician's introduction. Fill in the madlib below!

Madlib

Step Three: Practice your introduction to yourself and get the timing right. Then perform it for friends and family. They can't wait to meet their new friend, the magician!
Posted by Beth Henderson
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