Stories

New Victory Arts Break: North America – Create

Welcome to our second week exploring the arts of North America. Last week, we met Ronnique from Step Afrika! and explored her community in Washington, D.C. This week, we’ll take a closer look at what inspires Ronnique to create dance as a choreographer and Step Afrika! company member, before creating some dances and rhythms of our own.

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New Victory Arts Break North America Create

Step Afrika! Rehearsal

When we last saw Ronnique, she was showing us around her D.C. stomping grounds. Now it’s time to follow her into the studio with her fellow Step Afrika! dancers as she prepares for a long day of dancing and creating.

Take out your New Victory Notebook and answer the following questions.

  • What is one new thing you learned about Ronnique and Step Afrika! when watching the video?
  • When you create something, how does it make you feel?
  • Have you ever created something based on how you feel, rather than by following specific instructions?
  • Has a book, a movie, a song or another person ever inspired you to create something new?

The Ring Shout

Step Afrika! is the first professional dance company dedicated to the uniquely American art form of stepping. In Drumfolk, they explored how stepping grew out of much older African American rhythm and movement traditions like the ring shout. Spreading throughout the American South before, during and after the American Civil War, the ring shout tradition was born in the praise houses of the Gullah Geechee people in coastal Georgia and South Carolina. Take a look:

The ring shout uses your whole body, including your voice, and relies on call-and-response led by community elders, known as callers. Follow along with New Victory Teaching Artist Adia Tamar Whitaker to learn the rhythms and sounds of the ring shout.

Let’s practice some of the elements that Adia taught us. First up, the call-and-response. Adia led some simple call-and-response phrases. Can you practice being the caller and inviting a response from the basers? Can you imagine a caller leading and then respond in time?

Caller: Follow…
Basers: …follow!

Caller: We all have to move together…
Basers: …to grow!

Adia also taught us some arm movements to add to our sequence. Let’s practice those, too.

Ring Shout Graphic

Continue practicing the ring shout rhythm, the call-and-response and Adia’s sequence of arm movements. When it comes time to put it all together, can you call on your friends and family and cast an elder to call, basers to respond and a sticker to keep the rhythm? Share the ring shout tradition with your community—we all have to move together to grow.

Did You Hear That?!

Keeping rhythm with our voices or our bodies is one thing, but can you communicate rhythm with your face? Let’s find out with a little game called Did You Hear That?!

Step One: Think of a rhythm—any set of beats! It can be from a song you know, or something you’ve made up. Practice it a bit by tapping it on a surface or stomping it with your feet until you’ve memorized it.

Step Two: Practice putting the rhythm into your face. Instead of making a sound, move a part of your face to the beat—pucker your lips, wiggle your nose, wink your left eye! The quieter and more subtle you are, the more challenging this will be for your partner to guess.

Step Three: Partner up with someone in person, or surprise a friend over video chat, and see if they can clap out the rhythm that you make with your face. Can they “hear” it? Take turns trying to figure out what beat the other person is silently signalling with their face. Here’s a practice round:

Looking for inspiration for your face rhythms? Here are a few that Siobhan made. What beats do you think she’s playing with her face? Can you combine her moves into a face rhythm of your own?

An animated triptych of face rhythms

Thanks for creating along with us this week. Come back next week to play with the rhythms of go-go music and learn more about movement from our New Victory Teaching Artists!

New Victory Arts Break Supporters

New Victory Arts Break is funded, in part, by the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

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