With apologies to T.S. Elliot and his ‘Wasteland” poem, Step Afrika!’s holiday show at Arena Stage last Friday evening began with an explosive bang and ended with an even bigger one. No whimpers in this holiday extravaganza that has extended its run at Arena Stage, though tickets are selling quickly, and this past weekend was sold-out.
Whether you’re a fan of dance, music, or just in search of a heartwarming holiday experience, Step Afrika!’s show at Arena Stage is an absolute must-see.
From the moment the performers took the stage, the energy in the room skyrocketed. Step Afrika!’s unique fusion of stepping, dance, a celebration of rhythm, culture, and joy, left me full of holiday spirit. What sets Step Afrika! apart from other contemporary dance companies (who each has its own take on “The Nutcracker” this season) is the ability to blend tradition with contemporary flair—though I’ve never seen a March of the Nutcrackers where the dancers pull off back flips and floor splits galore. The incorporation of holiday themes into their performance is a delightful touch, adding a festive layer to the show. It was evident in the Friday evening show that every step, every beat, and every movement had been crafted with pride and care, resulting in a performance worthy of the half time slot at the Super Bowl. Take note ESPN.
The mix of dance steps kept the show dynamic and engaging. With high-energy routines (kicks the Rockettes should envy) and the 19 onstage performers encouraging the audience to clap (hands high above) and tap along to more expressive parts, Step Afrika!’s holiday show is beyond interactive. It reaches out to us and brings people into DJ Nutcracker’s Yuletide Step Workshop here we performed “The Nutcracker Slide” with company members leading us on. I have seen many variations of the Sugar Plum Fairy’s tinkling Tchaikovsky ballet solo—Hip Hop and tap dancing are popular alternatives—but nothing compares to the hand slapping, beatbox version at Arena Stage. Is Petipa turning in his grave?
Kudos to Scenic and Lighting Designer Marianne Meadows. Those snowflakes on the stage floor gave the feeling of Santa’s North Pole home. Another nod to Light Board Operator Scott Folsom who transported us into the heart of the celebration. The synergy between the performers and the technical elements was a testament to the professionalism of everyone involved. For the record, each and every performer and ethos behind the production deserves praise, especially DJ Nutcracker, disc jockeying when he wasn’t stepping.
Whether you’re a fan of dance, music, or just in search of a heartwarming holiday experience, Step Afrika!’s show at Arena Stage is an absolute must-see. If you have the chance to catch this holiday extravaganza, don’t hesitate. It’s a celebration that will leave you with a smile on your face and a beat in your heart.
Running Time: 90 minutes without intermission.
Step Afrika!’s “Magical Musical Holiday Step Show” runs through December 17, 2023 at Arena Stage, 1101 6th St SW, Washington, DC 20024. For more information and tickets, call 202-488-3300 (Tuesday – Sunday, noon – 8 p.m.) or go online.