This section is for personal accounts of history as the people who
were there remember it. Please share your personal recollections of
sets, contests, or any event you remember. Be a witness to history.
Please include dates if possible, at least approximate timeframes
please. Click here to submit
The photo above is the Knights of Columbus
hall where the legendary Keyman's club was at.
Budland was in the basement of the Pershing
Hotel at 64th & Cottage Grove.
Here are some of
Dan Land's video interviews from YouTube on the dance:
Boppin' to Steppin'
Steppin' Pattern or Count
Ghouster or Ivy League
From Willie Bell (Steppin History Stories Facebook Group)
I remember when I first started steppin back in the late 60s when
it was called boppin....I was a young teenager at the time so the
places that I could go were very limited.....My parents were old
fashioned and I was not able to run the streets freely, lol...
If there was an basement, apartment,or house party I could
usually go to those ' s because they started within my time fame and
the cost of admission was your waist sizes (waist line party)...
This is a little history for the younger generation of steppers... I
must say when I refer to the younger steppers I mean no
disrespect... Just trying to get you to vision this in your mind and
feel as if you were there with me... It was a different time and era
but that's all it was...
The same way this dance has grabbed you today is the same way it
grabbed me all those decades ago... But with all that said what
sticks out the most to me as I reminisce is a party that was given
once a year in an high school gymnasium... This was in my opinion
the biggest party for teenagers of the year... It was given at CVS
vocational high shool by none other then the COOL GENT HERB KENT....
Man when I tell you that it was big I mean BIG!!!! The first year
when I got tickets I couldn't get in... The place had us lined up
all around the school and they only let so many people in because of
the chicago fire code.
So the next year and from then on my brother Sammie and myself
had a plan, lol....WE would get there about 2 hours before the party
started and get on the shoulder where the door would swing open and
climb over the open door and jump down and get in, lmbo....It might
sound like a bit much now, but we did what we had to do at the time,
hahaha....When everyone told there stories about how great the party
was we could share that experience with them because we were there
That was Herb Kent when we were teenagers but we also share
another great time with this iconic legendary DJ....The 70's group
members were the last generation of steppers to dance at club that
our parents and grandparents dance at... The Budland... Most of us
lived to go to the Budland to dance with the music from the cooool
gent and occasionally listen to him and Larry Jo signifying against
each other, lol... Let me tell you Herb Kent was hilarious, lol...
Where else could you go and have the time of your life at that time
but the Budland....
I had the blessing to be in St Louis at Stepaganza when he
received yet another awarded and got the chance to talk to him...
Let me tell you that was one conversation that will be in my memory
for ever... I thank him him for letting me ride along with him on
his train none stop to STEPPERSVILLE. 70'S group 4 life!
Kathy Wiggins Story
My 1st entry for my Stepping history. I was born on the North
side of Chicago; I lived in the Cabrini Green projects (when I was a
baby). We later moved to the Southside (when I was an adolescent). I
began Stepping on the Southside of Chicago, when I was about 14-15
years, between 1974-1975.
I learned to Step at basement
parties and High School Sock Hops. I began to hone the art of
Stepping at various skating rinks (Markham, the Rink) and clubs like
the Garage, the Fort, Perv's House and the Sheba, just to name a
few. I won my first Stepping contest dancing with Womack, I was so
nervous. But, it was at the Dungeon (aka Palidum South) where my
Stepping skills evolved and I begin to develop my own signature
It was here at the Dungeon that I observed some of
the sharpest, coldest and most talented Steppers God ever created.
And it was here that I gained a great appreciation for the
phenomenon of Stepping. I believe it was here that I was initiated
into the culture and family of Stepping.
Back in the day
they called me "Tabu". (named after the legend Taboo (Calvin) one of
the greatest male Steppers ever to grace a dance floor). I believe
it was DJ Sam Chatman that began calling me Tabu, during a Stepping
contest. But that was over 35 years (lol).
Stepping saved me
from the harsh and cold streets of Chicago. It gave this little
brown girl a place to do what I love, and that is dance. It gave me
an outlet for fun with friends and a place of refuge, to dance and
forget about the world for a few hours. In 1983 I joined the Air
Force, so I was off the Stepping scene for a while. But, I never
stopped dancing. Whether in the states or overseas, I had my
Stepping music with me, because Stepping is not just a dance, it's a
culture, it's a part of me and it's in my heart.
from the military in 2007. Many thanks and much love to Sue Sue
Susan Watson, Jannice Robertson and Kim Bowie for reconnecting me
with my Chicago Stepping family. Thanks for listening. Kathy Wiggins
I was born and raised in the Wentworth Garden project in Chicago, I
attended Robert S. Abbott Elementary School where I first witnessed the
dance at Friday night social center that was in 1968 when it was called
bopping, I was watching my sister Rogina who taught me the basics
of bopping when I was 11 years old.
I really learned to master the dance at Abbott School Social Center when
all the guys and girls came from all the projects to dance and it was a
lot of competition I saw. In 1974 I won the first man on man contest
with my boy Taboo at Circle Campus.
My first real set that I went to was at the Time Square a.k.a. the Old
Packing House, from there I started dancing on Soul Train with my
first ever partner LaDonna Scott. I would go from project to
project when they would give the steppers quarter parties where I
used to get chased home from dancing so good.
The first big set I went to was at the Ridgeland Club where the
legendary William Barnett gave the best steppers sets in Chicago.
That's when I blew up (in the stepping game) and from there came the
Dungeon with the legendary Cousin Danny, in my early years of
I competed in numerous steppers contest I won but it is too many to
count, I also competed in several Chicago World Largest Steppers
competitions, but the one that stood out the most was 1996 when me
and my partner Big Freda danced, it was controversial, even
though we received a standing ovation and chants from the crowd calling
our number we did not win but we came back in 1998 with success, we
would leave no doubt in the judges mind in this contest, we won 1st
place in the original style category.
I would like to name and honor some of the coldest guys and ladies in my
era who made my success in stepping possible and I am going to start
with the guys, first I want to honor my friend George Macaroni
(RIP) who won second place in 1998 in the original category, Tommy
McBride aka Tommy T (RIP), Charlie Brown (RIP), Lil Alfred
(RIP), Lil Minus (RIP), Roscoe Elzey (RIP), my main man
Lil Mike (RIP), Romeo, Donny Ray and Lil Taboo.
Now for the coldest ladies in my era they are Karen Perkins
(RIP), Lil Althea (RIP), Big Biggie (RIP), Carlene
,Damita and my main girl Janice, I really can go on and on
but I don't want to write a book, because stepping is an art and this
legendary dance is so original that it can not be duplicated, I am known
for my unique style, footwork, and ability to put that English on you
with my hand movement.
Tom Slick from north side of Chicago original
stepper from Cabrini Green projects,
Now living in London England U.K
I miss the real steppers night in Chicago.
Chicago is the great city for master steppers from the past.
There will never be steppers like Lil Alfred H- Westside, Craig high
school, 50 Cent, Hamilton House, The Southside Master steppers, Near
north side Kings of Cabrini Green St Joseph's Sam Chatman know this,
Cooley High, The Basement Cabrini Green.
109th St. Cousin Danny, Sam Chatman, Herb Kent V-103, The Dungeon,
Terrible Ted, The Keyman's Club Westside, Lil Mike, Fred at the
Front, Crazy Larry.
Thank You All for the love of stepping
Chicago is the greatest heart of stepping in the U.S.
But we had very little support in that time; to help us come up from
the ghetto to help our youth's to understand the past.
Posted on SteppersUSA.Com 5/12/2013
Parts 1 & 2 Published on Nov 19, 2012 on YouTube
from a show on a Chicago channel called "In The Kitchen". It was
hosted by DJ Lala Rogers and produced by Rosetta Voss. The guests on
the panel are: DJ Famous Amos, executive editor and publisher of The
Chicago Steppin Guide,
https://chicagosteppinguideonline.com , KP, steppin' instructor -
DJ King George of the 24-hour internet radio station
www.Clubsteppin.com - and steppin instructor KP.
December 8, 2001
Video donated by Walter Logan of 5th City Steppers set
Here's a list of
Chicago Steppers clubs past and
present (Listed alphabetically)(124 Locations):
If you don't see a Chicago steppers club listed please
The video above is a taped recollection by
Calvin (Taboo) Jarrett. It was taped at the 21st annual world's
largest steppers contest site in Tinley Park IL 9/17/2011
Era Referenced: 1980's
Stepping - A Dance and Lifestyle
The beauty of Stepping as I recall it -- was how people on the scene
-- dressed to impress from the floor up! Where a stepper could
maintain his spot 2 feet wide and 2 feet long dancing rhythmically,
romantically, and stylistically with a woman. Where two individuals
became one. I followed the lead of many great jocks, Willie Cox,
Ernest L, Bill Humphries, Sam Chatman, Luther Gage, Kenny B., I
inspired others who followed me on wheels of steel. I spun for some
social clubs too. Spinning at places North of Madison Avenue at
"Karl Satin Doll" for the Four of Us. I opened Heroes, then the
Clique with the Connection for the 1st Sunday monthly Set and was
across the street at Mr. Ricky's with the Rat Pack on Wednesdays and
the Thursday after work set. I had a base at Nikko's, The Matador,
The Fifty Yard Line, The Other Place, and the Godfather just to name
a few in mid 80's I bursted on scene and today some remember me as
the Legendary Reggie Miles
Era Referenced: 1980's
1983 footage of original steppers at The Beverly House in Chicago.
This weekly set was sponsored by Sam Chatman and other guest DJs. In
this footage you will see clips of the late, great George
“Macaroni”, Darryl Robert’s Birthday dance, man on man dancing, and
a very young looking Tracy Ya hir (CD Guy) during the “gentleman’s
toast” towards the end.
Era Referenced 1962
The Chicago Style Walk
By Andrew Antonio Allen
"We walk around in a ring an suppose. But, the secret sits in the
middle and knowz." - Robert Frost
Back in the day, the Walk Dance had it's camouflage existence, as
comedy walks and high kicking steps. The really passionate Cakewalk
was hidden away in the privacy of Afro American houses. The intimate
walk 'round reappears centuries later, in the graceful Chicago Style
Walk. We stand 'round the edge of the dance floor and watch the
couples circling ever so slowly, as they walk solemnly in a circle.
Staring at the hypnotic look on the dancers faces, convey a mystic
atmosphere. The sweeping sound of the music takes the dancers
emotions away. They move alluring, as their feet are slightly
lifted. Their faces shine with a solemn glowing expression for the
gliding steps, as if some mystical force keeps the flowing couples
in harmony to the stream of music. Men and women perform the Walk
Dance with such elegance and grace its performance always commands
dignity and respect.
They go in a deliberate procession as if to recreate some long lost
ritual from some long lost distant past. The cool sway of their
bodies becomes a musical meter with the precision of a fine tuned
watch. In their passage see the beauty of dance art in it's highest
form. Ladies and gentlemen phrasing their accents to the timing of a
drum-beat. They flow to the music like the graceful flow of a river.
The suave gentlemen move slowly foreword in solemn movement of
resolve. While the ladies retreat in elegant motions of
sophistication. And we ponder and wonder with surprise. And we stand
there not knowing what to ask, yet asking ourselves, "What does that
mean? Even those unfamiliar with the dance will have to pause and
ponder for its performances command attention. We gaze into a dance
ceremony that only our rhythm remembers in our soul.
Thousands of years ago, African people believed that sound created
the universe and dance gave it order. These dancers walk
counter-clockwise to imitate the movement and direction of the
stars. Egyptian dancers walk in a circle, paused-a-moment and made
signs of the zodiac with their hands. They walk dance to
synchronizes their bodies in motion with the motion of the universe.
In the unbroken circle the dancers feel the presence of cosmic
energy. To walk dance symbolizes "the harmony of nature amongst the
chaos in the stars."
The Walk Dance came to the shores of DancelandUSA as a West African
Circle Dance. The Walk 'Round Dance was held as a religious
ceremony. This dance took on a spiritual nature and became known as
the Ringshout Dance. To dance in a circle (ring). To sing (shout).
Chanting voices, clappin' hands or slappin' the body and stompin',
produced the accompanying rhythms of the dance. From this dance came
the treasured ol' Gospel hymns. Afro American merged with the Court
of Versailles the dance became a couple's social dance. The ladies
and gentlemen dress in their fineries. With all its jesters of pomp
and circumstances; the highbrowed struts, the elegant curtsies and
flamboyant bows as they move.
Because, Afro Americans for the prize of a cake the dance was named
the Cakewalk dance. In competition, the dancers walk 'round in a
promenade or march-like step for the judges and the audience. The
dancers with the most complex and unusual steps won the cake. The
Cakewalk Dance became the first popular dance in America. By the
time it hit the minstrel stage there were a variety of Cakewalks. On
the minstrel stage became the grand finale on the chittlin' circuit.
Later, the Walk 'Round Dance was introduced to America in Broadway
shows and Hollywood musicals. Today, the church congregations
exhibit essence of the Ringshout in songs, when the choir sways side
to side or the choir lines-up in a procession and march down the
As a Teenager, I remember how the music and the dance delighted and
enchanted us. We travelled throughout the city, any place had a
jukebox or record player was playing, to get our dance on. Yet, It
never occurred to me, why? Until, one evening I showed up at all
alone, at Herb Kent's Friday night dance party held at St. Phillips
High School. I had searched fro my 'ace-coom-booms' (best friends)
Lumpy, Jim, Boston and Boxdell and sometimes, Haywood, all that day.
They hadn't been at our usual hangouts. So, I went home and got
ready for the set feeling sure I'd see them that evening. As I
walked into the large gymnasium it was packed with hundreds of
teenagers. The entire basketball court sized dance floor was packed.
As soon as I entered, I immediately started looking for them. I
creamed around the dance floor weaving through the people dancing
and wallflowers standing. For a minute, I began anxiously pushing my
way, through the crowd. I just had to find my road dogs. For a
while, I stood in one-stop and stared into the faces of the circling
dancers as they walked past. I circled the place 4 or 5 times until
I was exhausted. So I looked up and saw the darkly lit balcony. So I
could get a better view of the dance floor. I thought a good vantage
point, above the crowd; I could not miss sighting them from up
there. Alone I quietly moved into the balcony. My tired feet
announced themselves when I reached that top of the balcony steps.
When I started peering over the balcony railing for Jim n' nem the
gym lights suddenly went off. The room for a few seconds went
totally black. When the dim lights slowly came back up Herb Kent was
standing center stage in the bright spot light. He announced, "Here
tonight! Donald Jenkins and the Delighters... singing their latest
hit song, 'Elephant Walk'!! They came out on stage looking cool in
their slick shark skin suits. As soon as the music came on hundreds
of teens began walkin' slowly around the dance floor. Later, little
did I know the dance, to some, would take on the name of the popular
song, 'The Elephant Walk.'
The boys and girls on the dance floor had become a flowing sea of
bodies riding on the flow of music. The Walk is purely a romantic
dance. While the music made the couples dance smooth and dignified
in style giving them a musical personality, as they travel
gracefully around, it was a rhythmic tidal wave of faces that had me
spellbound and stuck to that balcony railing. I stood there
enchanted by a vortex of elegant movement and enchanting music below
my feet. The couples in the center danced their Slow Drag Dance,
moving ever so slowly, around and around on themselves. Giving the
circle a center of permanence. The Cool Walk Dance of sophistication
and poise, took up the bulk of the circle. Those dancers mid way in
the revolving disc danced in a ceremonious Cool Walk,, without
lifting their feet, but slightly from the floor. Harmonious to the
music, they maintained their position mid way in the circle. The
beat and swaying motion gave a coolness that mesmerized me as I
watched them. On the outer edge of the dance floor making the
rotation faster on the outside came the Skip Walk Dance; a kind of
Foxtrot that gave the rotating disc its feeling of a spinning
motion. Dancing smoothly, flowing on the sound of the music. Then on
the outside came the Gouster's; the guys with their pleated baggy
pants, wide brim hats and 'ol man comfort shoes. The Gouster girls
in their pleated skirts and suspenders, white socks and Buster Brown
shoes. The Gousters came whirling the outer edge of the circle with
their faster skip movements. "Quick! Quick! Slow-quick! Quick!
Slow." Sometimes trotting their path, allowing the disc a spinning
motion. A red spotlight reflected off of the ballroom globe that
hung from the ceiling. The red light shined down onto the dancers
like the spokes of a wagon wheel, appearing to lead the dancers
leisurely moving them round and around the floor. Wonderful
beautiful faces, "Let it flow baby!" to the music in time. I was
totally awe struck. It was truly wonderful to my senses. Now, it all
came together as a giant wagon wheel rotating to the hypnotic song
"crazy melody, always haunting to me, Elephant Walk." Circling in
time to mystical rhythms that endured a lost history in time. At
that moment I said to my self; "How beautiful they are!" When the
music faded and the lights came up it took a minute or two for me to
snap out of the hypnotic trance the dance had induced. And our
dancing has never been the same for me since. Later, I would learn
some ancient ceremony had come to life before my eyes. It was so
amazing to me to see a hidden splendor of Afro American culture
displayed in the heart of our community. To see them in their finest
moment of artistic beauty blending dance and music. Since that
amazing encounter of dance for me, has become a steppers way of
Era's Referenced: 1960's, 1970's 1980's,
Growing up in St. Louis in the 60's and 70's, I was always
fascinated by this couples dance called "The Bop". I would go to
basement house parties where people would dance, but sooner or
later, someone would break out with the Bop... and it was so smooth
to watch two people gliding across the floor. The Bop was very
popular in St. Louis and I wanted to learn it so badly but I never
had any older relatives or friends to teach it to me. Years passed.
But I always liked watching couple dancing, even to the point of
watching white folks Ballroom competition dancing on TV.
One particular weekend after building a career, family, and moving
to Atlanta, I went out to a local club and watched a couple get in
the midst of all these Hip Hoppers .. and do what I thought was the
Bop. Right then I made a promise to myself to learn this dance. The
very next day I looked on the internet for "Bopping" (back then I
never heard of Chicago Steppin), and just randomly selected a
instructor, Cheryl "Sugarfoot" Powe.... and haven't looked back.
Through attending her class every Saturday at the YMCA I eventually
learned "Chicago Steppin" which came evolved from The Bop. The dance
consumed me, I couldn't get enough of it! I can honestly say I have
had more fun since learning this dance than at any other time. It
has added a dimension to my life that was missing. I have met great
people and friends and has even given me a bit of "flavor" to my
life style! I now want to learn other forms of dance mainly Walking
and Detroit Ballroom. My only regret... not taking this dance up
Referenced: 1960's, 1970's
Steppin' has a History!
remember it: The year was 1968, I was 23, my dad the late Ray Lacy
decided to take me out one Friday night. He took me to a lounge down
in a basement on or about 62nd & Cottage Grove, the place "Budland".
Dad was known as a Gouster Bopper, loose pants i.e zute suit, watch
chain hooked on the side, Fadora Hats the whole nine yards. He was
so cool, dressed to impress was truly his game. The male dancers my
dad loved to watch back in the day were people like Sammy Davis Jr.,
The Nicholas Brothers and even Fred Astaire.
Dad taught me
how to tone down the Bop, bring it down he said, tighten your steps,
stay in front of me no matter where I lead you, hold your head up
don't look at your feet, show confidence, get some attitude, don't
kick your feet just step into it, don't need to smile and the woman
must always be the one to conform to their partner. Your job, he
said, is to make your partner look good! It's a 50/50 dance! Want to
dance like me? Watch little girl and learn. That's exactly what I
did. Back then, there was no name "Steppin" there was no count such
as a 8, 6, or 4 you learned by watching the floor & practice.
To this day, most of the above rules are still in play, only a
few were lost in translation. However, I still remember them all.
About Watching: dad called it (Stealing a Move) if you liked a
move go home and practice it, make it your own. The more you did it
the better you got. I fell in love with the dance. Dad always told
me, this is a thinking man's dance (footwork) was the key, it wasn't
meant, in the beginning for everyone. The dancers back then were
like a click. However, the more we did it outside of Budland, The
Grand Ballroom, The Pershing, The Zombie Club, Glass House, Guys &
Gals, later Ms. Bonnie's & The President's Lounge the more people
wanted to learn it.
A few of our DJ's: Herb Kent, Sam
Chatman, Butter Ball, Richard Pagee, the late Jimmy Lee & more. The
songs we danced to: Old Skool Smooth: Temptations, Impressions,
Gladys Knight & the Pips, 4 Tops, Flamingos, etc. whether slow or
fast we could do that dance to it.
Something else that was
lost in translation: Dad taught me "Off Boppin'' where you can take
a fast song and slow your steps down to a off beat (half count). Now
that was something to watch it was absolutely the smoothest, coolest
Bop you ever want to see. All the spinnin' and turnin' the woman has
to do and what Steppin' has evolved into today, it's okay however,
when I see it I can't help but look back and wonder what ever
happened to the 50/50 dance. Where's the man's footwork? The woman
is truly working and the man is stepping around her with his hand
extended in the air signaling her to turn and turn and spin.
Personally I feel its turned into 70% woman and 30% man with the man
getting all the credit.
Any of today's Chicago's Heavy
Hitters that say they learned via counting are not the original
heavy hitters, they came later along with High Steppin' & Freestyle
(the next generation of steppers late 70's & 80's) this is the
generation that gave the dance the name "Steppin". Note: Not to say
by any means the High Steppers or Freestylers learned via counting.
I believe counting came along later to help the people who couldn't
pick up the dance by just watching. Remember dad said, " the dance
originally wasn't meant for everybody".
Icon's: like Charlie
Green, Yvonne Green, Dimples, Stony Jackson, Yvonne B. Paramore, Ty
Skippy, Chipper and many others with exception to Black Mary are
rarely mentioned today. Markie Bee, to this day for me, there ain't
nothin' like Old Skool Steppin'! It was the best of the best it was
just plain elegant, classy, cool and smooth! I am a true promoter of
"Keeping Chicago Old Skool Steppin' Alive"! My dad's legacy lives on
in me and all who I have taught.
Referenced: 1960's, 1970's
I love to step, I've been stepping since I
was about 9 or 10. I was taught by relatives. As I got of age I went
to the Dungeon, Burning Spear, Mr. G's (on the west side
then), Sheba (before it was Mr. G's), Illusions, Cotton
Club, Chic Ricks, Strickly Business, The Garage, Sam Chapman's
parties at Chicago State University, The Fantasy (Casper use
to perform on skates), East Of The Ryan (every time they
close and reopen), El-Matador (before they were the 50 Yard
Line on 75th), The Skyway, Sandpipers, Glasshouse, The Other
Place and many, many more.
The new school stepping is cool and the real steppers out there look
good doing their thing so smoothly/footwork and all but I just don't
know where the counting comes from. Where was that originated and
incorporated into stepping. It's not in bopping and stepping was
birthed from bopping.
I've learned from the new schooler's how old schooler's
incorporporate the old school moves in with some of the new school
moves. I do both old and new I also enjoy watching others do it.
Stepping is the smoothest dance on the map.
Stepping came from Chicago and now it's navigating all over the
United States, which is a beautiful thing. I give credit to all you
real steppers out there old/new/both old and new. Keep doing your
thing. I'm going to keep doing mine (Thanks to Mr. Steppin Professor
and you are one of the smoothest out there).
Ms Queen from Chicago
Where my feet came from
comments: I grew up in Stateway Gardens 3517 South federal (1957)
that's were I got my feet from (learned how to bop) when I saw the
older kids "gettin down" I had to learn so I started having sets in
our apartment, the guys were eager to teach, I learned to bop,
stride (my personal favorite) dance off-time (bopping to slow music)
we did cha-cha, mambo cha-cha, the pershing bop, the 47th street
strut, the roach, the twine (I learned from Fred Walker
(twine-master) I can't recall may more. We would bop under the
breezeway in Stateway, then when the little kids went upstairs the
little kid's playground would become our bopping set. In those days
we went to parties in other projects such as the Harold Ickies on
22nd state, where my cousins lived, the Dearborn Homes at 26 and
State, Ida B wells always had sets, Wentworth Gardens 35th
Wentworth, summer Friday's was the back of Raymond School we were
allowed to use the record player from 6pm-10pm our friends who
didn't live in the projects like the Reed's the Brazil's to name the
most well known ones. Soon I graduated to the Pep's 47th and St.
Lawrence or Champlain. This dance hall was famous when my parents
were young they met there, my Mom and her sister came from the
West-side to party there. I wish it was still there it was sort of
an honorary rites of passage for me. When we didn't have music the
guy's who had talent would entertain us in the hallways, on the
street corners during lunch at school anywhere they got an audience.
Some of these guy's from Stateway in my building went on to become
the "Lost Generation, "Lee Charles" was another singer; there was
soooo much talent in all neighborhoods. I'm so proud to be from
Stateway Gardens the projects is where I learned about Life. When I
returned to bopping I learned from my younger sisters that it was
now "steppin" I learned to step and started going to stepper's set
1980's, I met my now husband of 21 yrs at Mr. Rickey's he was one of
the house DJ's (OJ) now my grown children who made fun of our
steppin and calls it "the ole people dance" are now steppin. I go
out steppin every once in a while with my husband, but now I will go
out more often. I want to thank-you for giving this historic dance
it's props, whether you call it jitterbug, bopping, steppin, we all
do what we know how to do and will grow old doing "Our Thang" God
Bless an Good Health. Monica
Era Referenced: 1960's -
BOPPIN AND STEPPIN
The Chicago Bop was the craze in all the high schools. I know, I
helped take it the next level. We had dance contests throughout
Chicago, at the Engineering building downtown, the Sunset Ballroom,
the Concept Ballroom, The Chaparral, City College, IIT, Altgeld
Gardens all the high schools such as Lindblom Tech, Dunbar, Fenger,
Calumet, Harper, Simeon, CVS and many more. We innovated the dance
week by week, inventing moves and turns that equaled or exceeded ANY
ballroom dancing done to this day. The stuff they re talking about
now concerning 6 COUNT and 8 COUNT is no big deal and nothing new...
WE HAD PEOPLE DOING 12 COUNT! The objective in this case was to get
as many foot movements into beat pattern as possible. Exactly like
the note in a music bar... You can have 8 eighth notes, 4 quarter
notes 2 half notes etc. Bottom line is that when the bar of music
ends, you are on beat!
Of note was the fact that at that time, many dancers wore tailor
made suits (Silk and Wool was the preferred fabric) from the likes of
B&B Woolens and many other tailors. The styles were as varied as the
moves. Some of the top dancers and innovators of the BOP which is
now known as Steppin included''' Sylvester Baker, Dwight Hodges,
Carl (Last name unknown) and the Social Groups Known as THE FELLAS
and another called SUPER SMOOTH INCORPORATED. Probably the best
innovators and some of the very finest dancers of the time (late 60
s to early 70 s) were Jack "HUD" Hudson, Lawrence "LARD" Gore and
Anthony "FUNNY" Bailey. They were true MASTERS of the CHICAGO BOP.
They established the Chicago Bop (Steppin) as an ART FORM. Their
innovation and precision carried them to the top of all the dances
at the places mentioned above and many more. Crowds would wait for
them to start dancing because they knew they would be in for a show!
Especially on a long jam like Quincy Jones' "KILLER JOE" or a super
up-tempo song like "MORE TODAY THAN YESTERDAY" by Spiral Staircase.
Splits, Turns, Over the arm leg kicks, syncopated steps, off beat
steps where you still made the crossover in perfect timing. (see 6
count/8 count above) Amazing. Smooth, graceful with ultimate
finesse. Straight up Chicago! There were thousands of people doing
the BOP/Steppin. There was probably 100 - 200 more young men and
women in the city, especially the South side and the West Side who
were at the top of the game to the point of being innovators also.
In the early 70's Soul Train, which started in Chicago, had a few
episodes in which you will see the dancers performing the Chicago
Bop (Steppin). By 1973 - 75 Disco became the craze and momentarily
overtook the Bop/Steppin. However, the younger teenagers learned the
moves from their older brothers and sisters and brought the dance
back to prominence. If anyone has movies of these original movies,
please contact me at
Anyone who would like to know more about the Beginning of the
Chicago Bop which is now called Chicago Steppin, feel free to
contact me at the above email address. I know the above to be a fact
because I was there. I'm Jack "HUD" Hudson an innovator of the
Chicago Bop / Steppin
Bopping in the
comments: It was 1979 and my mother moved my siblings and I to
Washington Park Homes, on 41st and Lake Park. As we walked towards
the gangway we saw to guys dancing together, and performing fancy
footwork to "Pass The Peas" by the "JBs". I thought it was amazing
and my sisters and I would mimic that style of dance whenever we had
a chance. It was known to us as bopping. My cousins, Aunts and
Uncles followed suit and we grew up skating and bopping. My mom
would say, that if you can skate, then you could bop, BOPPERS ARE
SKATERS And SKATERS ARE BOPPERS...When that gave a 50 cents set in
the jets, we go just to watch the guys bop....I can remember, Smokey
Robinson, "Quite Storm" was playing and two guys got up and started,
bopping.....and "threw down" right at the bridge of the song...it
was sooooo smooth!!! I fell in love with stepping that day!!! Andrea
Referenced: 1960's and 1970's
In the late 60's,I couldn't
wait to learn this thing only the gang bangers were doing, Called
"The Disciple Bop. It was on after that. I grew up in Englewood and
Woodlawn. Went to CVS high school, from there it was The Y on 61st
and Drexel ,and Circle Campus. The El Panama and The RoadRunner,
Then the guys that are stepping Kings now were doing the Spank" and
all that fast dancing stuff. Later on they started calling it
steppin. Its one of the smoothest forms of dance I've ever seen,
besides Latin dancing, and Ballroom dancing. I never knew what a six
count or eight count was, we just learned the basics, and added on
from that. I not taking away anything from New School steppin, Why!
because for some strange reason ,Steppin is finally getting the
recognition Its always deserved. To Old school and New School
steppers, God Bless You All. and Keep on Steppin. Natalie.
P.S. God Bless My Best Friend George "Macaroni" Garnes and R.I.P. I
Era referenced: 1970's By Rick
On a subject , no one is wrong. My experience goes back to when my
brother and our boys stepped with each other in the basement. It was
fast and hard that's why we rarely danced with girls. We just
learned our craft by trying new things and making mistakes. Once we
got a little older we refined what we did and got smooth &
graceful... now making our girlfriends a part of the mix. Now after
becoming mature adults it's all about style and grace, and having a
Era Referenced: 1970's
I was 9yrs old when my dad
taught me the 2 step bob to jazz. Growing up in Robert Taylor
projects we did a one, two, cross, cross step and that took us to
Time Square on Sundays.....as time went by the bop was tweaked time
and time again but you never lost that basic step not even
today....I am old school and very proud to be a part of the
Era Referenced: 1970's
The Dungeon and the 70's
I was Bopping coming out of grade school going into high school the
year was 1970. I grew up on the south side of Chicago (79th
Ridgeland). A group of us teenagers started dancing in the candy
store on the block. We would put our money in the juke box and step.
My first dancing partner was Mr. Donnie Davis we were the two
shortest ones on the block dancing, so we just sort of paired up. We
all went to the house parties and school hops and did the fast
dances also, but there was nothing like bopping or stepping. Back
then stepping had a g on the end of the word. We started going out
of the neighborhood to other places. The Midland hotel was the
ultimate experience for me; I was basically a wallflower the girl
the guys would get to practice with. The one place I remember was
the The Dungeon, back then it was the place to go for young adults
that could not get into the the clubs. We would get on the 78th
street bus to the Dan Ryan El and take that to 95th and transfer to
the Michigan bus. . My girlfriends would take the El from the
Westside to get there. Now tell me we did not want to step. Back
then we did not have a car if you were lucky to get a car you would
have everyone trying to ride with you. We went out in groups back
then. Mr. Sam Chatman along with Cousin Danny and Terrible Ted were
the DJ we followed. We would line up on the steps going into the
basement to go in to dance. They did not sell alcohol because we
were not of age to drink. We would be down there dancing and
sweating, the walls and floor would be sweating also. Sam was the DJ
that played stepping music while everybody else was into disco, so
we followed Sam. Wherever he went, we followed Sam would have big
poster like the ones you see for street cleaning plaster all over
the city advertising his sets.
My favorite person to watch on the dance floor was Linda Foster and
Little Tommy, and Slim and Nicky. Linda was such a dancer that when
she was on the floor doing double and triple spins and turns you
just had to sit back and watch because not many ladies back then
could dance like she did. Slim had fast feet and he and Nicky would
really put on a show on the floor. There was also Raymond and Baby
2. My husband likes to watch Michael keys and Michael Madden dance
back then. I met my husband and my three girlfriends Linda, Mary,
Pat (formerly the Foxetts) back then and we still continue to go out
stepping with each other.
There are so many places that we went to too step, like the
Ridgeland Club on 73rd Ridgeland, the Budland on 64th Cottage Grove,
The Roadrunner 75th off exchange, the East of the Ryan on 79th
street but back then it was the Colonial House, then Perv's House
and now the East of the Ryan, the Copper Box 1on 89th Ashland and
the Copperbox 2 on 116th Halsted which into the 69club. The Keymans
club on the Westside, the Safari room the High Chaparral on 78th
Stony Island, the Concept Ballroom on 79th Halsted, who can forget
Loyola and Circle campus parties. These are just some of the places
we remember the more we talk about them the more names we remember.
When we started bopping in the 70,s we danced at sets with Alice of
the Dancetts, Black Mary, Lonnie Clark, Clinton Gent, Ronnie Paul,
Jackson at the Budland. These people were bopping when we came in
and changed bopping to stepping. They never stopped doing the way
the dance and continue to dance the same way now. I am glad I
started stepping at a young age (teenager). We did not learn from
counting we learned from doing the dance, like at the candy store.
We went from steppin fast in the 70 s to stepping smooth in the 80
s. Those of us that started dancing back in the 70 s and are still
dancing now know that steppers stay in the middle of the floor and
walkers on the outside. We know that any walking song that comes on
we can slow bop or slow step or walk around the floor, I think we
came dance like that because of the music that we came up dancing to
the people we danced with and dancing to the music no counting
steps. I had a chance of going to my friend class (Donnie Davis) in
1998 because I wanted to learn more turns, he taught a 6 count, and
I always danced without counting. I also had the pleasure of going
to Claudel s class. He and Swan gave me more confidence. Thank you
Guys. So it s been over 30 years I still hang with the same 3
girlfriend, same husband and we still step.
Marvin Wooten (Columbus, GA):
'member the steppers club "The Dungeon" used to be
located on 110th and Michigan Ave. actually, between 110th place and
111th Street on Michigan Ave. That place was popping with steppers.
I used to go there back in the early 70's, say between Oct '73 and
the summer of '75. There was this one couple there....man they could
"turn it out!" Sorry I don't remember the names, but I seen one move
that I've never seen since. I myself, learned to step on the
"block", we used to step to AWB-School Boy Crush, David Bowie-Fame
and Kool & The Gang-Summer Madness, to name a few...! Man those were
the days. Thanks for letting me share my memories.
"I have been steppin since 1970,when I started in the Englewood area
of Chicago, It was no such count as 6 or 8 we just learned it,
followed it and adlibbed from the basic step. There is nothing like
it. it soothes my soul being on that dance floor."
"Good morning, I would like to piggyback off of what the young lady
said in the (SteppersUSA.Com)
newsletter about stepping in the 1970's. Although I am no longer
living in Chicago I was born and raised there. I now reside in
I remember back in the mid-70's when the fellows used to step in the
corner restaurants doing lunch break while I was in my early years
of high school in Chicago. I do not recall stepping being a lane
dance back then as was stated previously the brothers and sisters
just stepped. Whatever they were doing they made it look so smooth.
I just recently became interested in stepping again during a return
home visit to Chicago. (My sister attends Donnie Davis class there)
You know Detroit is known for the Hustle (Line-Dance) and Ballroom
dancing. Although Chicago steppin has become a very hot dance here
and it seems everyone is interested in learning the new style of
steppin . I guess because I remember Chicago steppin from back
in the day when I first returned to class and did what I thought was
steppin, they thought I was out of order. But now that I think about
it back in the day when I first encountered steppin there was no
lane, no count. So I say us old-timers are not out of line. The new
school of steppin has taken over. It's cool though. I'm enjoying
learning. Back then there were no classes. I guess in order to
market the dance there had to be a change. It's a good change and
I'm enjoying it."
Old School Steppin/New School
imitators 04/10/09 (From John aka ChiTownJab)
Greetings fellow steppers,
Reading the postings here really put a smile on my face and brought
back some fond memories. I grew up on the west side of Chicago right
there on 16Th & Hamlin in the 60's. We were there when Dr. Martin L.
King moved right on the corner of 15Th and Hamlin.
Back then steppin was referred to as boppin. I remember struggling
to learn the dance, it seemed that everyone had a different method
of teaching the steps. The way that I learned was really incredible.
One night I went to a set, stood like a wall flower for most of the
night and watched this one couple, they were smooth as silk.
Later that night I went home, told my brother about the set and went
to bed. Some how while sleeping I managed to recall the set in my
dream. It was in total detail but in the dream, I switched places
with the young man that I watched and he took my place standing on
the wall. In the dream I did everything that he did. When I woke up
the next morning, I jumped out of my bed and started steppin.
Steppin was first brought to TV via Soul Train, which I danced on
twice 11/70. If you are lucky enough to find a episode of one of the
shows while it was still being filmed here in Chicago at the Board
of Trade's building on the 22ND floor in the "attic", I'd love to
Don Cornelius was a total snob and cold as ice, Clinton Gent., was
the man, he was warm and funny, he was the person who greeted us
teens when we arrived at the show. We were stepping our ass's off
and did free style dances "the cold duck" down the dance line.
If you can remember back to when your parents and grand parents
danced, you can clearly see the dance "pattern-steppin", they called
it swing dance back then. Steppin by today's standards is not true
steppin in that the pattern is not true. Let me explain... See, true
stepping would sit in the same place as the Cha c\Cha, and other
There is a set pattern that is universal, and when you do spins and
turns, the pattern is never broken. What these people do today is a
fractured version of steppin, the pattern is constantly being
broken. Notice when they try to teach you with a count, the count
never really makes sense, "does it"? They count one thing but their
feet actually does a different count. Steppin is like the black
version of the Cha Cha, the Cha Cha is like the Spanish version of
steppin, just watch closely and you'll agree, there are only a few
steps that separate the two dances.
I went to many of the same places that Dian Davney mentioned, the
Ridgeland Club on 73rd Ridgeland, the Budland on 64Th Cottage Grove,
The Roadrunner 75Th off exchange, the East of the Ryan on 79Th
street but back then it was the Colonial House, then Perrv s House
and now the East of the Ryan, the Copper Box 1on 89Th Ashland and
the Copperbox 2 on 116Th Halsted which into the 69club. The Keymans
club on the West side, the safari room the High Chaparral on 78Th
Stony Island, the Concept Ballroom on 79Th Halsted, Percel hall on
Washington, who can forget Loyola and Circle campus parties.
Those who know what I'm talking about would agree, there are four
sides of this great city west, south, north, east. All sides stepped,
we use to compete, the only difference is that the styles of each
side of the city was different but the pattern was never broken.
What I mean is this for example, west siders took the pattern
forward, north siders did the same steps but they took the pattern
side to side. You could watch someone step and tell what side of the
city they came from. Same number of steps, same count, just
different directions, so if you were doing the pattern correctly
then you could dance with anyone no matter what side of the city
they came from.
No disrespect meant but todays steppin is phony as hell no question
about it. If you aren't old school steppin then you aren't really
steppin. You are merely mimicking the dance, it's just like ballroom
dancing, which means that there are certain rules applied other wise
you were not doing the dance.
Back in the day our style of dress was Gouster and Ivy League. I was
into the Gouster look, baggie pants with pleats, knit shirts, Stacy
Adams shoes, Dobbs hats, lol lol. From there we started going to Fox
Brothers to have our clothes tailor made and we wore gators and
snake & lizard skin shoes, Bosalina hats yawl know what I'm talk-in
bout. Most of us young men dressed better then most adult males.
Herb Kent was, is, and will always be the man. He's the Godfather of
stepper sets, funny thing is that Herb never learned to step, ask
him, he'll tell you, he just played the jams and still does, he
still has a big set every summer out south east at the golf course.
Any Westinghouse Warrior grads here? Holla at me 66"/70".
Have you every heard the terms pimp-in and simp-in, do you know what
they mean, ask somebody. If you were pimp-in, you were doing it for
real, if you were simp-in, then you were faking at it, going thru
the motions but not really doing it. Old school steppin would be
pimp-in, new school steppin would be simp-in, they are just play-in
at it. Just saying it like it is. Again
I'll try to make it very very plain, the Cha Cha is the same all
over the world, if you're doing it according to the pattern, then
you can Cha Cha with anyone all over the world, sticking to the true
pattern is what makes it universal. The same holds true with real
"old-school" steppin. I can do the same steps with my grand mother
"swing dance", my mother "bop", or "step" with my wife and still be
in step... The pattern is clear and defined.
Peace & Love Yawl,
John aka ChiTownJab
You can find me and my crew at BlackMary's sets, holla.
Westside the best side (from
comments: It was 1959 when I did the bop in public but I had been
learning it for over a year. The bop and the stroll, called the
Walk. Those were the main dances of my childhood.
A lot of Southsiders posted, I am from Marshall High School. I
should have dressed Gouster with my body but all my friends were Ivy
I have been separated from my roots for over a decade I have never
The R Kelly record does not sound promising.
Exact date not Specified
from "Bopdaddy, King of Bop" (Chicago)
Each generation feels called upon to fashion the dance to the
prevailing musical trend. From Swing music came the Jitterbug
Dance, from R&B (Rock n' Roll) came the Bop Dance. But, for all
you Steppin historians Steppin went thru many changes of one
generation before it reached the the stage we call Steppin.
Many country cousins got off the boat excitedly shouting, "teach
us how to do the Chicago Bop (1955)!"
We danced to music like Rockin Robin. By the time white kids
picked up on the Bop Dance (1957), The blackfolk developed a new
Bop Dance called the Pershing Bop (1958-1959). Named after the
famous Pershing Hotel on 64th & Cottage Grove and the dance
place downstairs, in the basement was called Budland.
*Originally, Cadillac Bob's Birdland (name changed in March to
Now, we move on to the Latin beat an it's influence on the music
and the dance. Jazz and blues came together to form a music we
begin callin 'em, Jamz.
At this time all the blues legends had played on the corner of
Maxwell St. in Jew Town, for free. Eddie Harris came out with,
Exodus to Jazz and we slowed our movements to what you today,
call Smooth Steppin, we called the Cool Bop (1958-1960?) (south
siders called Off-Time).
Oh, Yea! The Latin Beat produced that off-time. When Motown came
on the scene the first Stepper's national anthem was, "My Baby
Loves Me" by Martha and the Vandellas
. Smokey, the Tempts, Mary Wells, Marvelettes give us
some "the best music of our lives". A new step came from an
unlikely source the county jail, we called this step the
Jailhouse Bop (1959-1960). Today, you call it Freestyle, it is
characterized by the swivelin of the heels.
We incorporated this move into our Gouster's Bop a fast paced
step. Jamz like "Quicksand & LiveWire & Johnny Come Marchin'
Home & Gotta Dance to Keep from Cryin' (Smokey Robinson)
, etc... made it an excellence vehicle to revive semi-Jitterbug
Now, we come to the Viet Nam War era, unconscientiously or
conscientious the black community was beginning to feel the lose
of our young black men in the Nam. We slowed the Bop down to a
post WWII dance called half-step, we called it Slow Bop. In
numbers black people were only 3% of America and 30% of soldiers
in the Viet Nam. After the media and CIA lied black didn't look
at the news until a black reporter name Max Robinson was brought
Well, gotta go.. I'll hit ya later and tell you a story almost
impossible to believe.
When ya' Step all ya'llz fine
(Editor's Note: Dates are all approximate as this is a personal
recollection from a person who lived in this era. If you have
exact dates, or personal recollections to add, please
to share that information.)
* Information from Chicago Defender archive.
Unsubstantiated Information: The Cakewalk originated in Africa. All the ol' dances
are just re-creations of African themes. That includes Steppin as
well. The Walk is a African Circle Dance it's movement is
counter-clockwise. Why the dance moves counter-clockwise is that our
ancestors determined that the universe moves in a counter-clockwise
direction. The true meanings I will tell you later. But, take this
in, the Steps of the Cakewalk are the steps that produce our
spirituals in the Ringshout. Our freedom songs," The Lord Delivered
Daniel" etc...The Cakewalk is the same steps you see the choir move
to in church, as they sway side to side or move in a procession down
the aisle. Yet, the Cakewalk was developed as a special event. The
best of cakes were offered as the prize. To white folk the antics of
the Negro was aggregated to a caricature of Sambo. Yet, the true
dignity of black culture was hidden in the cabins of blackfolk. (Ex.
Check out the cover of Donald Byrd's album with Flight Time on it)
and you will see a photo of the intimate Cakewalk Dance that we do
now. That photo was taken shortly after emancipation. The Walk has a
symbol of power, when the DJ. announces Steppers on the inside
Walkers on the outside that is so the circle cannot be broken. The
power is in the circle. Submitted By: Bopdaddy King of Bop
Calienda, Origin of the Cakewalk
The abuse of Afro-American history is legend. The Cakewalk
stereotyped black life farther on the minstrel stage and is still
considered the normal existence of black people. Gin drinkin. razor
tuttin', child like behavior, without sexual restrict. Out in the
cotton pickin field is where hoecakes were made, for lunch, cooked
on the flat side of a gardening hoe, a small pancake made from
cornmeal. At the Cakewalk Contest the best cakes where awarded. (It
was like a $1,000 at the World's Largest. White America (w-----dia)
has never dignified black culture enough. We as a people must make
this effort to give us back our true Afro beauty. As long as America
can find us on TV and laugh, just like Amos n' Andy it's fine. But,
to define the beauty of ourselves and the beauty of our culture is
to hot to handle. Because in this beauty we see, in Steppin' and
Walkin' we may find that spark of unity we search our hearts for
daily. But, as I mentioned earlier the romantic aspect of the
Cakewalk had been undercover, because it could not have survived any
other way. The Cakewalk was called the Calienda, in the 1700's.
Taken from the Dances of Versailles; the French Promenade (walking
side by side) and later, the Waltz (in closed position). But, before
then Egyptians walked, to African drums, around in a
counter-clockwise circle and made the signs of the zodiac with their
hands. As I mentioned earlier, the circle has power, a gift of the
ancestors, and the true meaning of the Walk symbolizes, "Harmony in
nature amongst the chaos in the stars". The battle of the sexes
rages on, yet, on the Stepper's dance floor do men and women have a
mutual relationship with the music. Steppers are finally in harmony
with the rhythm of Life. For your dance, Love Bopdaddy Submitted By:
Bopdaddy King of Bop
The Ringshout and "set de' flo"
The Ringshout is African in origin. The Ring means circle and the
Shout means to sing. So it looks like Ringshout means 'singing
circle'. And the 2nd generation Africans sang in a circular
procession while clapping and stompin the ground with bare feet. And
according to observers the thud of hundreds of bare feet striking
the earth could be heard for miles, in the night air. The African
drum was literally thrown into the sea. The African drum was
outlawed in all states but Louisiana. AfroAmerican developed
syncopated rhythms to imitated the drum. The Ringshout was a group
dance, that moved in a counter-clockwise direction, symbolizing the
direction of the universe and from it came our most prized
possessions the captive songs (Ol' Negro Spirituals). The deeply
rooted sacred songs that gave a tortured people hope. They were
called 'moanin' music'. These were carefully constructed Bible
stories, sometimes when sung each one, modified told a different
story. Sometimes, they were sung like "All My Children" on TV and of
gossip. When sung again, it might have told Aunt Phillis or Uncle
Joe to get ready for the chariot meaning the underground railroad,
Harriet Tubman was "comin to pick you up to take you north." It told
them what time, what place, and whether to bring a coat or not. And
at the same time it gave 'em a savior. How else do you think they
sent the message? And their captors could be standing right there
and didn't know jack. In Africa, they put yo' business on the drum.
In Virginia, they put yo' business on the banjo. In the deep south
they put it in the songs of the Ringshout. The Stepper's DJ like
Mello Kris put it on 'The Box' in a sense he is that master drum of
the tribe. The Stepper's Beat is ancient an to prove my point
Bopdaddy can Step to music of Coltrane to DoWops, in time. Bebop is
much more difficult. And that's the music what they named the Bop
Dance after. Love all ya'll steppers, Bopdaddy
Gouster (A Personal recollection from Bopdaddy)
The radio legend Herb Kent, the Kool Gent helped push the concept,
of Gouster and Ivy Leaguer. The Gouster phenomenon was much like the
Flappers of the 20's and the Zoot Suiters or Jitterbugs of the 30's
& 40's. Herb's radio show helped broaden and gave essence to the pop
culture that was created. Herb's weekend Sets, at the Catholic
Schools, gave Gousters a platform to dance their Gousters Bop (a
fast paced ten-step dance). Each week a true Gouster went thru the
ritual of preparing for the Set. The Gousters baggy pants had to
have a crease so sharp you could cut butter with 'em. The Gousters
clean white shirt, worn with suspenders, were so heavily starched it
could stand-up by itself. Some shirts were colorful and they had
extra long collars and coordinated with their outfit. Sometimes,
Gousters spent half the night spit-shinin' their shoes until they
shined to a mirror finish. You could see the stars at night twiklin'
in yo' shoe. The hats of the Gousters Stetson and Barcellino and
waxed beavers, with the gangster cross folded in. But, the real
trademark of the Gouster was his Barracuda trench coat (like a
baggy, belted London Fog except it came in any color, even
iridescent. Our signature songs were, "Lookin for a Love" by the
Contours, "Dear Lady Twist" by Gary U.S. Bonds. Plus, the signature
dance was the 47th St. Strut. Yet, the dance they developed was the
Gousters Bop. There was a step that came from an unlikely source the
county jail and they called it the Jailhouse Bop. (it is
characterized by the swivelin of the heels). Today, it's movement
are called Freestyle. Also, the Gouster Gals had their own dress
code as well. The Gouster phenomenon lasted 1961 - 1967. It's foreal-
Era Referenced 1990's
Personal Recollection Steppin' at
Club 7 By Dian Davney
I remember taping the first Stepping at Club Seven. We started at
5pm on a Friday and stopped tapping around 1am in the morning, We
came back Saturday around 12 or 1 in the afternoon until around 5
that evening. I still have the episodes taped from that show. They
put together about 5 shows from the original tapes. The original
host was a comedian named BOB Mcdonald who first said "Stepping was
a Way of Life". I think this was in 1995. There was a lot of old
school dancers and new school who were just being to dance. Those
are my memories.
Era Referenced Late 1990's and
Editors Note* This article has
been circulating the internet for quite a while. I'm not sure who to
attribute it to but it's a good read and I personally know or have
met many of the individuals mentioned in the article. Markie Bee
They say Chicago winds blow as
cold as a pimp's heart, and if you've been in the Windy City, you
know this can be true. But the question is, do those cold winds
contribute to the deep sense of cool that permeates Chicago's
predominately black South and West Sides? You only need to drift
into one of the neighborhood bars or lounges, where the phenomenon
called steppin' takes place, to know that it doesn't get any cooler
than this. .
It's 10 p.m. on a Saturday night, and as I approach the Hyatt
Regency on Wacker Drive in downtown Chicago, I can tell something
major is going on, Cars pull up, and flashily attired black folks of
all ages hop out as valets hurriedly jump in and zip off. A long
white stretch slides up, and three fine sisters and a brother, all
decked out in fur, emerge as the chauffeur snaps their picture with
a disposable camera. Everyone is heading down the escalator to the
grand ballroom, where a very long line is growing with those eager
to get into tonight's big event: V1O3'S Steppers Ball. .
Hundreds of couples are already gliding on the dance floor. The
energy is celebratory and electric inside the ballroom, like a
heavyweight fight is about to take place. People make their way to
tables and position themselves for a good view. Herb Kent "the Cool
Gent" and Ramonski Luv, popular local radio personalities and hosts
of the event, welcome everyone and shout out familiar faces and
stepp in' scene regulars, like George Daniels from the legendary
George's Music Room and Helen Wooten-Keller. .
Local celebrities and playas made famous in HBO's Pimps Up, Ho 's
Down and the Hughes brothers' American Pimp documentaries stroll by,
decked out for a peacock's parade in neoncolored suits and matching
minks and hats. Legendary pimp turned preacher Bishop Don "Magic"
Juan comes over to me holding a fishbowl-sized goblet covered with
hundreds of sparkling rhinestones. He explains that he's one of the
old-school steppers in Chicago and never misses an event.
One of his pimping cohorts, Scorpio, steps simultaneously with two
girls dressed in bright red outfits that complement his fire-engine
ensemble and lo-gallon mack-daddy hat. A half-dozen judges sit at a
table like they're on the Supreme Court, scrutinizing the flamboyant
contestants. Marzette Griffith, a former championship stepper,
performs his local hit single, "Promise Me Your Love." Along with
live performances by Syleena Johnson and R. Kelly, the dance floor
is moving tonight to "dusties," old soul and R&B songs from artists
like the Spinners and the Dramatics.
The music has to be the right tempo to execute the moves. Among the
key ingredients to successful steppin' is a basic eightor six-count
step that goes left right, left shuffle, repeat, and bounce to the
opposite foot while turning your partner to and fro with the
greatest of ease. The coolest moves are made by the men: intricate
spins, twirls, and slip-and-slide footwork. Once you get the basics
down, the next important ingredient is your "stepper's face." It's a
holier-than-thou gaze that a dancer affixes to his grill, as if he's
just asked for the Grey Poupon, but all they have is Gulden's.
up north trip
"Chicagoans at a party don't ask you if you want to dance," says
Merry Green, a producer of the Steppers Ball. "They ask, 'Do you
know how to step?'" On any given weekend, there are steppers sets in
which couples ranging in age from their 20S to their 70S dance
together on clouds of air, smooth as they wanna. Oldtimers can trace
the moves back to historic black dances like the lindy hop and
jitterbug of the' 40S and' 50S. But a dance called the bop that took
offin the '60S and '70S is the direct ancestor of steppin'.
The bop was a "hand dance," a term used to describe movement that
involves holding your partner's hands while executing turns, It was
considered versatile enough to be done to a variety of mid- to
up-tempo songs from maestros like James Brown, Wilson Pickett, the
Impressions,Jackie Wilson, and Sam Cooke. As the '70S approached,
bopping became known as steppin', and this new standard got smoother
and quietly became a lifestyle.
Local mover, shaker, and self-styled impresario of the Chicago
scene, Helen Wooten-Keller, takes me back to the early days. "I was
the only female member of a group of promoters called the
Professionals," says Wooten-Keller, a vivacious woman in her
mid-50s, "There was a very hot scene in Chicago in the '70S. We gave
the best functions back then. Players, hustlers, and regular Chicago
folk came out to our parties, which went on for days." She escorts
me down memory lane, as we look at countless photos from her
personal collection. The stunning beauty poses with a who's who of
black entertainers and Chi-town luminaries.
She points out several original steppers, like Black Mary, Charles
McFerren, Ronald Pall, and Clinton Ghent. "In Chicago, being cool is
just a part of who we've always been," says Wooten- Keller. "And
steppin' is a great way to let others know." To understand the stepp
in' scene, one must first realize that the black experience in
Chicago begins with the great migration of hundreds of thousands of
African-Americans from the rural South from around 1915 through the
So many blacks migrated from the Deep South, including numerous
jazz, soul, and blues legends, that Chicago is jokingly known as the
capital of Mississippi. Along with the blues that they literally and
figuratively brought with them, they came with a strong will to
survive and make a better life. Here, some of the nation's best
known black institutions sprouted, including The Chicago
Deftndernewspaper and Johnson Publishing's Ebony and Jet magazines,
which are still thriving.
More than any other northern American city, Chicago has preserved
its Southern heritage. The deeper you go into the South and West
Side ghettos, the more folks retain their country twang. Those
living in the city's teeming black urban communities choose, for the
most part, to keep their social activities in the 'hood. It's in
these areas that steppers rule the roost.
the main men
"Mostly, the crowd will be sitting, but when they see you doing
moves they like, then they'll start jumping up and screaming like
the Holy Ghost has slapped them in church," says Royce Banks, 39, a
6'3", heavyset, mahogany-toned cat with a warm, likeable manner.
Banks has been steppin' seriously since the early' 90S. In 1995, he
was cast as one of the dancers in Steppin' at Club Seven, a
short-lived, local steppin' TV show hosted by Herb Kent.
"I danced in about nine episodes, and people still watch the tapes
of that show and approach me to this day," Banks says. "If you're
good at steppin', you're treated in Chicago like a star, like you're
R. Kelly or something." Banks then hits the dance floor, where he
quickly starts his power steppin' routine, deftly spinning his
partner and himself in, out, and under each other's arms.
To watch steppers simultaneously rise, grab partners, and sail into
motion when the right song comes on is like seeing people walk on
water. A dream-like, transcendental, rhythmic elegance prevails, and
the cool stepper's attitude overtakes the room like the fall of
night. A 65-year-old granddaddy player balances the hand of a
cocoa-colored 32-year-old with a Serena Williams braided blond weave
and booty to boot. He guides her through a series of spins and
swerves that make her giggle with delight as cool papa barely
blinks, effortlessly working the floor like a matador in the
Steppers in Chicago can be divided into two groups: the regulars and
the professionals. The regulars are those who just love to attend
steppers sets. The professionals find suitable partners and look to
make a name and even a business for themselves. Current masters like
Andre Blackwell from Dre & Company, place first, second, or third in
big competitions, increasing the demand for the steppin' classes
they teach around town.
Among professionals, the tall, dark, and handsome Pete Frazier, 44,
is stepp in' personified and an anchor of the scene. A fast, smooth
talker, Frazier refers to his trade as "the steppin' industry," and
he lives by example. He's not only a championship professional
stepper, but also a tailor and a promoter who, along with members of
his crew, the Majestic Gents, throws an annual steppers' convention
in Las Vegas.
Frazier wants to see steppin' taken as seriously as ballroom
dancing. "This is a black art form that's been out since our mothers
were kids," he says. "We want to expose the whole world to the
flavor of steppin'."
Banks considers himself a member of the new breed of professional
steppers and hopes to one day challenge the more established old
guard. "Guys like Pete Frazier, George Macaroni, Steppin' Keith, and
Ice Ray are good steppers," says Banks, "but it's time for some new
brothers like me, Dre, and Unique Maurice to step up and take the
style and grace
Banks and I are cruising on King Drive on the South Side of Chicago.
The area's other name is Bronzeville, popularized by black
newspapers in the 1930S and' 40s, to counter the term "ghetto." He
pulls up in front of a shoe repair shop and dashes in to pick up a
pair that's been freshly soled and shined for a competition. "The
soles of your shoes must be leather," Banks says. "That's the only
way you can pull off the spins and turns."
Proudly leading me into his newly renovated brownstone, he notes
that gentrification has begun in this long-neglected area, but he's
ahead of the game and looking to buy another house with his mother
as soon as the money gets right. Banks pulls out several sharply
tailored men's suits.
The jackets are cut a little long in true stepper style, but their
muted, conservative hues make them suitable for his job as a
"People going to big steppin' events want to be 'cut up,'" says
Frazier, using the stepper's vernacular for wearing tailor-made
suits, "like they're going to the Academy Awards." The hot style for
male steppers can range from these suits to the Great
Gatsby-meets-Clark Gable look. "It's all about being zooted and
booted," says Frazier.
For women, no one look seems to dominate. Women keep it casual for a
regular stepping set; they wear tight jeans, slacks, or simple
skirts with form fitting tops, and always high-heeled shoes. At
bigger sets, the styles get sexier and wilder as the designer labels
come out of the closet. Often, women will color coordinate with
their male partners and get his-and-hers matching ensembles.
Clothing is also one of the principal ways South Side and West Side
women play out their rivalries and class tensions. South Side women
view those from the West-with their elaborately sculpted hairstyles
that are sometimes dyed blond, piled high with curls, and then
epoxied in place with styling gel-as too ghetto. The West Side
women, in turn, dismiss their counterparts as uppity. But like most
women everywhere, they all want to look fly and fashionable.
Back at the Steppers Ball, Dawne Pollard, an attractive caramel
colored, 31-year-old bank executive and steppin' scene devotee,
drops the female side of the game in my ear as steppers swirl and
twirl like soulful dervishes to a dusty by the Dramatics. Seriously
committed to her local South Side church and choir, Pollard just
couldn't do the hip hop scene because the thugged-out,
women-as-sex-object ethic does not conform to her religious beliefs.
"At a steppers set," she says, "whether you're dancing with a
professional business person or a pimp pal of Don 'Magic' Juan,
women are always treated with respect and courtesy."
I remark how the flyest moves seem to be reserved for the men. She
agrees. "The women's role in stepp in' often is somewhat inferior,"
she says. According to Pollard, steppin' is more competitive for men
than women. "The woman's job is to be led by the man and look good
at it, but not to overshadow," she says. "Most women at a steppers
set just want to be chosen. When you're around serious steppers,
they are extremely selective and will only ask a woman to dance who
they feel is a good stepper. Hence, a very fine sister can become a
wilting wallflower if guys don't think she can get busy. When a
woman is asked to dance, it's like an audition. She's been chosen to
see how you move, to find out if, together, you can make magic on
the dance floor."
I ask her to describe her most magical steppin' moment. She chuckles
and begins to glow as she tells about a time when a steppers' class
was holding a set. "Herb Kent was hosting, and finally, after
waiting around for what seemed like hours, I was asked to dance."
She goes on, "It was the right moment.
I had on a hot outfit, my mojo was working, the right song was
playing-Carl Thomas's 'Summer Rain' -and my partner was just
fabulous! Suddenly, I heard Herb Kent say on the mike, 'I'm going to
ask everybody to clear the floor, and I'm going to give you folks an
opportunity to observe some real steppers.' I was about to go sit
down when he said, 'Let's everyone observe the lovely Dawne and Mr.
Stan' -that's the guy I was steppin' with. Everybody sat down except
us, and I felt like I was Ginger Rogers and he was Fred Astaire as
we danced all around the room to my favorite steppin', song."
The fine art of a man touching and holding a woman's soft wann hands
and body while dancing is a near-dead art, but it could come back
strong. The sheer excitement of a woman symbolically giving herself
to someone in the mock sexual-mating ritual that underlies much of
social dancing is a beautiful way to move, and very sexy. But it can
also be a little dangerous, especially for steppers who have both
partners and girlfriends. "It can cause problems, says Banks.\
"When you dance with a woman, you have to be very careful how you
hold her. If there's a lot of eye contact, that can mean something.
Then you feel a difference in their hands. And if your girlfriend's
in the room, she can sense something, and then it can get ugly."
Nevertheless, the steppin' scene is filled with stories of the most
unlikely couples finding true love on the dance floor..
cool it now
Oftentimes, words are tossed around so frequently we can easily
forget, or never know, what they really mean. "Cool" is one of those
words. The concept is documented as having been first used in the
15th century in what is now known as Nigeria.
In the 1993 book Cool Pose: The Dilemmas of Black Manhood in
America, the authors, Richard Majors and Janet Mancini Billson,
break down that cool "is a ritualized form of masculinity that
entails behavior, scripts, physical posturing, impression
management, and carefully crafted performances that deliver a single
critical message: pride, strength, and control." In many ways, that
is at the heart and soul of steppin', a demonstration that, in spite
of all achieved and yet to be overcome, black folk can continually
come up with innovative ways to rise to new heights of cool
There's a subconscious intent to remix and deconstruct ballroom
dancing's traditional moves and attire to create a true postmodern,
ghetto dance reconstruction. Among those who have made this dance a
part of their lives, there's an understanding that steppin' is a
supreme example of achievement in this art form, as well as an
elegant way to proudly demonstrate one's blackness. I call it poetry
in motion, so get to steppin'.
If you know who wrote this
article, please send an email to us so we can give proper
attribution to the author.
Era Referenced: 2002
East of the Ryan, October 2002. We made
our way down one of the aisles to the dance floor attracting obvious
stares. We were the only White folks in the entire club and it was
our first visit. Our self-consciousness made us feel as if everyone
couldn't wait for us to make asses of ourselves. That or maybe some
act of over-dramatized minstrelsy or a Whitewashed version of
Steppin'. We tried to stay out of the regulars' space on the dance
floor, making our way to the right side of the dance floor toward
the front of the room. The music was an up-tempo contemporary hip
hop song; we started dancing and really got into it.
Our dancing felt good that night. We were moving well together,
moving in the music, interpreting and working off each other,
feeling as if we were right in the pocket of the music. But suddenly
I heard a woman yelling from behind us. At first we were a little
worried; we were not sure if the voice was directed at us, but it
was loud and emotional. We turned slightly to see a woman in her
early 40s several tables back from the dance floor, standing up,
clapping, and yelling over the music, 'You go on!' This exclamation,
much in the call-and-response ethic of the phrase 'Let's go to
work', was a call of encouragement for dancers to dance their best.
As she kept clapping, we suddenly realized that she was gesturing to
us; she was acknowledging us as participants in the community rather
than as exceptions to it.
This acknowledgement and encouragement boosted our confidence and
spurred us to dance harder and execute some of the most complex and
intricate moves we knew. As I turned Julie around me, I noticed now
that we were the center of attention and the entire corner of the
room was now watching us dance. As we kept dancing, we heard more
shouts of encouragement: 'Get down' and 'Yeah! That's right.' Later,
as we turned to leave the dance floor, there was a whole crowd of
people looking at us, smiling and clapping – some looked half-amazed
and some half-incredulous, as if they had never seen White people
dance before, or at least certainly not Steppin' the way we were
dancing. Obviously we were not demonstrating the expected social
behavior of Whites that dominates our racial categories when we
think of White people dancing.
As we passed through the aisle on the way back to our seats, the
once seemingly indifferent crowd was now gregarious. People were
looking us in the face and smiling. One woman put her hand up for a
high five, while several men gave me reassuring head nods. When we
finally reached our seats, the people around us, who before did not
seem to notice us, immediately turned and started talking to Julie
and me. I wondered, Why the change? Why the applause? What did they
think about us? Almost instantly, in the mere minutes of dancing to
several songs, we seemed to have gone from total outsiders to people
who were welcomed and respected as regulars."
This is an excerpt from a paper named "Steppin’ out of Whiteness" by
Black Hawk Hancock. The entire paper is available at
Era Referenced: 2010
Old Skool Steppin'
I heard an ugly comment at a set one night in St. Louis, MO. "Old
Skool is out, New Skool is in! If you can't do a triple turn you
can't step! What do they do make up rules as they go along!
Our younger generation came up with New Skool Steppin' and its
beautiful to watch. However, I came up with the Old Skool Steppers,
a little too old for the many spins, turns, flips and dips. Old
Skool Steppin' is the original. I was a Bopper first going to places
like Budland, The Peps, Grand Ballroom, etc. That's where Steppin
was born 1968! The Art of Steppin' was originally meant to be a
smooth, cool, classy dance with style and attitude. Sexy for the
ladies, head up, never looking at your feet, confidence! Back then
it was all about footwork. The dance was just as much fun to watch
as it was to do. Steppin' has a history to all you new skool
steppers. Give Old Skool respect its your heritage. Steppin' is for
all generations young & old. I've been Steppin' over 40 years and so
very proud of the art I Love. Evaughn "a Chicago Old Skool Stepper
in St. Louis"
Submitted By: Evaughn Muldrew