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Tuesday, 20 September 2011 07:34

The  Cadillac sponsored 21st Annual World’s Largest Steppers Contest appeared to be back in full form this past Saturday at the Tinley Park Convention Center.  Thousands of Steppers came from all around the nation to cheer on a new crop of Steppers.  Most people felt the contest wouldn’t survive without Dre, Tyk, Westside Mike, Maurice Turner, Dominique Robinson, Darren Ulmer, Ken Amorio, Ken Hilliard, Lady Margaret, Danielle Moore, and tons of other Steppin’ Heavyweights, and yet, we see one of the biggest contests in years with many memorable moments.

Sister 2 Sister magazine’s Jamie Foster Brown MC’d the event, along with Soul 106.3’s Shelby Moore.   A number of other popular media were in the building as well, as representatives from Ebony,, and the Chicago Defender were all on hand for the contest.  R&B Singer Res performed her hit single “For Who You Are” and mesmerized the men with a sexy form fitting Black dress.  Res’ dress was the discussion of our 5am post-contest breakfast outing, to the dismay of the ladies at the table. 

  Dre giving GM's Nina Price, S2S's Jamie Foster Brown, and singer Res Steppin lessons

The Contest ended at 1:30am, approximately 3 ½ hours after it started, and ran really smoothly the whole time.  Of course there were gripes about some of the winners, but by and large, the judges did a really good job.  I hear that individuals are complaining about Kirk and Sebrina’s win in the Original Old Skool, but I believe the arguments are unwarranted.  People are clearly not reading the rules … The Original Old Skool Category says, “Timing, Style, Footwork, Close Dancing, and Slow Bopping are all elements of original style Steppin’.”  Note that “Slow Bopping” is a part of the Original Old Skool category.  I think it was brilliant of Kirk and Sebrina to tease out a piece of the rules and build a strategy behind it.  More on this later …

As for the overall contest, I must admit, it was a bit boring.  I don’t blame the contestants, as much as I blame the rules.  I talked to contestants like Royce Banks who said, “It’s tough to know how far you can go in the Original Old Skool Category without doing too much and turning the judges off. “  Three of the four major categories in the contest are judged Original Old Skool, and the limitations on contestants are quite strict.  I’m actually torn by this because in many ways I’m a traditionalist, but I also understand that Original Steppin’ by itself can be quite boring.  I was underwhelmed for most of the contest.

I thought the number of Steppers attempting lifts and tricks was great, although many of my buddies vehemently disagreed.  Most of the execution of these moves seemed either sloppy or as if they were being done in slow motion, but that it to be expected in Steppin’.  Steppin’ is a young dance and most of these moves are being tried for the very first, maybe second time.  What I can say, is that watching the contestants attempt them made me appreciate Andre Blackwell’s contest performances (with Lady Margaret and Shareda Newbern), where he’d executed many of them flawlessly over the years.

There were a number of improvements with this year’s contest, like an extra dance floor in the VIP area for people to dance on all night long, 2 large projector screens (although they appeared to be facing the wrong direction), a beefed up VIP reception menu (courtesy of Cadillac), and a better organized VIP area that was pipe and draped to avoid seating confusion.  I don’t know if the Steppers recognize or appreciate these changes, but Pete Frazier and the Majestic Gents did an incredible job this year.  One of the executives from Cadillac noticed that the audience didn’t cheer for Reggie Reg, Res, or Cadillac when they were introduced.  I certainly believe in Pete’s saying, “The louder you clap, the better they get down.”   The contest is definitely not perfect, but improvements are constantly being made.  At what point will we start celebrating the efforts of the promoters, dancers, performers, and sponsors instead of coming up with conspiracy theories every year?

More on what happened in the contest later.  I didn’t get many shots at the World’s Largest.  Pictures from The Press Box are in the ChiStepper Photo Gallery (make sure to click through the pages)!

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Last Updated on Monday, 26 September 2011 13:32
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