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Mon 22 Dec 2014
Q & A With Steppers West's Zakeeyaw Toney

Memorial Day Weekend is full of fun stuff to do for Steppers.  While some will be headed to St. Louis, others will head out to Las Vegas for the Steppers West Associates annual ball, were I'll be on hand as the MC.  The ball has become quite popular, while the organizer has played the background.  Let's get to know a little more about the Steppers West Associates head honcho, Zakeeyaw Toney ... "What I do see at the weekly sets is a strong dedicated commitment and love of the dance from steppers that come out for the weekly sets, special events, classes, and workshops." (Cont.)

T. Pratt (TP): How is Steppin' in Las Vegas coming along? 

Zakeeyaw Toney (ZT): Steppin is growing and thriving in the city of Las Vegas. It is a city that people relocate to for various reasons including moving to a warm climate, joining family, retirement, work, etc. Many people are looking for people and activities to socialize in and we continuously add new steppers to the Steppin community. We have a huge Chicago connection within the Las Vegas community; people who have relocated permanently or live as snow birds (live in Las Vegas in the winter and go back to their other home in the summer). I’m always amazed when I’m speaking with a group of people and they name their home cities … native Las Vegans are the minority, with a good portion coming from cities like Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, New York, and other cold weather climate cities, all bring various flavors of Steppin to the arena. 

TP: I heard that the local community was quite large at some point, and then a lot of people lost interest.  Is there any truth to that? 

ZT: I believe there is some truth to that. The transition was a little before my time so I wasn’t around to see the changes. What I do see at the weekly sets is a strong dedicated commitment and love of the dance from steppers that come out for the weekly sets, special events, classes, and workshops. Some of the steppers have been around for 5-10 years and seem untarnished from anything that happened in the past. Steppin can bring out the best in people and people remain interested because it draws the best mix of adult social interaction to the Steppin art form which is graceful and addictive.

TP: You're hosting the Steppers West Associates event this year at The Orleans Hotel.  What made you want to bring people to Vegas? 

ZT: Las Vegas is one of the top destination cities in the world! Even the rich and famous are in awe when they come to Vegas on vacation. Bringing Steppers in from around the country offers them a real treat in terms of ambiance and locale. Not only is Las Vegas a beautiful city that is based on accommodating tourists’ pleasures, its real gem is the culture. Our people have a rich history in Las Vegas for advancing equality and respect in this country, especially through dance and music, and those activities and results put us on historical maps. We are continuing to make history with the Steppin community.  Outside of coming to one of the most amazing cities on the planet, we will come together in Las Vegas and “step on purpose” for the whole world to see via our media and broadcasts.

TP: I'm not sure if people know this, but the Gents used to host great weekends in Las Vegas years ago.  The events were populated primarily by out-of-towners however.  Is getting lots of out-of-towners still the goal or are you trying to galvanize the local scene as well?

ZT: The goal is for our out -of -town guests to be hosted by Las Vegas. Not only do we want to share our dance but we want to shake a hand and meet a friend. We plan on having a good mix of locals and visitors. 

TP: What can people expect from this year's event?

ZT: Steppers West Associates (SWA) is presenting its annual Memorial Day Weekend Jam 11 at The Orleans Hotel and Casino Las Vegas, NV.  A fabulous line up of the best DJ’s, Steppin workshop instructors, MC’s, and venue in a fun filled and educational weekend. We recognize African Americans who have contributed positively to Black Culture [and]will feature 9 events, including:  An Awards Ceremony, Dinner and Steppin’ Nightly, Seminars and Dance  Workshops, Health Fair, Pool Spa Party, Fashion Show, and A Thursday Night Pre Party Set at Mangos Beach Bar Lounge. Take your vitamins and eat your Wheaties before you come out. We have 5 days of activities planned to entertain and enlighten you.

TP: Now you've also started hosting a radio segment on called "Ask Nurse Z."  Tell us a little bit about that.

ZT: Thank you for asking. The Ask Nurse Z show was born from my personal and professional interest. My background is as an educator. I was in the classroom, before I was a nurse, thinking that my students needed help and I might better serve them as a nurse. My nursing career started with my focus on pediatrics but my interest was very diverse so I began to work in other areas, enjoying them all. Throughout the years I’ve accumulated a large amount of knowledge and wanted to share and give back and feel that a media forum is a great way to do it. On the show I speak on health topics that plague the African American and Hispanic community. Topics are chosen from monthly health observances with references for people to get more information. The goal to give information, spark your interest, and prompt you to take responsibility for your health care by seeking regular medical appointments and following up with care. We talk about physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Nutrition, diet, exercise, and safety are also main topics.

The need to speak out comes from the many times I have been in the room with a patient and doctor who is explaining something to them only for the doctor to leave and the patient to ask me what the doctor said or what did he mean. Sometimes during the health assessment the patient will open up to me, telling me things that they have held in away from the doctor or their family. People trust nurses, and you should. We are advocates for people and we are entrusted to keep your information confidential and do our best to help. On the show we invite questions, comments, or concerns to be sent to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or to or We air on Wednesdays 11-noon (CST) with a rebroadcast on Sundays 7-8 pm (CST). Please adjust the times for your city … we can be picked up nationally.  

TP: I see you listed as one of the workshop instructors at the Steppers West Associates weekend event.  Do you teach regularly in Vegas? 

ZT: I have a regular class taught weekly on Thursdays at 7 pm at Mangos Beach Bar Lounge in Las Vegas. My workshop at the event is called “Steppin 101.” It is designed as a preparatory class for all steppers. If you are a beginning stepper, male or female, this class will give you a foundation in dance and steppers etiquette. Even seasoned steppers have taken my workshop and found useful information. And like any good teacher we have handouts and homework!

TP: Who taught you how to Step?

ZT: I love this question because I’m proud to give credit where credit is due. Although I have taken classes and workshops with great instructors, my foundation came through Dave Maxx, LC Henderson, and Brian “Steppin B” Patterson. Being from Chicago, it was natural for me to want to learn and craft this dance where it was born, in Chicago!

TP: Where do you think Las Vegas ranks in the spectrum of up and coming Steppers cities? 

ZT: When you look at the sky at night and you see the brightest star - that’s Vegas baby! 

TP: Any closing thoughts?

ZT: My love of God and people keep me grounded and guided to do the best in any endeavor that I undertake. When you see me know that I am a reflection of you. Steppers West Associates, Inc. was formed to ensure that people get the most from health information and services that we can make available to them.  Its mission is to promote excellent health and fitness education in our community advancing Steppin as an exercise outlet with the greatest service possible. Come out to Vegas [and] enjoy Steppin with us! It is more than a dance.


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