Step by step, the Browne Middle School Step Dance team will make their way to Providence College this coming Saturday, April 13th, to perform in front of several thousand students as part of the College’s Diversity Festival.
Teacher Asha Chana and five students from the school have been honing their skills since last December when the team formed, and have actually become close friends as a result.
“We have gone from all being cool with each other to being besties with each other,” said Brianna ‘The Captain’ Wesley, an 8th grader. “We went from just being a group to becoming a team – a real step team.”
Step dancing is one of the most popular forms of group dancing nowadays with performers clapping, stomping and moving to the music in a choreographed dance. However, it not only includes dancing, but also the sounds of stomping and clapping and occasionally, chanting.
That is one reason this form of dance appealed to Wesley and the others.
“I’ve done step before and it allows you to show emotion,” said Wesley. “You can express yourself in so many ways. I say it’s better than other dance styles because you’re stomping your feet and clapping and doing other stuff to show the way you feel.”
Keyvin ‘Macho’ Rodriguez, also an eighth grader, said he had never heard of step dancing until he watched the team practicing.
“I didn’t know anything about step dancing; I had never even heard of it,” he said. “I was walking by the classroom and saw them practicing and came in to watch. I kept watching and then I tried it, and I had it down. Ms. Chana told me I had to be on the team, and now I love it.”
Others on the team include Cristal ‘Flaka’ Santana (a 9th grader at Chelsea High that returned from last year’s Browne Step Team), Jennifer ‘Vice Perea’ Perea (an 8th grader), and Hector ‘El Jefe’ Roman (also an 8th grader).
Chana said she formed a step dance team last year, and it went pretty well, with Santana being one of the lead dancers.
This year, students wanted to be able to do step as an elective course during the school’s innovative Extended Learning Time day – a program at the Browne funded by the state that allows students go to school for several extra hours per week and, as a consequence, allows students to take elective courses like dance.
The team has given each other formal nicknames, and they all wear tan Timberland boots and black T-shirts.
Likewise, they’ve set some pretty tough standards for conduct and grades – standards that, if not met, will get a member dismissed from the team.
“If you have a ‘D,’ you have to bring it up or you get kicked off,” said Wesley. “We also all signed a contract that we can’t have any bad behavior. Keeping our grades up is the most important thing here.”
Added Chana, “They really hold each other accountable and they’re disciplined and they check on each other’s work.”
Chana said she is particularly excited to go back to Providence College – where she went to college.
“I was an officer in the Multicultural Club there when I was in college and every year they call me to see if I have a step team that could participate in the festival,” said Chana. “I never had one that could travel there until this year. This was the first year I was able to tell them we were coming. This is really an amazing team we have and they’ve shown perseverance, dedication and improvement.”
Students said they were excited to perform at Providence, and have been very focused during practices over the past several weeks. Today, on Thursday, they will hone their skills in front of the entire Browne Middle School during a warm-up performance at 2:30 p.m.
Wesley added that the team is planning to walk in the ‘Walk for Hunger’ next month and needs to raise money for the effort. She said the Step Team would be willing to perform for anyone in order to raise money for the Walk.
“We do need help raising money for the walk and we’ll perform for any school or organization in Chelsea to help raise money,” she said.