The Top 10 Most Controversial Subjects in Steppin Back

Jul 1, 2015

By Tracey Bivens


All of the inbox messages and parking lot conversations are going to be put on blast today. It’s so ironic that people love to communicate on Twitter, Facebook and other social mediums but when it comes to the steppers sets…the conversations never seem to reach the powers that be or the ones that can affect change. You be the judge.


10. Mega events are expensive, boring and predictable

Going to Chicago on a Friday night or to the 50 Yard Line on Saturday never gets boring to me. I think once DJ Rockin Rodney Mack established the template for the Mega Weekend Events along with Good Deeds International out of Atlanta, the whole idea of holding people hostage for 3-4 days and nights became the national norm. Meet and Greets, Day Parties, Main Events, Workshops and Farewell Parties have become the standard for the Mega Weekend Events. I was perusing Jeff Clark’s I Love Steppin event page awhile back and counted 20+ mini mega weekend events for the year. Is the steppin community, on a national scale, large enough to accommodate all of these events? Well, let’s look at it mathematically. It’s not like an official census count has taken place to gauge how many steppers we have in the United States but numbers suggest somewhere between 5,000 and 8,000. The largest numbers I’ve ever reported at the mega events have been 2,300 and 2,500 hundred respectively. What would it take to get more attendees to come to everyone’s events? Time and interest. If I like the way McDonalds French fries taste in Detroit, why would I have to go to Helena, Montana to buy McDonalds French fries there? To the promoters who want to build up their communities, keep on being vigilant with small instructional classes and local steppers sets. If you are going to lure massive crowds from established cities with a large steppin population be prepared to dangle a carrot on a stick that hasn’t been dangled before. #MakeitWorthMyTimeandMoney


9. Venue issues

Here is the formula for having a successful steppers set at a venue i.e. dance studio, club or hall. Make sure the floor is wooden with solid oak if at all possible. Acceptable floors include industrial tile, marble and some forms of vinyl. If you are a promoter looking at an outside or inside venue with concrete…shame on you. I don’t care how pretty the concrete is, it will tear your knees…his knees…her knees and everyone’s knees up. You want to also make sure that the floor is such that powder is not needed. An abundance of powder/wax/resin is a lawsuit waiting to happen due to potential slip and falls. Also, pay attention to the air quality. Is there central air conditioning that can handle up to 100+ people in a room made for 100? People will break out with fans on occasion but you don’t want to encourage projectile vomiting and profuse sweating where people’s shirts and or dresses are saturated after two songs. Is the parking area secure or am I going to be on the 11 o’clock news because I got robbed or beat up? If street parking is unavoidable, please have Ranger Rick or a qualified security agent available to WATCH and WALK women to their cars. For the diabetics and hypoglycemics, please have small food items available to sell i.e. chips, mints, bottled water, etc. If you insist on having sets at the clubs, be prepared to deal with splitting door and class fees with the owner, mandatory drink requirements and being there less than three months. #IftheFloorisRightImCool #IftheFloorisTightImGonefortheNight


8. Original Style Steppin and New Skool Steppin

The out of towners are beginning to embrace Original Style Steppin right now and when they embrace something…they generally tend to want to learn it. When I talk about Original Style Steppin , I’m talking about the kind Jannice Roberston, Susan Watson, Kathleen “Lady Tabu” Wiggins, Calvin “Taboo” Jarrett, Donnie Davis, and countless others are showcasing around the country in their travels. Now there is a subtle difference between what people see billed as Freestyle Steppin and Original Style Steppin and that has yet to be worked out amongst Chicago nomenclature specialists according to Terrance Pratt New Skool Steppers are spinning and turning the heck out of their partners and have been doing so for the last 15 years. According to Legendary stepper Jannice Robertson, the attraction of Original Style Steppin is spreading with great interest onto the scene because it encourages less spinning, more creativity, showmanship and most of all NO COUNTING! Robertson has taken a personal interest in making sure she shares Chicago steppin history and this information with everyone that wants to learn Original Style Steppin…in its original form. Is this what the steppin community needs to spruce up the monotony that has plagued New Skool Steppers that have attended class after class? What New Skool instructors are going to be able to teach Original Style Steppin which encompasses original footwork AND arm coordination? Stay tuned. #whatsoldisnew


7. Teaching on the dance floor

Even though I’ve written about this before I’ll tackle it again. Women, your job is to follow the man’s lead BUT if his lead is weak, not defined and leaves you guessing…please don’t clean up the move or combination. Don’t go through with the move. Tell him that you “didn’t feel that” or for him to “do it again”. I’ve observed a lot of women go through songs with “hiccups” because they don’t want to “hurt his feelings” or they feel that “it ain’t that deep.” Well, if it “ain’t that deep” why are you breaking your necks to get perimeter seating at dance events? It’s because you want a good dance. Help the men by politely letting them know what they need to know and if they try to argue with you…thank him for the dance midway and sit down.

Men…your best options are to just give the woman the move a second or third time until she gets it and if she doesn’t, smile and go on to the next move. The very last thing a woman wants to experience is a man chastising her on the dance floor in front of everyone. If it’s really THAT important to you that she gets a move right, take her to a corner and have a fireside chat or impromptu lesson there. Good luck with that too! Teaching in the proper setting shows you have class but teaching on the dance floor makes you look like an ass. #putinagreetingcard #putonatshirt


6. Keep it Classy not “Assy”and keep it “Real”

This is a hard one for me because it’s hard for me to take people seriously on the steppers set sometimes because of this “disease”. I blame many women and “sideline cheerleaders” for this. I looked at the way many women dressed at The White Party a couple of weeks ago and it was reminiscent of what I would see in videos from the 1990s. Scantily clad dressed women who had no real skill set on the dance floor so they offer potential male dance partners T and A to get their attention. Cheap displays of flesh were always discouraged in the dance world by the older generation of dancers (ballroom dancing included) because the focus was meant to be on the dance and not the body parts. But I guess with the dance ratio being what it is (women outnumber the men 10-1 on the set) women feel that they have to play “that” card. So this of course causes a lot of men to gravitate towards them and twirl them around on the floor and potentially get them up into the hotel suite later on that night for a continuation of the “dance.” The horizontal kind. Thus, T & A, gets the attention alright and cheapens the dance experience.


The “sideline cheerleaders” will say and do anything to be a part of the “accomplished steppers” in their community. These are the hangers on that again want to seek popularity and fame without putting in the “work” on the dance floor. They come disguised as promoters, students and DJs. You can’t tell these people anything. They actually believe they are the BEST (whatever that is) and tend to turn off a lot of people with this mindset. #highschool?   #wait…what?


5. To count or not to count?

Nope…I’m not talking about the battle of the 6 count versus the 8 count. I’m talking about the count taught in classes that has stifled creativity and flow for years. How can you expect beginner steppers to count, listen to music, and remember combinations at the same time? They can’t do it! The ones that can… struggle with looking exactly like their instructors or other students in the class. Potential or current students, if you take the time to ask yourself this question you may actually find the answer in which you seek. Think about what stepper (s) you truly admire and then ask them what CLASS they went to for instruction…not who showed them but what CLASS they went to to learn how to actually step. You are probably going to be very surprised to hear that 99% of them did not learn via class but learned from one on one contact, videos or through eye hustling at the clubs.  #sonowwhat? #MorganFreemanPointingUp


4. My instructor won’t dance with me at the sets

Put a set of slave chains on them …because that’s the only way you are going to be guaranteed a dance. Established instructors have anywhere between 100-200 students over the course of five years. When does the statute of limitation end? If you pay them some money…maybe they will dance with you all the time but have to understand ladies AND gentlemen, you pay for the instruction during the class not the socialization at the set. #competingwithothers   #giveitup


3. There aren’t enough men that step

What else is new? There are not enough men to marry. There aren’t enough men to teach students in the school system. There has always been a shortage of men. The solution to this is simple. If each woman reached out to a non stepping male from her church, job, block, grocery store bagger, brother fraternity, military unit, halfway houses, rehab centers, etc. we would have the male numbers.

I was able to entice 9 men between the years of 1999-2006 to become steppers through simple conversation and a little nurturing. I don’t think it’s going to happen with the men recruiting men because they love being the center of attention and probably don’t want to share the wealth (laughing) but seriously ladies…let’ s get on our job. The next time a woman says out loud, “There aren’t enough men at the sets to dance with.” Ask them, “What are you personally doing to change that?”   #shesgotapoint


2. People want to get into every event for FREE

We are almost at number one. This could have easily fallen under the “ego trippin” category but I’m going to tell you why this is a problem and how it can be easily resolved.

If a promoter can’t convince enough “A List” steppers to attend his or her even by demonstrating kindness and establishing mutual respect or showing professional courtesy through bartering then they will be a slave to the “comp ticket syndrome.” The comp ticket syndrome is when a promoter automatically gives away 20 or more tickets to “important” people in the steppin community in hopes that “other” people will show up. Does this work? No. How does the promoter know if the “VIP people” are coming to the set after he/she has given away the free tickets? For example…the venue costs $200 to rent. If you have 40 tickets at $10.00 each and you give away 10 of them…how much did you make? Okay…$300. Then you pay the DJ and security and…etc. You see where I’m going with this? You just paid for 10 people to be entertained at a party that you paid for. Does that make business sense? Well Tracey…why do promoters practice this foolishness? Because they don’t want to be successful promoters they want to be POPULAR promoters. I have always held to the belief that promoters should REQUIRE every person they let in free to bring cartons of individual chip bags, packages of mints, bottled water, napkins, etc. to offset the overhead. Well, how come I don’t see this happening Tracey? You don’t see it because no one wants to hurt the feelings of some of the heavy hitter steppers. There are actually three promoters that I know that don’t play that and they are the ones sitting on a pile of money because their clientele respects their business practices. New promoters…don’t fall into that trap.

#NoPayNoPlay #DoYouHaveaJobInReaLife?


1. The steppin DJs aren’t playing the right music

How many got this one right? Yes. This is THE number one complaint that has been consistent throughout the years, months, weeks and days. The steppin DJs don’t sound like the DJs in Chicago. Why not? Ego Trippin. Here’s the formula for every steppin DJ in America to follow right now.


  • I have been to Chicago to listen to their main DJs to compare and contrast my playlist to theirs? Answer: “Nope…because I play just as well as Mello Kris… there ain’t no difference between me and DJ Black Cool and DJ Larry Cross.” Ego Trippin. I challenge every DJ who calls himself a steppin DJ to go to at least 3 sets in Chicago that are well attended and write down what you see and hear. Who’s up dancing? Look at the expressions on the people’s faces that are dancing.


  • Play music that has familiarity and can be sung on the dance floor by the majority of your attendees. Your demographic of women and men will usually be between 28-75. R&B and blue eyed soul music from the 70s through the 90s are always welcome with open arms because of its musicality. Music from the millennium is tricky and I would rely heavily on what I see is trending on the tables of DJ vendors the people respect.


  • Stay away from rap music, fusion jazz, country western and music from the 50s and 60s. Again…I say this with all due respect. DJs must play for the people not THEMSELVES. Some DJs feel that they have to “push the envelope” to stand out. No you don’t. DJ Markie Bee has over 5,000 songs on his list at as well as lists where people have chimed in about what they like to listen to.


  • Virtual DJ has become public enemy number one in the dance venues. Why? Because some DJs feel that it’s easier to “line their songs up” and have the computer system play them one after the other. Mixing is a no no!!!! Again…I repeat. Don’t mix the d*$n music and turn 3 minute songs into 12 minute mixes! That’s a good way to get told off by the promoters who need women to dance who are sitting and waiting. Why don’t you invest in machines that allow you to create a song that can only be heard at “your” set. That’s what Raphael, Cross, Kris, Calvin, Eric Taylor, and Mykel have done for years and they stay employed in their cities and all over the country. Also, change up your play list. I know what some DJs are going to play because they won’t change up what feels comfortable for them to listen to.


  • The biggest myth. DJs that dance make the best DJs and are the most successful. Anyone ever seen Mellow Kris or Rodney Mack Step? Now answer this question, how many DJs do you see that step but don’t know how to DJ? #PlayingtheRightMusicMatters   #whatsupwiththat?Well, that about sums it up. These are the conversations that have taken place over the last decade or so around the country and via social media recently. I hope that this blesses some people with a new attitude, understanding and new practices.


P.S. Shout outs go to Terrance Pratt, Markie Bee, Ayesha Gallion, and Cynthia Bean for keeping it 100% on this end of the battlefield. #writersblock





I Love Steppin 11th Year Anniversary