Boys' step team pounds out a rhythm of their own
"We break it down like -" senior KJ Bonhomme's voice booms as the members of the boys' step team begin to pound out a rhythm at their March 17 practice. There is a flurry of movement as hands slap on thighs and feet stomp on the floor. "'Sup y'all? I just wanna know one thing," Bonhomme continues. "Can you step like -" The rest of the team interrupts their captain, starting with one stepper and continuing until they are all stepping in unison. Suddenly, the team stops and Bonhomme speaks with confidence: "You can't step like us."
Though the boys' step team has only been around for two years, it is making strides towards becoming a cohesive team. The team continues to improve itself, despite a lack of support from other Blazers.
The boys' team formed at the end of the 2003 school year after step sponsor and Special Education teacher Alisha James separated the coed team. James says that the boys and girls were disorganized and unfocused when they were on the same team. "It was more of a distraction for them to work together," she says.
Bonhomme and the other members of step say that a lot of Blazers believe that stepping is a feminine activity. The boys know this stereotype is untrue, but because of it, male students don't want to join the team, and the male team receives little support from the school as a whole. Despite the difficulty, Bonhomme was able to recruit five members. One member recently quit, and another can't attend practices, so the team has only four permanent members, and three who practice regularly.
The two step teams do not only differ in gender, but they also differ in the way they step. Bonhomme says that the girls do more chants and claps during their steps, while the boys do a lot of jumping. James says that the girls are more sassy, but the boys put more intensity into their stepping. "The boys have more energy and they make a lot more noise," she says, chuckling.
A captain that's making it happen
"Let's do the warm-up step," Bonhomme says to the other members at the start of practice. The boys hang around, joking with each other. When a 40 second step takes a week or longer to practice, there is not a lot of time for goofing off - and Bonhomme realizes this. Every minute of the team's two-hour Tuesday and Thursday practices counts. Bonhomme tries to get the boys together, but he can't help laughing as the others crack jokes. "Get lined up," he says before chuckling.
Bonhomme is the soul of the step team. He creates all of the steps that the team performs, drawing inspiration from rhythms inside his head. A step rhythm could start out as a beat that he has tapped out on a table. He combines basic step moves with the beats to create pulse-pounding routines. Among the basic steps that he incorporates into routines are the over under (clapping before stomping your foot and then clapping underneath your bent leg) and the backward clap (clapping your hands, then folding your arms down in a genie position before bringing the back of your hands together like a pair of wings moving in flight).
Bonhomme feels that there is no limit to the amount of steps he can create. "There are so many ways for the human body to make percussion — the possibilities are endless," he says. He continues, excited as he talks about how it feels to see his team perform the routines that he creates. "It is the craziest thing to see. It's like a surreal moment."
There are times when all of the practice pays off and everything comes together just right - like when the boys performed at Blair's Diva Invitational last year.
Bonhomme and senior Josh Gilmore both remember how the team nailed its routine. "That [performance] was flawless. It was loud, it was passionate and I was yelling at the top of my lungs," Bonhomme says energetically.
The experience motivated Gilmore to keep working hard on the team. He remembers the audience's reaction: they gave the boys a standing ovation. Bonhomme is still ecstatic about that day. "The audience's reaction was perfect. It was almost scripted," he says emphatically.
Trials and tribulations
But not all of the team's experiences have been positive. Senior Delante Cordell remembers when he performed in front of an audience for the first time last year. The team traveled to Clarksville high school in Gaithersburg. Only Bonhomme and he were performing, and Cordell remembers that he was extremely nervous, and he ended up stopping in the middle of the performance. "I knew all the steps, but I messed up big time," he says.
Senior Alex McBean vividly recalls when the boys only got three minutes to perform at a Blair basketball game on Feb. 12. Blair's basketball players came back onto the court to warm-up before the team had finished their routine. "The balls were bouncing everywhere while we were stepping," McBean remembers. "So we got pushed off the stage, and we just walked off."
As practice continues, the team begins a new step. Starting with three people on each side, they move toward each other while stepping — stomping on the floor and moving their arms in a consistent beat. The two lines move though each other, as the boys go in between each other, crisscrossing their legs. "To your left!" Cordell says, when one stepper goes the wrong way. When they reach the opposite sides, the boys do another step before moving together to form one solid line. The boys look straight ahead, focused, eyes burning with intensity and passion as they touch their elbows and continue stepping before finally ending together.
The members of the squad have formed relationships with each other that go beyond step. Gilmore says that joining step allowed him to meet people he wouldn't have met otherwise. He says that sometimes the boys will hang out together or call each other even if it's not step related.
Bonhomme agrees that the boys have formed important friendships with each other, saying that the boys come to practice for more than step. He admits that conflicts sometimes arise between members, but everyone usually gets along and has a good time. "We definitely have fun when we're at the meeting," he says. "It's not a sense of 'Oh, I have to be here.'"
Though the boys' step team has only been in existence for two years, it may be stopped in its tracks if no underclassmen continue the team. James says that it is up to the boys to recruit members for next year. Bonhomme and the other members realize that the team's days might be coming to an end, but they are not letting it slow them down. The captain still expects intensity from each stepper. "[I want] aggression to the fullest, and passion to the fullest and energy to the fullest," he says of the team. "I want everyone to come off the stage exhausted."
Sayoh Mansaray. Sayoh Mansaray is a junoir who is SUPER excited about being on the Silver Chips staff. She enjoys the simple pleasures in life, like sleeping late and eating. Sayoh hates waking up early (who doesn't?), so adjusting to school again has been a bit hard, … More »