Step Afrika!’s Magical Musical Holiday Step Show dazzles at Arena Stage

By Ajani Jones

This article was first published in DC Theater Metro Arts on 12/16/22 here.

Amidst these times of holiday cheer and yuletide merriments, Step Afrika! throws its hat into the ring of festivities with an hour and a half of unabashed excitement and step-themed entertainment.

Step Afrika!’s Magical Musical Holiday Step Show is indeed magical. In roughly an hour and a half of unapologetic fun and joy, the Step Afrika! team rings in the holidays by seamlessly combining beloved classics and modern hits, all the while dazzling the audience with the nonstop energy one would expect from a step show.

Step Afrika!’s Magical Musical Holiday Show is divided into several performances and fun segments that all leave the audience awed. The show is led by a dynamic duo, the splendid host Ariel Dykes and the energetic DJ Nutcracker (Jeeda Barrington). The pair do a phenomenal job of engaging the audience and maintaining energy as the show transitions between a slew of dazzling performances. From a fantastic drum and dance spectacle to a later step-off between factions of the Step Afrika! ensemble, the dancers’ energy never wanes as they take the stage with unwavering charisma and give their all in stellar displays of talent and powerful and graceful moves.

From start to finish the show keeps its audience engaged. There is never a dry moment, especially as many of the show’s segments allow for plenty of audience participation through cheers, calls and responses, and even an all-out interactive dance lesson courtesy of Ariel and DJ Nutcracker. On another occasion, DJ Nutcracker invites the audience to the dance floor to fully embrace the spirit of the show and dance. And dance they did. Audience members flocked to the beautifully decorated stage to demonstrate their dance moves. Moments like these interspersed throughout the already fantastic choreographed performances cemented this show as a fun time for all ages.

Beyond its high energy, the show is steeped in unrestricted creativity, from fantastic costumes to thrilling musical accompaniment. As the raw rhythmic flair of several of the unaccompanied step performances captivates the audience, modern beats tie into familiar holiday classics helping to really elevate the show while keeping the audience grooving alongside the dancers.

The show also excels in its less active but equally phenomenal technical elements. The intricate detail put into designing the show is honestly breathtaking. From a stage made to look like an ice-skating rink to minute details like light snow falling in intervals throughout the show, the scenic design helps enhance the already amazing energy of Step Afrika!’s performances and deliver on the holiday magic advertised for the show.

The lighting and sound elements, designed by Marianne Meadows and Misha Michel respectively, are also incredible. The show is brilliant and colorful, but never overwhelming in its displays of dazzling lights that add an extra layer of magic to each new segment. The sound design is also clear and bright, perfectly punctuating moments of high energy with brilliant beats and tunes that never overwhelm performances or drown out the performers.

Ultimately, the show was nothing short of incredible. With its high-energy cheer and magnificent displays of stepping, Step Afrika!’s Magical Musical Holiday Step Show is a holiday season must-see.

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