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Local dance group to celebrate Black and Latino communities through dance

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Washington Park Steppers, a local dance group, is celebrating diversity and community with free salsa and Chicago style stepping lessons.

The dance group will host “Salsa Meets Chicago Style Stepping,” a community centered dance event, in partnership with Salsa instructor Tiffany Robinson, on May 17. from 5-8 p.m. at the Washington Park Family Center.

The family-friendly dance event aims to be a bridge between two of Indianapolis’ diverse communities while emphasizing the importance of physical health, said Gerald Graves, founder of the Washington Park Steppers.

“Based on research, the more active you stay, the more mentally aware you stay, especially in your older, senior years,” Graves said. “Plus, it’s a good way to exercise and depending on the dance, it can be high impact or low impact — either way you get the cardio out of it, and it’s a great networking tool.”

Founded in April 2002, the Washington Park Steppers are a community-based dance group that teaches, practices and performs Chicago style stepping at events around the city like the Indiana State Fair, Graves said. The group currently has about 35 members ranging from ages 35-80 but welcomes anyone regardless of age or dance experience.

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“Just show up, we’ll teach you the rest,” Graves said. “It’s all about a positive attitude. That’s all it takes.”

Chicago style stepping — or steppin’ — is an urban variation of social partner dancing originating in Chicago. With roots in Lindy hop, jitterbug and the bop, steppin’ is a style of swing dance typically done to R&B, jazz, and funk music.

This style of dance is like salsa in count despite the difference in music, Graves said, which is why the group felt it was a good idea to host a community event that would “bring the Latin dance community and the Chicago Stepping community together.”

“Salsa Meets Chicago Style Stepping” will also feature the Roche Group of Latinos Business Resource Group and the Susan G. Komen Indiana Minority Health Alliance. There will also be food and drinks for attendees to enjoy.

Stephanie Groves, treasurer of Washington Park Steppers, said guests are invited to participate in the free salsa and stepping lessons and dance along with the group or just watch, network and enjoy being with friends and community. 

“We want it to be family fun,” Groves said. “We’d like them to see that dancing can be fun, and they can do it together.”

Groves, who said she has been going to practices consistently for a little over a year, said Chicago style stepping is unique because of the flow. Anyone can get the hang of it and make it fun or sexy while bringing their own flavor to it.

“We want to not only dance and have fun, but we also want to be involved and give back to the community in some ways,” Groves said. “That’s what we are really focusing on this year, is trying to connect with community, so you know whether we’re sharing information or just having fun or going out to support.”

“Salsa Meets Chicago Style Stepping” takes place May 17 from 5-8 p.m. at the Washington Park Family Center, 3130 E. 30th St. The event is free to attend. Washington Park Steppers meet for practice every Tuesday at the Washington Park Family Center from 6:30-8 p.m.

For more information, check out Washington Park Steppers on facebook.com.

Contact Arts & Culture Reporter Chloe McGowan at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @chloe_mcgowanxx.

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