Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Stomp the Bay step show hits St. Petersburg, inspiring young and old

ST. PETERSBURG — Eleven-year-old Isaiah Lapointe wasn't so sure he was going to like Saturday's step show.

After all, his mom's friend, a 40-year-old high school teacher, was performing.

But shortly after he won an impromptu dance contest with break-dancing moves that brought the crowd to its feet, he'd decided he wanted to learn step, too.

"It's really exciting," he said, eagerly watching men in red suspenders stomp canes against the St. Petersburg College gym floor in perfect rhythm.

The show, called Stomp the Bay, was the first of its kind in St. Petersburg in years, said Sharon Wilson, head of the National Pan-Hellenic Council of St. Petersburg that organized the event. Seven Greek organizations competed for a $1,500 grand prize before a raucous audience of about 800 people.

But the show meant a lot more than a chance to show off slick moves. Stepping is a tradition started at black colleges that participants say fosters solidarity through positive self-expression.

Dressed as secret agents in red ties, white shirts and black pants, the ladies of Delta Sigma Theta sat behind a curtain waiting their turn as performers drummed on buckets.

Even though she learned step just weeks ago, Tammy Heyward, 39, felt confident. Her alumni chapter practiced several times a week for more than a month to prepare for Saturday.

She joined the sorority two years ago as a way to do service work.

"Usually we're out in the community," said Heyward, who works in marketing and management for Verifone in Clearwater. "This is totally different."

For Will Packer Jr., the show's stylish host and producer of the movie Stomp the Yard, the show fulfilled his father's last wish. Before Will Packer Sr. died in January, he asked his son to fly in from Atlanta to be in the show. As a representative on the organizing council, he wanted his son involved in step's homecoming to St. Petersburg.

Packer, who grew up here and went to Florida A&M University, said his father was fiercely proud of his fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, one of the oldest and most prestigious black fraternities.

"He used to tell me you can do anything you want, you can marry anyone you want, but don't come home from college anything but an Alpha," said Packer, 33.

Packer said his work on Stomp the Yard was another way to honor the stepping tradition. He tried to present stepping in a genuine way, but also hoped it would educate a broad audience. The movie, which came out last year, grossed about $60-million.

Brooke Taylor, the Dixie Hollins High teacher who encouraged Isaiah to come on Saturday, watched Stomp the Yard with the fifth-grader to teach him about step.

To her, step is about encouraging young people to get an education. When she taught middle school at Lealman Intermediate, she introduced step into the dropout prevention program to give students confidence and motivate them to go to college.

"Today, you can only be a true stepper if you get an education," she said.

Stephanie Garry can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2374.

Stomp the Bay step show hits St. Petersburg, inspiring young and old 03/01/08 [Last modified: Sunday, March 2, 2008 12:02am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Romano: Why flood insurance might not be enough to save your home

    Local Government

    Irma is gone, and Maria never came.

    And yet this is as good a time as any to worry.

  2. Tampa's streetcar system looks to expand north through downtown

    Transportation

    TAMPA — The TECO Line Streetcar system that runs from Ybor City to the Channel District could be extended north through downtown all the way to Tampa Heights, according to the latest update of a $1.7 million study aimed at expanding the streetcar system.

    Riders take in the last few stops of the streetcar route in Ybor City during the tenth anniversary celebration of the TECO line streetcar system in Tampa in 2012. Now officials are looking for ways to expand the service north through downtown to Tampa Heights. [EVE EDELHEIT  |  Times]
  3. Interview: Steve Martin, Martin Short bringing 'best version' of their show back to St. Petersburg

    Stage

    Hot celebrity-spotting tip: Stop by the Salvador Dalí Museum on Jan. 19. You might catch a glimpse of Steve Martin.

    Steve Martin, left, and Martin Short will bring “An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life” to the Mahaffey Theater on Jan. 19.
  4. Report: Well-being of black and Hispanic children continues to lag in Florida

    K12

    Despite making progress in health care access and parental employment, Florida has not improved its poverty rate for children over the past five years, a newly released national report shows.

    Students line up in the courtyard at predominantly black Lakewood Elementary in St. Petersburg. A new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation finds that Florida ranks 28th in the nation on an index that measures the well-being of black children. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  5. Second lady Karen Pence to speak at Tampa art therapy summit

    Veterans

    TAMPA — Second lady Karen Pence will visit The David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts on Tuesday to address advocates of art therapy programs for military members and families.