Valenica Odeyka Emonni Springer has been stepping since childhood. The Brooklyn native got her start in the dance style through her mom, and is now a proud member of Step Afrika! The company, which was founded in 1944, is ranked as one of the top ten African-American dance companies in the United States. Valencia took time from the tour schedule to speak with Phindie.
[Miller Theater on the Kimmel Cultural Campus, 250 S Broad St] April 28, 2023; kimmelculturalcampus.org
Debra Danese: What is your background in stepping?
Valenica Odeyka Emonni Springer: I was introduced to the art form of Step by my mother, who is also my Sorority sister, as a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated. During my 4th and 5th grade year, my mother’s graduate chapter decided to start a youth auxiliary group with me and a couple of my friends. Here, we not only learned how to step, but were introduced to the sorority system and its emphasis on service, scholarship, and community. In 2016, I officially became a Finer Woman of the Sorority. Since then, I’ve been heavily involved in stepping.
DD: When and how did you get involved with Step Afrika!?
VOES: In 2019, a former Step Afrikan and frat brother of mine told me about the company’s audition in Washington, DC. At the time, everything in my life was falling in and out of place but I knew this was for a greater reason. He told me about the audition process, and how I should prepare. I trained and prepared for months to be the sharpest I could possibly be. As fate would have it, I was invited to join the Company as a full-time artist.
DD: How do you maintain your fitness level while touring?
VOES: I have never really been a “gym girl.” I usually choose stretching and endurance-based movements to get my body warm and prepared for performance. Otherwise, I’m super attentive to what and how much I eat.
DD: The company has a strong educational component. What has been your involvement in this?
VOES: As a Step Afrika! artist, I’ve learned that everything we do includes an educational component, whether we are teaching in the classroom, or learning from each other in the dance studio. I love that Step Afrika! always seeks to educate while entertaining. Step Afrika! spends just as much time sharing the history of stepping with students as we do performing steps on stages across the country.
DD: What’s been your most memorable experience with Step Afrika! so far?
VOES: I have a lot of great memories with Step Afrika! One that immediately comes to mind is my first international trip with the company to Dubai, where we performed at the World Expo. It was a fantastic tour and my first time in the Middle East. Since then, I have returned to perform in Kuwait; just a few hours north of Dubai on the Arabian Peninsula. That was a very special journey, as well.
Step Afrika! will perform at the Miller Theater on the Kimmel Cultural Campus on April 28, 2023. 250 S Broad St, Philadelphia. kimmelculturalcampus.org/events-and-tickets/202223/kcp/step-afrika/