Dancers perform in celebration of Black History Month at all-school assembly

Dancers perform in celebration of Black History Month at all-school assembly

Zen-marah Duruisseau '22 dances to a custom soundtrack of November by Max Ritcher, which incorporated a speech by Martin Luther King Jr. and Clint Smith in honor of Black History Month on Feb. 5. Credit: Crystal Baik/Chronicle

Members of the Boot Squad and dancer Zen-marah Duruisseau ’22 performed in honor of Black History Month during a special all-school assembly Feb. 5.

Student dancers showcase African American culture through performances

The Boot Squad, led by Chandace Apacanis ’21, showcased a traditional stepping routine, while Duruisseau performed a contemporary solo. The assembly also featured members of the Black Leadership Awareness and Culture Club, who spoke about the club’s upcoming events in celebration of Black History Month, including a schoolwide dance Feb. 28.

Boot Squad member Cameron Herring ’21 said she felt the performance introduced stepping, a percussive dance merging elements of African folk music with pop culture, in an empowering way.

“Stepping has been in the black community for many, many decades now,” Herring said. “Stepping began in historically black colleges and universities back in the 1940s, and ever since then, it has been a way for members of the black community and beyond to connect and celebrate with one another.”

Apacanis said she was inspired by stepping’s historical significance and formed the Boot Squad in celebration of black culture.

“The dance is significant to how black people continued to seek higher education at [historically black colleges and universities] despite the odds against them and shows how creative we are by creating a new dance style,” Apacanis said. “It’s inspiring to me as a person who loves school and [dancing].”

Herring said she enjoyed introducing stepping to the upper school community and hopes that others will engage with the tradition as a means of showing support.

“As long as the Harvard-Westlake community welcomes new cultural traditions like this with open arms, verbal support and genuine dialogue about the traditions, the black community at Harvard-Westlake will feel uplifted on a daily basis,” Herring said.

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