The competition began with the Stony Brook University Cadence Step Team. Its younger members and older members faced off against each other in a courtroom setting. The younger steppers had been accused of not stepping as well as the veteran members. Throughout the “trial,” both duos competed against each other, until finally the case was settled by the moves and talent of the older group members. The second team to display their dance talents was the Brandeis University Platinum Step Team. These dancers wove their theme into their dance much more subtly. It was so subtle in fact, that audience members had trouble determining what the story and message of their dance was.
Finally, it was Boston College’s turn. Both of BC’s step dance teams had been invited to the 15 Years Strong Step Competition, hosted by the University of Connecticut All-Stars, as the last two of four performance groups. Sexual Chocolate and Females Incorporating Sisterhood Through Step (F.I.S.T.S.) had driven over from campus that day, and the teams had been waiting hours to show off their skills.
Now it was time.
F.I.S.T.S. took the stage to the sound of “Anaconda” by Nicki Minaj. The team had chosen the theme of “Bring It On,” in which they were dressed as cheerleaders from rival teams, complete with uniforms and the wigs that characterize every F.I.S.T.S. performance. One team had been stealing the steps of another team, and the two teams struggled back and forth in competition with each other. Finally, the principal of the school had enough and told the two teams to work together and share their steps. F.I.S.T.S. rejoined and performed one final dance to “Lose My Breath” by Destiny’s Child.
Sexual Chocolate arrived to deep bass beats of “Come Get It” by Sage The Gemini. Sexual Chocolate’s theme was a safari. There was a group of safari guys, led by Liam Cotter, president of Sexual Chocolate and MCAS ’18. Among this group were a few overly nice and supplicating guys, jocks, and nerds. Each group within the safari was trying to “find the sauce” in order to be cool and suave. The safari ended with “Work” by Omarion.
After applause and cheers from all present, the four teams eagerly awaited the decisions of the judges. It was clear that BC had won the day. The two highest-scoring teams were BC’s own Sexual Chocolate in first and F.I.S.T.S. in second place. Sexual Chocolate scored near perfect from all four judges, and F.I.S.T.S. was not far behind.
Most BC students will never experience one of these off campus competitions that Sexual Chocolate and F.I.S.T.S. compete in, yet both teams average one every semester. When asked why Sexual Chocolate goes out of their way to participate in these tournaments, Cotter discussed the impact and benefit it has for the members of the team. With many events and shows on campus, the performance is tailored towards people who have little to no experience with or critical eye for dance. These tournaments give the steppers short-term goals to improve the individual aspects of their dance skills. Rather than trying to go for the biggest “wow” moments of a Showdown-like performance, these teammates can strive to improve the minute details that only another dancer could spot.
“It gives the guys a very good sense of how they’re developing,” Cotter said. “With these shows, you know that it’s just you honing your craft.”
Another benefit of these off-campus dance competitions is the publicity and name recognition. Neither team seeks out these shows—they are invited to participate. In order to continue to garner the attention necessary for these invitations, the two teams continue to make a name for themselves wherever they go. Djanan Kernizan, president of F.I.S.T.S. and MCAS ’19, spoke about the opportunity to compete against other dance teams who practice the same style of dance. Sexual Chocolate and F.I.S.T.S. are the only step teams on campus. To truly get a sense of their talent and skill, they have to travel elsewhere to compete with and against other step teams. Every step team has a different take on the dance style, and the only way to compare is to participate in these events.
“You’re judged on your precision, your steps, your transitions, how straight you hold your arms,” Kernizan said. “If we’re going to Showdown, they’re not judging on that.”
Kernizan didn’t play down the more tangible benefits to participating and placing in competitions like these: “We get money.”
Along with the feeling of accomplishment and pride that comes with such good placement, both teams were awarded a monetary prize of $500 and $300 respectively. This money would go to offset the cost of the trip itself, along with providing extra money for dues, team equipment, and other aspects of the step experience that must usually be financed by the Student Organization Funding Committee and the Office of Student Involvement, or the team members themselves.
While most BC students won’t get the chance to see Sexual Chocolate and F.I.S.T.S. perform in these types of competitions, there are things that on-campus audiences can keep an eye out for Sexual Chocolate.
Cotter said that viewers should try to both take in the big picture to see the larger flow and movements of the performance while also focusing on the individual steppers. Each member of the team adds their own special flair to their moves. It might be a slightly different take on the moves, or an especially fun or interesting facial expression. Kernizan explained that the girls in F.I.S.T.S. work very hard on their style. Audience members should watch out for their falls, their costumes, and especially their smiles. Members of F.I.S.T.S. make a point to never drop their smile throughout a performance.
With these competitions, Sexual Chocolate and F.I.S.T.S. can perfect the technical aspects of their members while also providing a serious competition setting in which to train themselves. Both teams work extremely hard to maintain and better their level of performance, and it’s a welcome and gratifying experience to be recognized by qualified and experienced judges and dancers.
Featured Image Courtesy of F.I.S.T.S.