After students trailed out of the hallways after school last week, the stomping of sneaker-clad feet echoed off the walls of the Hickory Ridge High School cafeteria.
About 20 girls created the ruckus as they pounded on the floor and clapped between their legs, all while remaining in unison in straight lines. Then the noise came to an abrupt halt.
"It ain't over yet!" shouted one of the girls, prompting the group to break into a synchronized whirlwind of clapping and stomping before emphatically ending with their arms held bent across their chests, which heaved from the effort of their routine.
And that was just the warm-up.
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Hickory Ridge High School's step team, the Ragin' Steppers, is made up of more than 20 students who stomp, clap and chant their way through elaborate routines with fast-paced cadences.
"It's just the rhythms," sophomore Alethea Rose said of her love for stepping.
Stepping is a dance style in which performers use the body as an instrument, creating intricate rhythms by stomping, clapping and chanting with elements that are often drawn from African and Caribbean dance. It's a tradition initiated by black fraternities and sororities of the early 1900s.
The Ragin' Steppers regularly perform at their school's basketball games, but tonight they'll take the floor at Halton Arena, performing at halftime during the UNC Charlotte men's basketball game.
In October, the team performed at Queens University of Charlotte as the opening act for Step Afrika!, a professional stepping company. The team, which includes about 10 boys, also participated in the Concord Christmas Parade and the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade in Charlotte.
They also plan to compete in area stepping competitions, including one in March held at Butler High School in Matthews. The team will perform a 10-minute theatrical routine with stepping, chanting and singing. They'll be judged on precision and loudness.
Last week, the team rehearsed their competition routine. Alethea, the team's step master, taught a small group moves step by step.
"It can't be sloppy," she said as she demonstrated by gripping one hand in the other and swinging her arm down across her chest.
The team practices several times a week, but members do more than just stepping.
The steppers are members of Lambda Beta Epsilon and Lambda Beta Sigma, service fraternities for young women and men, respectively.
The organizations focus on mentoring and community service. Students learn business etiquette. It's to teach them how to conduct meetings and prepare them for leadership roles, said Howard Boyd, the team's coach and an exceptional children's teacher at Concord High School.
Shaquila Massey, a sophomore and president of the school's Lambda Beta Epsilon chapter, said the steppers have become very active in the community. The group adopted a local family last year and collected food to give them at Thanksgiving. A few members of the team recently donated Valentine's Day cards to the family's children so that they would have Valentines to pass out to classmates last week.
"We've got way more into community service this year," Shaquila said.
The team also put together a presentation about Black History Month for the school's announcements.
Students laughed as they took turns strutting and dancing as they filmed a recreation of a "Soul Train Line," a dance made popular by the long-running dance show, "Soul Train."
Alethea said the step team is aware of the importance of stepping in black history.
"Everybody here is inspired by that," she said.