LEWISBURG – In the Stono Rebellion of 1739, enslaved people marched from the Stono River in an armed fight for freedom that ended in death and the passing of laws that took many rights from Black people. One way they countered that was by creating their own music and dance.

Step Afrika!, “the first professional company dedicated to the tradition of stepping,” will perform in “Stono” as part of Bucknell University’s Weis Center for the Performing Arts’ Spring 2021 Streams. Performances will be available from Feb. 8 - 21.

“Step Afrika!’s critically-acclaimed dance film, ‘Stono,’ is inspired by the Stono Rebellion of 1739, a little-known act of resistance in Colonial America that would drastically change the lives of African people in the United States,” said C. Brian Williams, founder and executive director of Step Afrika! “The Stono Rebellion led to the passing of the Negro Act of 1740, a cruel set of laws that made it illegal for Africans to assemble, get an education, speak in their native language, earn money, or learn to read or write. ‘Stono’ is a strong example of protest and resistance in American history that predates the famed Boston Tea Party of 1773.”

The streaming show will include a pre-performance talk with the artistic director and a post-show talk with members of Bucknell and the regional community. Pre-performance panelists will explore the Stono Rebellion and its relevance to political protest and inequities pertinent to today’s world.

“As the USA grapples with systemic racism and the challenges of a large, diverse nation, ‘Stono’ is an opportunity to dive deeper into the experiences/events that truly shaped the country, and can perhaps provide a way forward for enhanced equity and opportunity for all citizens,” Williams said.

“While Step Afrika! has not performed live at the Weis Center, we are pleased to offer their brilliant and powerful work, ‘Stono,’ as part of our spring virtual series,” said Kathryn Maguet, executive director of the Weis Center. “This D.C.-based ensemble has created a stunning celebration of resistance and activism as inspired by the Stono rebellion of 1739. I had the opportunity to pre-view this 30-minute film premiered last fall and was highly impressed by the work’s profound and inspired artistry.”

Step Afrika! has created a mesmerizing art form with percussive dance styles, traditional African dances and a number of contemporary dance and art forms. “Stono” goes beyond the excitement of energetic, skillful dance moves to share a story of historical significance.

“I encourage audience members to tune in to the post-performance panel discussion with members of the Bucknell community following the virtual performance,” Maguet said, adding, “Step Afrika! has terrific online content available on its website for those seeking additional information on step dance.”

Email comments to CindyOHerman@gmail.com.

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