Sisters in Step dance troupe changes name to Wildcat Dance Crew
After 24 years, the University of New Hampshire (UNH) dance troupe âSisters in Stepâ changed their name to âWildcat Dance Crewâ. This decision comes after the recent discovery of the group’s history of cultural appropriation.
Sisters in Step was founded in 1997 by six women of color as a creative outlet for women of color on a predominantly white campus. The group dance style focused on hip-hop and traditional African-American dance. “Stepping” is a percussive dance in which the “the body becomes an instrument, using steps, applause and wordsâTo produce complex rhythms and sounds. “Sisters in Step” has its own unique group dance.
Wildcat Dance Crew co-captains Taylor Nygren and Emily Clickner have both been involved in competitive dancing since they were kids and were welcomed into the dance troupe as freshmen in the same class. hearing. However, they weren’t aware of the history of Sisters in Step as a group created by and for women of color until after they became captains.
“OClickner and I]were able to occupy these positions of power [as captains], we’ve decided that’s enough. We don’t contribute to that anymore, âsaid Nygren.
The dance troupe decided to approach Center Beauregard to help them navigate the name change process.
They also apologized on their Instagram page and offered their support for the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests in July 2020.
âThe group’s initial mission was to create art while raising awareness of the lack of diversity on the UNH campus. Since our founding 23 years ago, we have strayed from this mission. We recognize and apologize for our lack of action in the past, âthe post said. âOur current leadership is dedicated to creating an inclusive environment and understanding where the step originated, as well as taking serious action to ensure that happens. ”
Nygren and Clickner said the process started before this summer, but the protests “sped it up” by issuing an official statement.
âWe wanted to issue a statement so people could see that we were working on fixing our card,â Clickner said.
âWe also didn’t want to publish too many statements, because I think that too often blank statements are published by organizations that are not followed up with concrete action. We wanted to make sure we weren’t just empty words, âNygren added.
This isn’t the first time Sisters in Step has considered a name change. In 2017, a Cinco de Mayo party at UNH gained national attention for its use of Mexican images and stereotypes. Sisters in Step became part of the larger conversation about cultural appropriation that the event sparked. Many highlighted the predominantly white membership of Sisters in Step and the use of traditional African-American dance as cultural appropriation.
“It hurts me deep inside that they took something that literally, and I’m sorry to cry here, it literally almost saved my life because I was at the end of my rope at UNH “said Chandra Craven, one of the founders of Sisters in Step, in a 2017 NHPR interview.
However, when members of Sisters in Step reached out, the management of the Memorial Union Building (MUB) at the time did not “recommend” a name change and the conversation ended, according to Nygren.
Since then, there has been increased community education on cultural appropriation. UNH also created Unity Day, starting this year Unity Week, to promote community service and unity.
âI think generally, as a community, we work to educate people [about] the importance of diversity, the importance of understanding cultures different from your own and where the line is between appreciation and ownership, âsaid Lu Butterfeild-Ferrell, Associate Director of Center Beauregard and Coordinator of LGBTQA + Initiatives.
In addition to the name change, Wildcat Dance Crew is also partnering with Center Beauregard to create a âtime capsuleâ for Sisters in Step on the centre’s website. Its aim is to preserve the history of Sisters in Step in case BIPOC UNH students wish to re-establish the group in the future.
The time capsule will include information about the founding of the group, previous constitutions and a timeline of past actions of organizations. Nygren and Clickner are also creating a step dance video they learned in first grade for future Sisters in Step members. Wildcat Dance Crew will no longer use step dance in the future.
“We are very happy to have finally been able to make this change after finding out all the information on how [Sisters in Step] had evolved, âClickner said. “And finally take this step to stop the cultural appropriation we were involved in.”
âI am convinced that we are leading the team in a better position than when we started in the team. And that allows me to conclude that maybe we have made a long-term change, âsaid Nygren.
Photo courtesy of Wildcat Dance Crew.