Nearly a dozen women on campus share a passion for stepping. Performing a combination of dance and creative percussion, SHADES stomps and claps in unison and rhythm to create its own music or to accompany other songs.
SHADES will perform a show in Cullen Auditorium on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. alongside a similar dance group. Rather than stepping, however, Sanctify is a hip-hop group.
“Sanctify doesn’t do any stepping, and that’s all we do,” said Victoria Jones, SHADES head captain. “They do all their dance to music, while a lot of the time we create our own music with our hands and feet.”
“We have different ways of having practice, but we both have the same goal,” said Sanctify captain Jacob Kilpatrick.
The two groups share similarities beyond their styles.
Both groups perform to playlists including Beyonce and other hip-hop or R&B music. Both groups set aside time before and after each practice for prayer, worship and encouragement. Both groups aim to glorify God through their dance.
Both groups are practicing for two hours nearly every day in preparation for their joint show during the weekend.
The groups have performed in the same show together before, most recently Ethnos on Friday and Saturday. They have shared common members who enjoy stepping and hip-hop dancing enough to commit to both groups. But while the groups share many similarities, it’s their differences that helped them grow and change to establish separate identities.
SHADES: the woman’s step team
Jones, senior psychology pre-med major from Dallas, stands in front of her team in the Studio A of the Money Student Recreation and Wellness Center. Chassity Robinson, the team chaplain, opened with prayer and devotion, reciting Romans 8:28 from memory. Jones’ group of 10 other women has warmed up and perfected some of its acts for the upcoming show. Now each one watches her every move as she begins to teach a new dance.
Step, clap, left leg, left foot. The group follows slowly, then again. Now faster, until each member flows swiftly in unison.
Step, clap, left leg, left foot. Step, step, clap, under, step. Clap, under, clap, right, left, clap. The group follows. They put each piece together until they reach the pace Jones wants: four seconds for those 14 moves.
The group continues in this style, perfecting a 20-second part of the act in 20 minutes. Jones goes back through the act alongside a member struggling with a move.
“Stepping requires a lot of hands and feet coordination,” Jones said. “It takes a lot of practice.”
The group’s numbers are down from last year after many leaders and members quit the squad at the end of last semester. For the first time, the entire team is made up of women.
“We’re used to having half men and half women, and we’re used to having a total of 30 people. Now we only have the 11,” Jones said. “It’s actually made a lot of things easier, especially teaching a smaller group. And we can relate better since we’re all girls.”
Sanctify: to purify
High-top sneakers and vibrantly colored athletic shoes squeak and pound on either side of the Dance Discovery Studios on S. 2nd Street. The men and women of Sanctify split from their group rehearsal to work on separate acts, already tired from the fast-paced dancing. Before they begin again, freshman Khamisie Green provides some comic relief while he dramatically vents about a recent trip to McDonald’s, like a bearded, black William Shatner raging in the middle of the dance floor.
“I asked for a second sweet and sour sauce, and she wanted to charge me 11 cents,” said Green, music education major from Odessa. “The biggest fast-food place in the world wanted 11 cents for an extra sauce.”
Most of the other 17 team members listened intently, then laughed when Green asked, “Do you know how mad I was?”
The newer of the two groups, Sanctify was begun in 2010. Kilpatrick, junior Ad/PR major from Mesquite, joined both groups as a freshman. The next school year, he was named captain of Sanctify and chose to focus solely on the hip-hop group.
“What I loved about SHADES is that before practice, they would make everyone find their own spot and play an inspirational, spiritual song that would get you in the mood to worship while you practice,” he said. “We do that at the end of Sanctify rehearsal now.”
Kilpatrick said Sanctify’s name, which means “to purify”, is an attempt to redeem hip-hop at ACU. He said he understands why mainstream hip-hop is viewed as impure, but Sanctify members use their talents as worship to God, on and off the stage.
“We’re doing it without forgetting we need to purify ourselves,” Kilpatrick said. “We don’t want people to think we’re doing it to be flashy or vulgar. The word sanctify also means to set yourself apart from something. It sounds so cheesy, but we try to set ourselves apart from everybody else. When we’re dancing, it’s literally just us and God, no matter what the environment is.”
The two groups tried to perform a show together in April, but the planning fell through. Scheduling conflicts and busy workloads made it impossible for Sanctify to join SHADES for their annual spring show. Now, the two are preparing for their first joint effort, built on the theme of “Strength.”
“We took some stories and messages from the book of Genesis and put that into our dance and music to build around the theme of strength,” Kilpatrick said. “It’s something we’ve been working on for a while.”
“We’re looking forward to this show,” Jones said.
As they continue to rehearse daily, the groups also have one other focus: getting the word out.
“As soon as Ethnos is over, we’re chalking up that campus,” Kilpatrick told the entire Sanctify team after rehearsal. “Everyone’s going to be breathing in chalk dust all week. We want people to come to this show we’ve been working so hard on.”
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