HBCU Step Teams Talk Staging A Comeback At NCPA Step Championships

iStep, the all-female squad from Delaware State University, one of the nation’s oldest historical Black colleges (HBCU), was crowned a national champion. 

In April, the 2023 National Collegiate Performing Arts (NCPA) Championship’s talented step teams from DSU, Lincoln University, and Howard University set the Apollo stage ablaze with pure determination. It was no easy task. Before the competition started, the teams spoke to BLACK ENTERPRISE about their journeys from the pandemic to now.

Delaware University’s iStep Team

Step competition
DSU won the $5,000 grand prize. Twenty percent was donated to Graham Windham, a Harlem-based charter with a mission to make a life-altering difference with children, youth and families. (Photo provided)

“I Step Towards Exceptional Performance,” or iStep, the powerful all-women team, celebrated its 10-year anniversary this year. BLACK ENTERPRISE sat down with team member and freshman Morgan Rose and founder Ariel Brooks Porter to talk about their community-oriented team.

BLACK ENTERPRISE:  How do you feel about stepping at the Apollo?

Rose: As soon as I heard Apollo, I thought, Michael Jackson, what?  Not only that, like people like Jamie Foxx have been here, just Black, talented people. When we go up there, we act, we dance, we step, we’re having fun together. So, I feel like to be here together as a family… we deserve this one.

How does your team get support?

Rose: Essentially, the school provides a small stipend to each organization.

Brooks Porter:  As a performer, like costumes, lodging, travel, all of that costs money. And so a lot of it comes from the members’ pocket.

What do you plan to do with the winnings?

Rose: It’ll probably help support the [annual] banquet. But more importantly, it’s going to go back into the account. Help support some of the other performances we do because this is big.

Brooks Porter: So many organizations fell during COVID. For us to come out and be at The Apollo, I can’t stop saying that and I’m so proud of this team, particularly because they work so well together. They are courageous. They try new things. They’re innovative, creative.

DSU won $500 in Round 2 of the national championships. (Photo provided)

Lincoln University’s Reconstruction Step Team

Step competition
Reconstruction won Round 4 at the national championships. (Photo provided)

Graduating seniors Tyra Mitchell and Taylor Richardson of the Reconstruction Step Team spoke with BLACK ENTERPRISE to spotlight their journey back to the stage. While facing COVID-induced conditions and a lack of resources, the determined team funded themselves to do so.

Out of 16 steppers, 13 steppers traveled to the Apollo and took home $500 during an explosive round.

How has the journey been thus far?

Mitchell: Our journey for competition, it hasn’t been easy. We’ve had to also maintain school and work-life balance, along with on-campus performances as well. So we’re doing all these things simultaneously. And I applaud my group and my team because we work as a team.

Richardson: After COVID, we had to grow again. Going back into the swing of things with school and working, maintaining our personal lives, and just being here for the team is been a journey.

What does it mean to perform at the Apollo?

Mitchell: We appreciate being able to have this platform and being able to come back after troubling times and to perform and just regroup as Reconstruction and just showcase what we can do.

How does your team get support?

Mitchell: We attend the first degree-granting HBCU in the nation and I feel like we lack funding and we lack resources. As much as our student life tries to help out where they can, we can still use a little bit of muscle just to help get us where we wanna be, where we need to be. So we can put our name out there.

Step competition
Reconstruction (Photo provided)

Howard University Step Team

Howard University Step Team (Photo provided(

From community service and navigating their studies to coping with family losses, passionate Howard University Step team members Quentin Price and Natalyna Perez sat down with BLACK ENTERPRISE to express just how much love and support they’ve received from the beginning of competition in January to now.

How does it feel to be at the Apollo?

Perez: Hearing that Howard University Step Team was coming back, I couldn’t be any more excited. I love this team with absolutely everything within me. Things have been tough getting to this point. But this team has stuck it out.

Price: After the pandemic, we were inactive. So, coming back and being revitalized is definitely something I want to help write this chapter.

What challenges did you face as a team?

Perez: Being on a step team is almost equivalent to being a student-athlete completely. That time commitment is definitely a lot.

At Howard, what changes would you like to see for your team?

Price: In general, just increasing visibility and ultimately support from our school. It’s definitely been hard as a student organization just to get revitalized and then having that disconnect from the organization. We had our ups and downs.

Step competition
Howard University (Photo provided)