Narrative performance explores cultural dances

Event featured dances of African, Native Americans cultures

RACHEL KOCH, Evergreen reporter

All eyes were on professor Dee Garceau at the Elson S. Floyd Cultural Center on Tuesday evening. In honor of the cultures of both Native Americans and African-Americans, the history department at WSU organized a Narrative/Counter Narrative performance. The event celebrated these groups through their dance, comparing and contrasting the two.

Garceau traced the historical context of a form of dance called “stepping” from its origins among slavery to its current usage in African-American sororities and fraternities on college campuses. The event included a demonstration of what stepping was and how one would do this dance.

She made a connection between stepping and the pow wows practiced by many Native Americans, specifically the Salish tribe of Montana.

Garceau said both of these groups used dance as a form of rebellion and as a way to hold on to their culture and their own rights. This helped them to thrive in a society that, at the time, was facing influence from white European settlers. Ever since, dance and celebrations of dance have served as weapons against the prejudice that these groups face and allows them to be prideful of their culture.

One of the main organizers of the event was WSU history professor Peter Boag, the Columbia chair in the history of the American West. He said his takeaway from the event was a greater understanding of a culture he knew very little about previously.

“I am a Western American historian who has taught Native American history,” he said. “But, to me, I learned a lot more about stepping … I’ve seen some popular cultural films that deal with this, but professor Garceau helped me to actually understand a little bit about the historical roots.”