In the midst of free food, warm lounges on Chapel field and Peacock Pond boat races, Wheaton’s step team S.O.L.E. kicked off the Friday of this year’s Spring Weekend with their third annual STOMP OUT. The team collaborated with Paraiso Latino, TRYBE and Tap Out Loud as well as hosted performances by VUJ.
S.O.L.E. performances have proven to receive proud, ecstatic reception from their audiences. Although they have three major performances a year, including Party, TRYBE Gala and STOMP OUT, the step team makes an effort to collaborate with other performance art groups and clubs on campus. They recently performed with the violinists on campus and at Relay for Life this past weekend.
Perfecting routines in these performances involves a lot of prior planning and practice. S.O.L.E. practices an average of two hours a day, five days a week during regular season and up to three hours a day, seven days a week when preparing for a major show or performance.
“The commitment is really up there. You really need to manage your time much more than you normally do because you’re there sweating for two hours a day,” said Leana Laraque ’17, S.O.L.E.’s Junior Advisor. “You really need to love what you do to commit that much time to it.”
Laraque has been a member of S.O.L.E. for three years and is also a member of SGA and the Pre-Health Society. The current captain of the team is Tyler Hicks ’16.
Although leadership in the team usually have a few years of experience, freshman and other joining members don’t need experience to join. “It was another way to channel my creative energy that was fun but also my workout for the day,” Laraque said.
Stepping and step teams have a rich history within African-American communities. The dance began by workers in coal mines using their bodies to create rhythms, sounds and beats. It is further rooted in historically black fraternities and sororities in a number of national universities and colleges. Step dancing and teams were further established as a competitive schoolyard song and dance. Stepping also features chanting, percussion sounds, singing and speaking.
Given the complex nature of stepping, the extended time and practice allotted for S.O.L.E. is well reasoned. “I think we’re very hard on ourselves in term of our look and sound,” Laraque said. “I guess we have a reputation of being precise a lot since we hold ourselves to such a high standard. I mean, that’s a nice thing to have on campus,” Laraque said.
The intense rigor of their schedule also impacts their team dynamic. “When you’re spending so much time together and doing something so different and unique, you really do get close,” said Laraque, “You have to be like that because it can get stressful really quick.”
Although S.O.L.E. prides themselves on their work ethic, they have yet to delve into the competitive sphere of stepping. “I see the team getting bigger and bigger, which is terrifying; that’s a lot of people,” Laraque said. “I see us branching off and making a name for Wheaton. I think if people keep auditioning and working hard, I honestly think we could take it to places that I couldn’t even imagine right now.”