My Night with the Steppers Society

My Night with the Steppers Society

By Zondra Hughes

I am a native Chicagoan, and my out-of-state friends were shocked, (shocked!) that I have never stepped.

After all, stepping is a Chicago tradition—how could I not know how to do it?

I’ve heard about stepping, I love that R. Kelly song, and I’ve seen the steppers perform on public television.
However, until last night, I had never seen steppers live and in motion.

Therefore, much of what I thought I knew about the Steppers Society was so off-base that it’s embarrassing to admit, even now, but I will fess up because I want to clear the air for others who also may be misinformed.

Stepping is not a dance or a thing, it is indeed a society, and there are rules and rituals within this society.

Here, then, are a few that I learned last night at the 21st Annual World’s Largest Steppers Contest hosted by Cadillac.

Dress code
The dress code is sharp–be it a zoot suit, or a designer dress– you must look the part if you consider yourself a member of the Steppers Society.
The performance attire mimicked the unique, elaborately designed outfits that Olympic ice skaters or Vegas performers wear.

Some couples dress alike, in the audience and onstage (see “coupling” for exceptions to this rule).
Men prefer to wear uninterrupted colors, and will have the shoe to match the suit, regardless of the suit’s color.
Ladies must have one-of-a-kind shoes, some stilettos were more than four-inches tall; other shoes could be more accurately described as art for the feet. Dresses were decidedly sexy, most ladies wore form-fitting gowns–others wore billowy, Goddess dresses.

There were no jeans and gym shoes to be found.
Music Steppers songs run the gamut from Seal, to Peter Gabriel, to the Isley Brothers. Much like steppers themselves, the music crosses all genres, and is very diverse. Visit
Coupling Just because a couple is dressed alike and may dance together in competition, it does not mean that they are an item. This is a confusing reality, as the steppers routines are very sensual in nature, and are very realistic due to the hours of practice involved.

Tradition Stepping is of the utmost importance to steppers, and do not interrupt one when he/she is headed to the floor, something this journo learned the hard way.

Also, steppers will step anywhere, anytime, even where they stand, if their favorite song is playing.
Steppers are bold in their attire, confident in their moves, and serious about their dance, and if you respect the Steppers Society you will be welcomed with open arms.

On that note, you’re never too old or too young to learn to step…

If you’re serious, that is.


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  • I absolutely love the steppin 'lifestyle'. Unfortunately, I was tainted by a teacher by the name of Sunshine Haywood. Great stepper, HORRIBLE teaching skills. I've since decided to wing it and enjoy steppin far more than I could have ever learned from her. Apparently, I'm not the only one who's encountered her lack of tact and teaching ability. To me, it makes the entire steppin community look bad when your introduction to it leaves much to be desired. Thank goodness for steppin folks who enjoy the lifestyle without making it their life. Great article!

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