Step Team

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Photos by Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
From left, Linaya Pollard, 11, Brianna Salter, 13, and Elonne Gibson, 13, practice for today’s performance in Bloomington for Indiana University’s Little 500.

Marshall Academy team to step up at Little 500

Members of the Thurgood Marshall Leadership Academy Step Team practice Wednesday night.

A beat from the synced stomps of 13 pairs of feet echoed through the halls of Thurgood Marshall Leadership Academy on Friday, as the step team prepared for a weekend performance.

Thirteen girls in grades 3 through 8 make up the school’s step team, which started in the fall shortly after the school opened. They will perform a 12-minute routine today in Bloomington for Indiana University’s famed Little 500 bicycle race.

Marshall Academy Principal Tameka Wilson leads the small squad and said it has been a great exercise in team building and leadership for students. Being a part of the step team requires commitment, patience and hard work.

“It’s not easy at all,” she said.

Seventh-grader Arie Brown, 12, said she thought she’d give stepping a try. She was chosen to be team captain when the team’s former captain moved, she said. The upcoming performance doesn’t make Brown nervous, and she’s looking forward to watching college sororities and fraternities step during the event as well.

The team has been a positive for many members, including two special education students whose parents didn’t think they’d be able to perform in front of an audience. “It’s building their self-esteem,” Wilson said.

The team has been practicing its current routine since about February, Brown said.

It starts with a three-minute dance routine followed by nine minutes of a step routine, with varied formations and a beat created by loud stomps or soft steps, claps and thigh or chest slaps.

The team was focused Friday, running through parts of the routine, sometimes several consecutive times. The team was scheduled to practice after school until 6 p.m.

Brown said even though she had never stepped before this year, she’s having fun with her classmates and enjoys traveling and performing.

“I love my team,” she said.