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Footworking One Step At A Time


Chicago footworkers’ feet hit the floor fast as they rehearse at Ogden Park’s dance room on the South Side.

Footworking and stepping have been popular in neighborhoods of Chicago for a while, but they have gained popularity nationally and internationally recently.

The two-footed, freestyle dance moves in fast motion. The dance is mainly about the feet, but sometimes footworkers add hand and arm movements to help the body translate to another move.

Footworking is only danced with songs that a DJ has remixed and sped up, known as “juke” music. On the other hand, stepping, or steppin’, is a unique style of dance with the similarities to swing.

Kemo Sanders, 23, a member of the Chicago footworking group FootWorKingz, said he remembers his mothering stepping when growing up.

“I took dancing to a different level from her,” Sanders said.

“I’ve been footworking for a while now, every since I’ve joined the FootWorKingz I realized that footworking is a part of my life, and I’m helping put Chicago footworking on the map,” Sanders said.

One step at a time, footworking is gaining notoriety in the world. The Chicago style of footworking was featured in a variety of recording artists Missy Elliot’s music videos. The FootWorKingz, a young African-American footworking crew, has played a large part in helping the dance-form spread throughout the country. The group was featured on the most recent season of MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew show.


In addition to America’s Best Dance Crew, some of the dancers were in a Verizon Wireless commercial, along with other Chicago footworkers. They were also on the NBC show America’s Got Talent.

“Footworking to me is an art form of dance,” said Justin Hudson, 22, a dance choreographer.

“When you think of footwork, most people will think of just leg movement, but it’s so much more than that. It’s an inspirational dance that brings individuals together in a dance battle form,” he said.

Toyette Hall, 23, a Chicago footworker, said singer James Brown has had a strong influence on footworking.

“He actually put the emphasis on footworking, but added his own style,” she said.

“With Chicago that’s exactly what we do, we have our own genre of footworking, but we make it more hip.”

Footworking is inspired from break dance, tap and African tribal dance. Footworking began at underground parties in urban neighborhoods in the 1980s. Then it started to become popular and was performed at parades and dance shows in Chicago, according to

Blair Cartlidge, founder of Chicago’s Full Effect Theatrical Dance Company, said she is excited about footworking’s popularity.

“Footworking has gotten international exposure as well,” said Cartlidge.

“I’m proud to be one of the first to take it out of Chicago when I was featured on the 2005 BET Awards.”

Stepping also comes from the African-American ethnic background in Chicago.
It came onto the scene in the mid 1970s with two songs “Loves Gonna Last” and “Mr. Fix It” by artist Jeffree.

R&B singers R. Kelly, Gerald LeVert and other local Chicago artist have helped stepping gain nationwide success. R. Kelly’s video to “Step in the Name of Love” gave the world a glimpse of Chicago’s dance flavor.

“Stepping is a slow groove movement that brings together love and happiness because that’s what you feel while doing it,” said Michael Angelo, 44, a stepper.

“When you step it always reminds you of something before your time, back in generations.”

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