Stompfest closes the gap between student groups

The tradition of stepping in Baylor University's Stompfest crosses boundaries across different student organizations. Last year, Zeta Tau Alpha stepped to a "Puss in Boots" inspired routine. Lariat File Photo

Hannah Yanowitch | Contributor

18 years since their first show, Stompfest has become a annual tradition at Baylor University. This all-university step show bridges the gap across campus, as sororities, fraternities and independent organizations alike promote unity through stepping. Students can come experience this high-energy stomp battle at 7:20 p.m. Friday in Waco Hall.

Stepping, a traditionally African-American form of entertainment, is an interactive form of storytelling and dance involving audience interaction, intricate rhythms and percussive movements. This energetic dance style is practiced year round by different groups on campus through the Nu Iota chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc., an organization within the National Pan-Hellenic Council.

This year, Stompfest will consist of 10 teams from organizations across campus, and a crowd that could rival last year’s record-breaking 1,300 audience members. This production would not be possible without months of hard work from the sorority sisters of Zeta Phi Beta.

Lexi Gage, the executive producer of Stompfest and member of Zeta Phi Beta, has devoted her senior year to putting on this year’s superhero-themed event, “The Amazing Stompfest.” Gage said she most enjoyed helping teams reach their full potential and is excited for audience members to see what heroic acts the teams have put together.

“[Stompfest] is such a different experience,” Gage said. “People work really hard for it, but they also get to do so much with it. People take it seriously and they want to win, but we have so much fun doing it.”

Zeta Phi Beta, in conjunction with the Department of Student Activities, recruits step coaches from across campus, usually from an NPHC fraternity, to teach participants the art of stepping. Diamond Brown, Chi Omega’s stomp coach and member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc., was eager to take on this role.

“I saw in the past years how coaches were creating these really great relationships with the sororities and fraternities, and I wanted to do that,” Brown said. “It means a lot to me, getting to put on a show for the people,” he added. “Getting to do it for the girls and seeing how much fun they have — to be a part of someone’s happiness and have an impact on the show would mean a lot for me.”

What began as a small performance in Russell Gym has now grown to be a large-scale production in Waco Hall. This expansion has allowed for the incorporation of more students both on stage and in the audience. This unification sets Stompfest apart from other student productions and makes it a must-see performance.

Gage appreciates this diverse aspect of Stompfest.

“It’s nice to be able to have such a different environment around it and to be immersed in so many different cultures,” Gage said.

Anna Yeakey, a stomp participant and member of Kappa Alpha Theta, said her favorite part has been participating in the culture around stepping.

“I love the culture behind stomp. It’s very empowering,” Yeakey said. “It’s been such a fun experience to do with my sorority sisters, because while we are definitely not professional stompers, we all encourage each other and try our best to ‘do the culture proud.’”

Tickets can be purchased online on the Baylor Student Activities site or at the door.