“The 2023 NCPA Step Dance Championships will be my first-ever step competition as I’ve only put on performances. I am really looking forward to it as I’ll be emersed in a new aspect of the step world that I’ve never experienced. I am also looking forward to meeting steppers from different schools and sharing this experience at the Apollo with them. As someone who was born and raised in Harlem, I’ve always known about the historical importance of the Apollo Theater and its many famous performers, but to be granted the opportunity to perform there is like a dream come true. “
Dance Mogul: How did your step journey begin?
Aicha: My stepping journey began in middle school where I was introduced to step. I auditioned for the team in 6th grade but didn’t make it. Luckily for me, the team became a club the following year and I was able to join.
Dance Mogul: Why did you decide to finally take stepping seriously?
Aicha: I decided to take stepping seriously because I missed it so much after not doing it in high school. I was focused on playing sports during high school, so I never had the time to step. I attended a summer program before my freshman year of college where I put on a step routine for the talent show with my peers. I received so many compliments and praises for my stepping routine that it made me realize how much I wanted to return to stepping.
Dance Mogul: Tell us about achieving at a prominent school like Cornell University.
Aicha: Honestly, I don’t think I often realize how much I have achieved at Cornell. First and foremost I am a first-gen college student and that in and of itself is a major achievement. It’s hard to notice your achievements when everyone around you is excelling tremendously as well, but once you are aware of your accomplishments it is one of the best feelings ever.
Dance Mogul: What have been some of your favorite moments stepping has brought you?
Aicha: Some of my favorite moments from Stepping are the cheering of the crowd after a performance and the comments from my peers about how much they enjoyed the performance. It brings me joy that stepping doesn’t only bring joy to me but also to our audience. I also love the goofy moments in practice and just having fun with my teammates overall.
Dance Mogul: How are you balancing your senior year as you prepare to graduate and step into the world?
Aicha: It has been hard balancing my senior year with my extracurriculars, but when you love something and enjoy doing it you somehow manage to make everything work. What has really helped me to stay grounded and balance my senior year are my friends and advisors, They have been extremely supportive and helped me so much in overcoming the challenges I was facing. Making sure I make time for my social life is also how I have balanced my senior year.
Dance Mogul: What advice do you have for the upcoming generation of steppers?
Aicha: I would tell the upcoming generation of steppers to live in the moment and have fun. Stepping is a means of artistic expression and they should fully embrace that aspect of it.
Dance Mogul: Tell us about your current projects.
Aicha: I am working on a few projects for my fashion classes. My goal with the designs I’ll be creating is to create two ensembles that represent the intersection of my identities as a black Ivorian Muslim woman who was born in raised in Harlem. I want the two ensembles to portray who I am and where I come from. I’ll be implementing elements from my West African culture as well as the culture of Harlem. Another project is the 2023 NCPA Step Dance Championships. I am working on a routine with my teammates and figuring out the
logistics so that we are in attendance.
Dance Mogul: What would you like your legacy to be in with stepping?
Aicha: I would like my legacy in stepping at Cornell to be building a sense of community. I want to create an inclusive team where anyone feels welcome and comfortable.
Dance Mogul: What does the Apollo mean to you as a Harlem native and a performer?
Aicha: As a Harlem native, the Apollo Theater is the heart of Harlem. It is a cultural hub that brings life and joy to the neighborhood. As a performer, it is such an honor to be able to stand on the same stage as many significant African American figures. In a way, I will be adding to the legacy of the Apollo.
Dance Mogul: Is there anyone you’d like to thank for helping you own your journey?
Aicha: I would like to thank my teammates, friends, advisors, and staff at Upstaged. They have all been pillars I can lean on in different parts of my journey, whether it be my social life, my academics, and being a part of the 2023 NCPA Step Dance Championships.
On April 22nd, the best high school and college step teams in the country descend upon the historic Apollo Theater to compete like athletes and showcase their talents for the title of National Step Champion. Produced by the National Collegiate Performing Arts (NCPA)™, and the National High School Performing Arts (NHSPA)™, the victors will win a share of $13,000 cash, All-American status, and the recognition and respect of their peers.
The road to Harlem’s world-famous Apollo began for the colleges’ last Fall, with the review of submitted videos judged based on precision, synchronization, creativity, and overall performance. The top eight NCPA teams competing for $10,000 cash include Cornell, Delaware State, Howard, Lincoln, Mercy, Syracuse, and a men’s and women’s team from Tufts. The Tufts men’s team – BlackOut – is the reigning champion, back to defend their title.
The NHSPA championships are co-produced by World of Step (WOS) and will feature the nation’s best high schools facing off in the semifinals and competing for $3,000 in cash prizes. Selected by online voting and an eight-team “March-Madness” style bracket competition which saw over 38,000 votes cast in mid-March, the four high school semifinalists are Brentwood (Long Island), Monsignor Scanlan (Bronx), New Rochelle, and Nottingham (Nottingham, NJ).
“These talented high school steppers have an unbelievable opportunity to compete for a National Championship at the Nation’s most storied historically black theater in the most world-renowned black cultural Mecca, Harlem,” said WOS Founder and CEO Jessica “Remo” Saul. “This is the Superbowl of Step, being played out in the Madison Square Garden of Performing Arts Venues.”
With over 150 steppers passionately competing, the championships at The Apollo will be packed with intensity and stepping action.
“Winning a 2023 Step National Championship, and forever being NCPA and NHSPA Step All-Americans, will be a great accomplishment for any team, as it showcases their skills, creativity, and teamwork on a national stage,” said Victoria Duruh, UpStaged Entertainment Group’s Chief Talent Officer. “The competition will be an empowering experience for all teams involved, regardless of the outcome. We wish each team the best of luck!”
About UpStaged Entertainment Group
UpStaged Entertainment Group is an NYC-based diversified performing arts platform empowering the nation’s student performers to compete for national championships, like student-athletes, across 25 genres (e.g., step, comedy, a cappella) in premier venues and virtual platforms. Operating under National Collegiate Performing Arts (NCPA)™ and National High School Performing Arts (NHSPA)™ brands, UpStaged brings cohesiveness to historically siloed performing arts communities. To learn more about UpStaged visit https://www.upstagedu.
About National Collegiate Performing Arts (NCPA)™
The NCPA organizes the nation’s dynamic student performers and their universities – like President Roosevelt’s goal in forming the NCAA in 1906 – to 1) Implement a comprehensive competition structure across performing arts genres 2) elevate collegiate performing arts to a national stage providing recognition similar to college athletes 3) financially support historically underfunded college performing arts.
About National High School Performing Arts (NHSPA)™
The NHSPA organizes the nation’s dynamic student performers and their high schools – like President Roosevelt’s goal in forming the NCAA in 1906 – to 1) Implement a comprehensive competition structure across performing arts genres 2) elevate collegiate performing arts to a national stage providing recognition similar to college athletes 3) financially support historically underfunded high school performing arts.
About World of Step (WOS)
WOS is the Nation’s preeminent youth step producer, platform, and educator. Its competitions, classes, and platform empower thousands of steppers worldwide. WOS founder, renowned Step Choreographer and Educator Jessica “aka Remo” Saul, has been featured on MTV, ABC’s Good Morning America, and Telemundo’s Univision, among others. WOS recently expanded internationally to South America and Africa.