Noticing Neighbors STEP Movement


Not a moment, but a movement. S.T.E.P. Movement is a Step team that lives out what they stand for: creativity, collaboration, and community. Jacquinta Nelson is the Head Coach of this Kansas City Step team and has watched her vision evolve over time. As an accomplished dancer herself, she shares her passion and drive with the team of girls ranging from ages 5 to 19.



Jacquinta:

STEP Movement stands for Supporting Them Express their Passions.

Hayley: Did you come up with that?

Jacquinta:

I did! I like acronyms, and alliterations. Hayley: Why do you feel like that acronym fits your team so well? Jacquinta: Our mission is to cultivate youth in expressing their passions for community, collaboration and creativity through the art of stepping. Our vision is to bring the world of step to the greater Kansas City area, and our tagline is:

If you can step once and clap twice, we can teach you how to Step for the rest of your life.

Hayley: How did the dance team start? Jacquinta: The name Step Movement really came after graduating in 2016 at William Jewell College. I joined City Year Kansas City, which is an AmeriCorps program that goes into schools to help students fill in the ABCs. The ABCs are: Academics, Attendance, Behavior, and Coursework. So we work with kids elementary through 9th grade, because if you're failing in any of those categories by the end of 6th grade, you have a 25% chance of dropping out.

Hayley: What did your work look like?

Jacquinta:

Part of that is tutoring, having a caseload, and then also putting on clubs for the students. I was in the core year at the Ewing Marion Kauffman School, and so during that time I chose to put on a club for Step. I have ten years of experience in Step. I've been stepping since I was twelve, but it became fully born for me when I was in the 10th grade. My band director, slash art teacher, slash Godfather, slash pastor asked me— Hayley: Slash superhero. Jacquinta: Yeah he is! He asked me, my sister, and my Godsister to put a team together for the youth program at his church, and so we got some girls together to be mentored in Step by a man named Desmond Hayes. We spent 3 to 4 months working together, but the first night all the girls came together was the night of the performance. Hayley: Oh, wow.

Jacquinta: We won 1st Place back in 2011, and we were called SWAGG: Sisters Worshipping A Great God, I made that up too— Hayley: Oh, look at you and your acronyms! Jacquinta: I love acronyms! In College I led the William Jewell Cardinal Steppers. After that, I worked at City Year and started the Kauffman Steppers club at Ewing Marion Kauffman School, which had 8 girls in the beginning. By the end of the year, we had 35 girls for the talent show. So I was asked to make it an elective. Hayley: What a success! Jacquinta: I had 2 months in the summer to develop a curriculum, and I developed a curriculum on the art of stepping. I taught 7th, 8th and 10th graders, and then at that time I also coached a team of 40 all by myself. Hayley: Wow. Jacquinta: Their first performance was at the Teach for America Shark Tank, and we started getting a lot of publicity from there. But I did not just want to reach those students, I wanted to reach more.

With my departure from Kauffman in 2018, I started coming up with more ways that I could reach my students. I began working with different non-profit organizations, and almost every time I left, I brought more kids with me. Hayley: You’re really doing something right, then. Jacquinta: By June 2nd of 2018, I got to hold the team’s first try outs. We kept the Fantastic Five, which was five girls who were absolutely amazing on the team, and then they began doing a lot of different performances. Hayley: It really took off. Jacquinta: My goal is not to just have them be a STEP team—it's to help them holistically. Our core values are academic support, mentor, shepherd, and community service. I want the team to support them in all aspects.

Then we had an influx of young girls who wanted to join the team, and so we expanded our age limit to start at 5 years old. We started doing community events, school events—and all of the events were themed. So we tailor our performances to the name of the event. Hayley: What a neat idea. Jacquinta: We started a partnership with Faxon Elementary School, where I would come in twice a week and work with some of the students, and then those students began to add to our team. So then I went back to developing my STEP curriculum and started getting new partnerships.

Hayley:

Like where? Jacquinta:

The next partnership was back with Kauffman, where I was leading practices Mondays and Wednesdays and using their facility on Saturdays. Then last year we were able to adapt our services and do summer school virtually. So I was able to take all of my creativity, and see this dance team work in a virtual format.

Hayley: I bet that did take a lot of creativity, especially with dance.

Jacquinta: It’s now at a point where the team is forever expanding, and so it’s getting a lot more serious business wise. We actually just completed a 4 month long competition! It started in February, it ended May 29, and it was our first ever competition. It was for the World of Step International Competition, which is based out of New York City. There were over 70 teams competing! Hayley: Wow. Jacquinta: We put in all new floor routines, we had 11 adjudicated awards, tied for 3rd Place Champions, competed against nine different countries, and then we also tied for Coach of the Year. It put our name on the map, and people around the world were talking about our team from Kansas City.

Hayley: Did it feel real? You all worked so hard to get there! Jacquinta: Well, during that time, my focus was a little outside of coaching. Hayley: Why? Jacquinta: During the season, I was in a tragic car wreck that made me stop walking for a few months. I did not know if I would ever be able to step again.

But the victory lap after getting through it happened on June 12th. We were able to participate in the Juneteenth Parade in Kansas City, and that was the longest I had been walking since my wreck on April 11th.

Hayley:

Oh, my gosh. So you guys performed at the Juneteenth Parade, post your injury.

Jacquinta:

Yes. Hayley: That’s perseverance. Jacquinta: Step is life to me, and that was when I found out I needed to stop working in the business and start working on the business. I started leaning on my dance coach network. Hayley: Was there a growing moment there, where you had to learn to let other people step up?

Jacquinta:

Oh yes. I won't say that I’m a perfectionist, but I like things being done in a certain way. Hayley: Uh huh. Jacquinta: Because it's been my baby for so long, and at the very beginning I did it by myself. It’s hard for me to relinquish control, but I have a lot of amazing coaches that were “voluntold”Hayley: (Laughs) Jacquinta: —to be coaches, and they all stepped up. They constantly told me to let them do their job and that I can fully trust them, which I do! But going through a season not knowing if I could ever step again was very hard.

So I had to learn how to relinquish control, because if I couldn't step anymore, I still can do the business side. Hayley: Yes. Jacquinta:

I had to be able to grow and push others to the potential I know they can be. That’s also the reason why we're doing a five day summer camp for all of our members, where they will learn the history of step, the history of our organization, learn choreography for 7 routines and be able to perform them at the Fresh Factory KC on September 12th at noon.

Hayley:

We will be sure to keep updated with that event! How exciting. You said something I really want to come back to. You called the Juneteenth Parade the “victory lap” after working through your injury. Can you describe what you saw in the girls that day? And what did you see in yourself that day?

Jacquinta:

Sure, absolutely. I was able to push all my girls to practice as if I could do it, because at that point I couldn't. Reminding them to have the passion behind it. I always tell them: Every time we leave this door or wherever we're at, you don't know the people that we may come in contact with. So you need to practice, perform, and step like your life depended on it.


At the event, they were able to meet Mayor Lucas. He did a small step with us that we have on record just to get them to understand that though we are small, we are mighty. We can make the movement in Kansas City that we want to see. Hayley:

That’s powerful. Jacquinta: It shows in our logo. We have our name in army font, because it means discipline and precision. We have a boot print in the outskirt of the name that represents forward movement, and how wherever you go, you leave your footprint.


We are focused on making STEP in Kansas City the go-to organization for any type of entertainment, and also a safe place for our students in the community.


To keep up with the upcoming events, follow along on Facebook and watch the latest performances on YouTube.


All media originally published by Step Movement, LLC via their online platforms.