Members of Zeta Tau Alpha sorority from the University of Arkansas compete on the way to being named the winner of the Sprite Step Off competition. (John Amis/AP Images for Sprite)

Article from The GrioEDITOR’S NOTE: After this piece was published the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that there was a scoring discrepancy in the Step Off competition and that the Zeta Tau Alpha will now have to share their first place finish with the Tau Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha.

The blogosphere is abuzz with the news that a white sorority won the first Sprite Step Off, a national step competition sponsored and presented by Coca-Cola that is also a six-episode docu-drama set to be broadcast next week on MTV2. Zeta Tau Alpha (ZTA), the winning organization among the female competitors, began as a women’s fraternity in 1898 and counts ESPN’s Erin Andrews among its members.

Is it surprising that these young ladies hail from the University of Arkansas? Considering there’s a former president, who, until recent years, was praised for his soulfulness, Arkansas is more than knee deep in the finer points of black culture. But then again, that’s always been an unacknowledged fact about the South. At the end of the day, a lot of what makes Southern culture distinctive is deeply rooted in African-based and African American-evolved traditions.

That does little to comfort those who have accused Coke of rigging the competition and blamed television cameras for swaying the vote. What producer can resist the narrative of the underdog? Very few people could have predicted that ZTA would win. For television, such an unlikely outcome is usually ratings gold.

Not everyone has greeted the news of ZTA’s win negatively, however. A lot of the comments found on various blogs are very encouraging in fact. Unlike many of those commenting, I actually attended the Sprite Step Off finals on February 20 in Atlanta. For over a decade, I’ve witnessed step shows in both the North and the South and even caught a performance very reminiscent of stepping in a village in Swaziland in 2005.

ZTA was very impressive and definitely were among the top three female groups competing. My vote, however, would have gone to Indiana University’s Tau chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha. For me, the move where they hoisted one leg on each other’s shoulder while one-leg stepping in full symmetry was a showstopper. While some male step teams have performed this step, it is uncommon to see women do it. Still, it’s a move that impresses regardless of who does it.

Had ZTA been black, many bloggers have asked, would they have won? Probably not, if my opinion counts. Dressing like the Matrix was a no-no but then again the Tau AKAs launching with “Rhythm Nation” was also deficit-worthy. The Tau AKAs, however, made up for this dated move as their performance progressed. ZTA were tried and true, with much of the surprise deriving from the fact that that many white girls were so on point in precision and execution.

However, ZTA winning is not the real travesty. Those familiar with step shows know that there are few winners not racked by controversy. It’s just the nature of the game. The real travesty is there’s no communication of the history of Black Greek Letter Organizations (BGLOs) or the origins of stepping. And mind you, I cheered early Sprite Step Off promos for not prominently displaying Greek letters because I believed that that tactic locked in those familiar with stepping while also engaging those who’ve never heard of it.

(Continue Reading @ The Grio…)

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  • Jigga

    My new album D.O.S. (Death Of Stepshow) comes out tomorrow. It’s the rock!

  • Loquacious_

    Umm, they are not Zetas. The greek sorority known as Zetas is Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. So, let us not get confused on that. And, thanks Clutch for not making that mistake in your article.

    And, the ZTAs did a good job copying steps from NPHC greeks and should have won. HOWEVER, the rules should have stated that they were to use original steps. The steps they (ZTA) used in their show came from mostly Alphas and Deltas with a few steps copied from Sigmas. I use to be a step master for my sorority chapter in college, so I know. I would have more respect for ZTA if they didn’t use steps that are brands and signatures of other greek organizations.

    Finally, I am sure someone is going to make a comment like, “in step competitions, black greeks copy off of each other all the time.” To whomever is thinking that you are correct. As a Zeta, I made sure to use Sigma steps for the following reasons: 1. I wanted to win and if women were doing difficult steps that people saw only men doing, I knew we would; and 2. We could use Sigma steps because its Zeta Phi Beta Sigma-we got it like that. *lol* But, for other greeks, I think it is simply this: Stepping started on HBCU campuses and it dates back to Africa. Black Greek organizations may use other black greek steps, but each org has its own original signature step. It is apart of that greek orgs history. ZTA does not have a signature step because they didn’t create one. They used black greek steps, our history, our style to win.

    ZTA, this is not just a competition. It is our history. Respect it and create your own steps. Then I will respect you for winning a step show competition.

    • J.E.

      Hey Loquacious,

      I really appreciate what you are saying. Thank you for having the courage and wherewithal to set the record straight. Unfortunately, Boogieboy is not of the ilk of promoting awareness and self-esteem of that which is his (if he is African American). When it comes to celebrating events, like St. Patrick’s Day, no one questions, why do we have to celebrate the Irish? Point being, if we don’t celebrate our history, who will? And give us credit for what it is, at least? We will. Only we will.

  • BoogieBoy

    I ran accross this the other day and was like “Man thats cool!”. But some of the responses from some of the brothers and sisters

    Reminds me of “No Colored’s allowed” (In Baseball, in Bathrooms, Resturants,etc.) and now brothers and sisters have a chance to treat others differently. But don’t! thats a sad thing.
    Its good to see most people on here are like they won they won. But for those who feel likes its our history. You have to look at the nature of what you are saying.

    To say “Black Greek” can be considered a contradiction because Greece is in Europe and while there may have been some dark melanin tone Greeks most of them weren’t.
    In anycase there would be no reason to be upset because these individuals by participating show their appreciation for something we as “Minority Americans” do. And just incase you may not know Africans aint the only one who use steps. Many indigenous cultures use stepping in their traditional dances. The world is alot bigger than Africa and the color issues that go on in America; we got to change our thinking. People all over the world appreciate different things about different cultures and as our culture is a hybrid of African, European, Native American and our own unique Culture. We should be grateful when people show interest..

    But most important is the simple fact that we need to get over color issues. I just think this situation exposed the heart of alot of people. Its soooo sickening to see something like this happen in 2010. Then people going on to make excuses; I know it was humbling for most of the other particpants. Nonetheless If they were better they were better.

    My point is if that organization won the step competition there is no need to show hatred especially if you bear the Name of Jesus Christ. I believe its good because we got to get over this color nonsense (NOT RACE(because we all human) BUT COLOR) WE ALL BLEED THE SAME BLOOD and Meet the same MAKER and until that changes regardless of what we want to believe we are all connected. Peace to all people