‘Celebrate, love and culture.’ The return of NPHC’s annual Homecoming Step Show


Travis Fannon

Students participate in the National Pan-Hellenic Council’s Homecoming Step Show on Friday, Oct. 14, 2022, at the Gatton Student Center in Lexington, Kentucky.

Laurel Swanz, Reporter

The uproarious hip-hop music, laughter and high energy had nearly everyone in attendance out of their seats at the National Pan-Hellenic Council’s (NPHC) Homecoming Step Show on Oct. 14.

UK’s Black Greek life community celebrated together for the first time since 2019. The step show is a long-standing tradition for the historically African-American sororities and fraternities of UK.

Through competitive stepping and strolling, they honored the NPHC’s fight to develop social programs for Black students and celebrate the community the NPHC has fostered here. The event also serves as a fundraiser for NPHC.

“It means culture, it means celebration, and just honestly, it’s highlighting the history, especially, of Black alumni and Black students here at UK,” active NPHC advisor and alum Uriah Carter said.

Students, alumni, friends, family and community members gathered in the Gatton Student Center Grand Ballroom Friday night to watch five participating sororities and fraternities compete for a $500 prize.

“It’s the first step show in two years, and there’s a lot of excitement around it because it’s a tradition; it’s like a family reunion,” Carter said.

The event was overseen by the NPHC but run by the students. They were in charge of everything from choreographing creative, themed performances complete with dialogue, costumes and music to event promotion and stage lighting.

“We’re very proud of the hard work they have put into this. This is an event that truly connects not just the current students here but UK alums and Lexington all in one place,” Brandon Thompson, NPHC’s associate dean of student involvement, said.

Participants brought their own modern twist to stepping, a traditional form of percussive dance. Their performances consisted of a mix of step-style and hip-hop movements, humor, pop culture references and nods to their organization’s history.

A panel of alumni determined the winners based on performance difficulty, creativity, crowd appeal and enthusiasm.

Iota Phi Theta was selected as the winning fraternity. Their performance was inspired by the book Holes by Louis Sachar, down to their storyline and bright orange jumpsuits.

Senior Iota Phi member Jakori Tinsley said that step show helped expose him to Greek life as a first-generation college student.

“Honestly, step show has been monumental to me since my freshman year. These type of events are so important because they show people who are first-generations things that they can do on top of all the other service and brotherhood aspects that come with joining our fraternity,” Tinsley said.

Step show means something different to everyone. Non-Greek life students Jodie Graham and Caitlyn Bowman attended the event to support their Greek life friends.

“I think that it means a lot to have representation for Black students at UK, cause we really don’t get that, so to have a whole event dedicated to women and men that fought so hard to be here means a lot,” Graham said.

The winning sorority was Alpha Kappa Alpha. Their segment was Squid Game themed. Performers stepped through a series of tasks resembling the games portrayed in the popular TV show. The performance’s message was to work together and never betray the Alpha Kappa sisterhood.

Sisterhood motivated Alpha Kappa senior Alexandra Benjamin as she danced, she said.

“To come back after two years and win, especially when we haven’t won in a while, it just feels really good to bring it back for the home team. Our alumni and sisters came back, so it just feels good to do it for them and just for the legacy of the chapter,” Benjamin said.

Benjamin’s sisters in the audience showed the same pride and love, cheering her on with their own unique call. Each sorority and fraternity spoke rehearsed cheers throughout the show, showing their support for their chapter even if they weren’t performing.

The NPHC was founded in 1930, when Greek life was exclusively for white students. Carter said step show now serves as a commemoration of progress.

“The main goal of the event is to just showcase the hard work and collaborative culture of the NPHC,” Carter said, “Just celebrating our presence here, the work that we’ve done within our chapter and the service we’ve done for the community. So the goal is just celebrate, love and culture.”