Sprite Gets To Steppin’

East coast fraternities stepped their game up for a cause in the first Sprite Step-Off Competition. Competing for a share of the $1.5 million dollar pool of scholarships, performers from Howard University, Temple University, Jersey City University and Morgan State University filled Manhattan’s Roseland Ballroom on Jan. 30 to give back to the community and inspire the youth of the Boys and Girls Clubs into pursuing a higher education.

The evening’s event served as the appropriate closing to a day of community service. The performers participated in the Sprite Step-Off Service Challenge earlier in the day to help promote volunteerism and community service. The two-hour service activity took place in the Bronx at the Lucile Palmaro Clubhouse. The teams’ members mentored and instructed children from the Boys and Girls Club in step routines.
During the competition, the teams were judged on precision, choreography and audience reaction. The judges included Vice President of Coca-Cola Stephen Boyd, DJ Peter Paul, Power 105.1’s Cherry Martinez, choreographer Chuck Maldonado (known for his contributions to the movie Stomp the Yard and the television shows America’s Best Dance Crew and So You Think You Can Dance), and Lisa Talley, an executive for NBC’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.†

Though every sorority brought their A-game, none were a match for Howard University’s salmon-pink and apple-green team. The Alpha Kappa Alphas donned skirt suits, pearls and heels as they cut loose in their asylum-themed routine. The crazed criminals were guilty of “killing people’s rhythm,” said member Ashley Maltbia. The performance fused the old with the new – the girls moved with peppermint canes and dance moves like “The Jerk” to popular music.

Maltbia said, “Perfect practice, perfect performance,” to sum up their win.

Howard’s men also outperformed the others with their law and order-themed performance.

Equipped with bulletproof vests and smooth moves, Kappa Alpha Psi stole first place and the scholarship money for the fraternities. Prior to the show, senior Chris Tyson said, “Aside from the prize, we’re doing this for McDonald’s and the Boys and Girls Club.

Doing community service is what fraternities and sororities are based upon.”

Hip-hop artists also contributed to the event by performing some of their hits for the kids and the steppers. To kick off the competition, rapper Wale delivered a powerful message that stressed the importance of these events for the urban youth. “I’m young, and I come from a place where a lot of key things happen,” said Wale, who hails from Washington, D.C. “I was raised to see things that I probably shouldn’t have seen and I’ve done things I probably shouldn’t have done.”

In an interview with the Inferno, Wale said that being asked to perform at the event was an “incredible accolade.” He also talked of his struggle in reaching the youth with his hip-hop music. “I think there’s a lack of balance. I feel pressured to have balance. I don’t want to go too far in either direction-not too preachy, but nothing too damaging.”

However, Wale said that education comes first in theme with the event’s emphasis on a college education and giving back through community service, “I think having an education is one of the most important things someone can have in this world.”

Rapper Ludacris also made an appearance as the closing act for the evening. Known for his explicit lyrics and derogatory statements, Luda promised to “keep it clean” for the children in the crowd. He performed the hits “Southern Hospitality” and “Get Your Stroll On” before presenting the winning teams with their scholarships.

The top teams will go on to compete in the finals against winners from other regions in Atlanta on Feb. 20, and recaps of the Jan. 30 shows in New York and Houston can be viewed on MTV2.