Aspirantes STEP it up

Educational dance team performs live
By T Martin

“Stupid packed” doesn’t even begin to spell out how hype and intense ASPIRA’s S.T.E.P. group’s first live dance performance was on Friday night, April 16th. But that was dancer John Mull’s prediction when the dance troupe’s founder and director Hector Serrano invited NorFilly™ Magazine to attend the event held at Concilio’s Hall at 7th and Fairmount.

Starting at the top with parents involved in the implementation of the education through dance and music program, everyone had a role in bringing about what was indeed a packed event.

Serrano worked with students in development of dance steps and routines. Parents worked along with him to coordinate practices and keep things going while Serrano attended other programs or groups.

ASPIRA youth leadership program facilitator Olisvier Ortiz provided the educational piece at ASPIRA’s headquarters, just a short way from Tierra Colombiana Restaurant where practices were held.

Members of the Students Tackling Education Program (S.T.E.P.) sold over 400 tickets to their grand debut, according to Serrano who also directs and manages Grupo Fuego dancers of growing fame.

D.J. Jonathan Rivas kept the crowd and performers on their feet throughout the festive and inspired display of diverse talents among North Philly’s youths. Their tunes and mixes brought the audience to their feet and onto the dance floor even before the evening’s program began.

The agenda itself boasted a number of activities to hook spectators from the start. From Jorge “Redhead” Diaz’s video presentation of clips and pictures from S.T.E.P. activities to their side-splitting rendition of the popular reality TV show “American Idol,” dancers, vocalists and performers were in top form, delivering astounding demonstrations of their best work.

The ten-minute intermission following the “American Idol” mock show, barely allowed performers to get into gear for their “Journey into Latino Culture” in which the group danced Salsa, Merengue and Hip-Hop.

Grupo Fuego’s singer Cindy Garcia captivated the audience long enough, however, for Serrano and company to prepare their special presentation followed by a “Journey into Hip-Hop” in which S.T.E.P. danced to Hip-Hop and Reggae.

Then came the award presentations and speeches. As Serrano presented awards for great highest attendance and best performance, among others, the audience grew restless for the dancing many of them came to do. As scheduled, though, Serrano finished by 10:15 PM, in time for everyone to crowd the dance floor and to enjoy a raffle shortly before midnight.

If ever a place could be “stupid packed” it would look much like the crowd that showed up enjoy the hard and wryly humorous work of the S.T.E.P. performers at Concilio until 1 AM April 17th.

ASPIRA’s S.T.E.P. is an after-school program that educates high school students about leadership, communication and culture through dance. S.T.E.P. includes students from ten different high schools united as one. S.T.E.P. students have attended college retreats and tours, learned communication and leadership skills, performed for community events and have even seen the inspirational movie, “The Passion of the Christ.”

At present, the group consists of 80 students and the number increases daily. Serrano hopes to have 200 by the end of year, increasing to 500 by the beginning of the new school year in September.

Serrano attributes the success of the program to the dedication and leadership that inspired him to work with youths.

“It takes time, love and dedication in working with the youth. I have been working with the youth for over four years, and every day I learn something new. The youth are the leaders of tomorrow, and we must educate them for a brighter future. I enjoy every minute with the S.T.E.P. students, and I hope to continue working with them.”

Serrano created the program with the assistance of Latino Partnership Leadership Institute Class of 2004. Ms. Evelyn Montalvo from Philadelphia Commercial Development Corporation was the inspiration that motivated him at one of the seminars at the Institute. Hector Martinez and Freysa Aberdeen assist Serrano with the implementation of the program.