Last year's Divine Nine step winners walk off stage after event will no longer offer competition

True to form, the annual Divine Nine step show celebrated African stepping by showcasing step teams across the Pacific Northwest. But the surprise ending of one team concluded the night on a sour note.

The 12th Annual Divine Nine Step Show took place at the LaSells Stewart Center Saturday night to a packed theater. This year's theme was Urban Twists on Classical Tales. The show, hosted by the Black Student Union, saw performances from three Divine Nine teams and one youth step team. Six teams were meant to perform, but three backed out at the last minute. Due to a lack of performers, the show could no longer be produced as a competition.

As the last performance, members representing Omega Psi Phi fraternity Inc., winners of last year's competition, cut their performance short. Dissatisfied with the lack of a competition and chance at winning money, the members shared with the audience their lack of contentment with the event. The group invited everyone outside, if people wanted to see the rest of the performance, and resumed their performance on the sidewalk, ending the show.

The team's protest may have amused attendees, but for students who coordinated the show, it was a disappointment.

"They signed a contract and committed to performing," said Yohana Abraham, president of Black Student Union. "They signed it, and went on stage and did what they did. It was very disappointing to see that."

The contract, which each member signed, stipulated that if a certain number of teams drop out, the annual step show could no longer be produced as a competition. This means no team will receive a grand prize.

"I understand ... that they wanted to come to compete," Abraham said, "but the way they handled it was disappointing, and it was upsetting to us all."

The teams that dropped out last minute also disappointed Abraham.

"Many of these teams committed from months ago," she said. "Things don't go as planned. ... It sucks for us since we have to deal with the backlash of them backing out."

The committee began seriously planning the event in October 2013. Although she is disappointed, Abraham considers the performance to be a success.

"They didn't ruin this for us at all," she said. "We put on a great event. There's nothing that will ruin what we worked hard for."

Others were very pleased with the performances, despite the uproar. Jason Dorsette, director at the Lonnie B. Harris Cultural Center, called the performance a success. Dorsette said he expected backlash, and he empathizes with the teams.

"I'm not at all surprised at what just happened," Dorsette said. "They thought they were going to compete and be awarded prize money. I think it was great that they still came."

Despite the unexpected ending, he believes the night offered a great opportunity to talk about the National Pan-Hellenic councils.

Earlean Wilson Huey, former UJIMA office coordinator, was the adviser for the students who began the event 12 years ago. She attends the event each year, and while Huey expected more fraternities to participate, the night exceeded her expectations.

"This is the event of the year," Huey said. "This is the one time where we can get African American students to come to OSU and display black culture."

Huey considers this to be one of the biggest step show events in the Pacific Northwest and an integral piece of OSU. Stepping events are common predominantly in black colleges, Huey said. This night gives OSU students the opportunity to experience a piece of the culture behind African stepping.

Strong performances, unexpected uproars and the comedic talents created a night some may not soon forget. This is Abraham's last year at OSU, but she plans to return for the 13th annual show.

"I do look forward to see what the new leadership team will have in store for us next year," Abraham said.

Ria Rankine

Greek and clubs reporter

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