Exercise of any type takes discipline, patience, and commitment. Step, a form of dance involving coordinated movement, is no different, and the girls of the Rho Epsilon Tau step team want everyone to know that step is more than just dancing. It’s family.
Rho Epsilon Tau, or PYT, was formed some four years ago by Nikkida Butler and currently has nine members. Butler calls them her “Divine Nine.” They practice every Wednesday at Manor High School in Manor, Texas, a 20-minute drive northeast of Austin.
The girls are all in middle or high school, and they see step as more than just something to do after school. Step has helped some of them become better students and has pushed them to be better teammates. The members of Rho Epsilon Tau do not yet participate in competitions, but instead perform at local events.
The step movements are mesmerizing and inspire a yearning for better coordination, especially group coordination.
“Our goal is to express ourselves through serving and providing excitement for whatever events we participate in,” Butler said.
Any dance that revolves around counting beats, like tap dancing, could be considered step. But what makes Rho Epsilon Tau and other step teams different is that their movement is not limited to their feet. They use limbs, hands, feet, claps, stomps, and breathing to assemble one complete step movement. Multiply that by nine girls, and the result is a sight that makes you wish you could stand up and join in.
To the outsider, step may look confusing, but for the girls who practice every week, it’s as easy as working together and making sure you help each other learn steps.
“Anyone can really join it,” said Katty Torrez, a tenth-grader who’s been in step for about four years. “It’s going to be hard, you will get frustrated, and you’re probably gonna be mad and want to quit, because that’s how it is when you first start something. But, once you get the hang of it, it’s real easy.”
The girls on the step team say that what they learn in practice carries over to other parts of their life. Torrez said she used to be a troublemaker, but since joining Rho Epsilon Tau, she’s stayed out of trouble.
“I actually focus in class because I know if I don’t do what I have to do, [Butler’s] gonna find out, or the team will get consequences because of what I did,” Torrez said. “So [step] pushes me to do better in class and pushes me to not act up.”
Rho Epsilon Tau also doesn't limit their friendships to just one day of practice a week. They go camping once a year and try to have sleepovers once a month or so.
“We also see each other out of school and just hang out,” said eighth-grader Lexi Samaripa.
More than anything else, being on a step team takes dedication and patience from both the teammates and the coach. Learning a step can be a long process, and preparing for performances takes time.
“It’s unlimited hours,” Butler said. “So when we prepare for small to big shows, it’s anywhere from ten to 14 hours in two days for consecutive weeks, and for very big shows, it’s upwards of 15 hours.”
At their weekly practices, the girls start out with a meeting and talk about who knows which steps and which steps they want to learn. Then they work at learning steps. They form a circle with one girl in the middle who demonstrates the step until others can catch on.
Aside from being dedicated to practicing, the girls also have to be dedicated to each other.
“(You) don’t just think about yourself because it’s a team, so you have to respect everybody. You have to get along with everybody, because it’s very familylike,” Samaripa said. “It’s a lot to deal with, but it’s good. It’s something I would want to do for the rest of my life, teach my kids, or go and be a teacher to teach other people how to step.”