The Michigan City Soul Steppers Drill Team celebrated their 15th anniversary with the Show Up and Show Out Competition, hosted at Michigan City High School on Saturday, July 18. This event, in conjunction with Michigan City’s Summer Festival, is the largest drumline and drill team competition in the state of Indiana. Teams from all over the United States stepped up their game and competed against one another for trophies and cash prizes.
The teams involved included Michigan City Soul Steppers of Michigan City, Ebony Illusion Dance Team of Des Moines, Iowa, Freestyle All-Stars of Birmingham, Alabama, Millennium Madness of Memphis, Tennessee and Metropolitan Youth Program of Rock Island, Illinois.
It also included House of Traction Dance Team, Cincinnati Stars Marching Band and Qkids Dance Team, which all originate from Cincinnati, Ohio. From Kansas City, Missouri, were Kansas City Marching Sizzlers and Willie Arthur Smith Marching Cobras Drumline. Both the Hornets Drumline and Music Box Foundation traveled across state borders from Chicago, Illinois.
All teams had one thing in common: soul. Each dancer and musician put their whole heart and soul into their performances. Their determination could be seen in their eyes as they marched across Michigan City High School’s gymnasium. Every performer has spent a countless number of hours preparing themselves for this particular competition. From the vibrant outfits to the synchronized steps – everything leading up to that moment was worth it.
After each group “strutted their stuff,” the night had begun. The room became silent, as the lyrics of the national anthem floated gracefully around the gym. Then, a prayer: a request for safety, wishes of good luck and healthy competition.
First were the drumline performances, then came the drill team portion of the evening. Before each performance was a calm second where everything seemed to stand still. Then in an instance, the gym burst with energy, excitement and emotion. Every time a new beat was born, the audience came alive – dancing, yelling words of encouragement and watching wide-eyed.
There were competitors of all ages that made up each team. Some were teenagers, others, younger.
Joining a drumline or a drill team at a young age is not uncommon – most of the participants first got involved very young. As they grow up, their involvement with their groups grows, too.
“When I was six years old, I was in the Metropolitan Youth Group. When I was fourteen, I was a captain of the older girls’ group, and I continued to perform until I was twenty-two. I am now twenty-six and am an adult leader within the group. Coming back and being able to help and teach them what I learned when I was a member of the group is something I love doing,” said Brooke Greenwood.
Being a part of a drill team or drumline is also a family matter. It has the ability to bring one closer with others their age that share a common thread, but it can also bring families together in a celebration of dance and music.
Sarita Avery, Metropolitan Youth Group’s banner holder said, “I have been a part of this 15 years, and it never gets old. I love being with the kids and watching them accomplish what they need to accomplish, and seeing all of the hard work that they put into it. I try to help them when they need it, but I also try to step back when I need to.”
As the night continued, the Michigan City Soul Steppers surprised their leader, Lyn Isbell, with flowers and an appreciation speech in front of the entire audience.
“They got me good,” Isbell said. “I was not expecting anything from them. I’ve been doing this for the past 15 years, and it is just something I love to do. It is great being able to step, travel and meet new people in the process.”
Her and her team will be using the proceeds from this event to travel to Nevada next month, where they will be performing in a parade and a competition.
After each performance was complete, the DJ first played an old-school jam, followed by a new-school jam. The entire gym busted their moves in both the bleachers and on the gym floor.
The night ended with Freestyle All-Stars winning first place in drumline, and Willie Arthur Smith Marching Cobras winning first place in drill team.