Chicago Steppin’: A Lil’ Somethin’ for the Grown and Sexy

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to Chicago Steppin’. I warn you, this is much more than just a mere dance. Chicago steppin’ is an invitation. It is a seduction. It is a challenge. It is a chance for ladies to truly be ladies and for men to be gentle…men? It’s vulnerable. It’s strength. It’s communication. It’s a choreographed dalliance (watch out!) It’s a strut with pomposity.

It’s smooth. It’s cool. It’s fun. It’s off the hook. It’s right here in the City of Roses every Monday and Friday night. The GORGEOUS Denise Johnson and her fiancé Hernandez, dubbed the Chicago Steppin’ czar, teach anxious students the art, the mastery of Chicago Steppin’. Chicago steppin’ is a dance made up of a basic eight count step. Instructor Denise Johnson says if you can walk and count to eight you can learn how to Chicago step. BeautifulBlackPortland had a wonderful time when we visited Denise and Hernandez one Friday night at the Billy Webb Elks Lounge.  Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce you to the lady behind Portland’s Chicago Steppin’ movement, the lovely Denise Johnson. P.S Denise and the Chicago Steppin’ crew have some events this summer you DO NOT want to miss! Get Into It! Email: Phone: 503 819 4576

Hi Denise. How are you?
Hi. I’m doing well. I want to thank you for this opportunity to talk about Chicago Steppin’

Are you from Chicago?
No, I’m not from Chicago. I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. However, my mother is originally from Chicago and I spend many a summer in Chicago visiting family.

How did you get involved in the Chicago Steppin’ movement? Because it is a movement!
I was introduced to Chicago Steppin’ by my fiancee, Hernandez Williams in 2008 when we attended a Stepper’s set in Seattle, WA. I was so impressed and wanted to learn the dance, but my busy schedule hindered me from really looking for someone in Portland who was teaching the dance. In 2010 I was introduced to Brian “Steppin B” Patterson, a Master instructor based in L. A (a Chicago native son) who provided (and continues to provide) a strong fundamental understanding of the basics of the dance. In Chicago Steppin, the dancer never gets away from the “basics.” A Stepper is ALWAYS seeking to perfect their “basic” skills. It’s through the perfecting of the basics that a Stepper’s swagger and grace is revealed.

Is it a movement? Yes! Chicago Steppin comes out of the African American urban experience. It’s roots stem from the Bop (50’s & 60″s), Jitterbug and Swing (30’s & 40’s), and the Cakewalk. It’s growth is evident by the number of Stepper’s set held in every region of the United States.

I hear your classes are off the hook? Is this true?
The rumors are true. It’s all about having a good time. Laughing, joking, hearing good sophisticated R & B, Neo-soul and jazz while learning how to Step. We are building a Stepper’s community. A community that is passionate about the dance, but also about the health and well-being of the Portland African American community.

Recently, you held a benefit event at the Elks, care to let folks know what that was all about and will you do it again?
We recently held the first annual “Age Ain’t A Factor” November Birthday Bash and fundraiser for the Healthy Birth Initiatives (HBI). The event was a celebration of November birthdays and an opportunity to celebrate the work of HBI. The infant mortality rate for African American babies is twice the rate of white infants. HBI serves high-risk pregnant African American women through support groups, nurse visitations, health education and advocacy with the aim of reducing infant mortality and improving the health of women.

What advice do you give folks who want to give this a try but aren’t too sure?
The beauty of Chicago Steppin is its structure. I tell people “if you can count to 8 and know how to walk, then you can learn how to Step.” It will take patience, time and practice, but you will have so much fun along the way that it will be worth all the effort. This is a dance for singles, couples, young and “old”. You do not need a partner to learn the dance; and mixing and mingling is part of the Stepper’s set culture.

Where can people find you? I hear you also teach in East county?
Class time: MONDAYS 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm Or FRIDAYS 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm. Your first 2 lessons are free. $20.00 per month includes both locations.

(1st, 2nd, & 3rd Mondays of each month) Rockwood Human Solutions Community Center 124 N.E. 181st Ave Gresham, OR. 97230.

(Every Friday) Billy Webb Elks Lodge 6 N.E. Tillamook Portland, OR
Denise Johnson (503) 819-4576

If you could step with anyone in the world who would it be and why?
This is a great question and has to be answered from two different perspectives. I consider myself a student of Brian Patterson (Steppin B), so when I dance with him I’m in “student/teacher” mode. I’m looking to the day when I get past that mental image.
You asked for one person, but another person I would like to dance with is Drew Alexander. This young man has won numerous “World’s Largest Steppers Contest” events. He has a smooth swagger that is the envy of many a Stepper. Quite the feat for someone only 24-25 years old!

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