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Twirlin’ is a derivative of stepping, or step-dancing, in which a cane is used as a prop. Twirlin' originates from the Historically African American Greek Fraternal Organizations (HAAGFO) culture of organizational song and dance. The history of this art form dates back to the middle decades of the 20th century. While there are many organizations that use cane props in stepping routines, the four organizations which have become most identified with the style are Kappa Alpha Psi, Phi Beta Sigma, Sigma Gamma Rho, and Zeta Phi Beta.
The history of Twirlin’ dates back to the 1950s. Historically African American Greek Fraternal Organizations (HAAGFOs) started to evolve their known boast-worthy song and dance into what are known today as step shows. The history of the cane dates back to Eastern African culture of the 4000th century BCE. The cane ties directly to most of those civilizations right of passage, and was a symbol of manhood. The cane had to be carried by initiates hoping to become adult members of their respective civilizations. In the 18th century, the canes were looked at as a fashion embellishment. One "wore" a cane, these were decorative objects to be admired and proud of. Canes represented the true sign of a gentleman. The HAAGFO Kappa Alpha Psi wore canes at its inception in 1911, and it became an unofficial tradition of the organization. When the organization started to participate in step shows during the mid-20th century, it incorporated its favorite prop. All of the HAAGFOs have ties to Christianity in their founding members and platforms. Canes also have direct ties to Christianity, among other earlier religions.
21st century twirlin’
During the last two decades of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, step enthusiasts have been fortunate to see a variety of individuals and step entities emerge as twirlers, or Kane-masters as they are more commonly known. There have been numerous names to emerge as legendary since the days of “Dirty Red” of Texas. The Twirlin’ phenomenon has taken a following of its own aside from stepping or step-dancing. The Cane-masters hail from as far west as California through Nevada, Texas, Alabama,Mississippi,Arkansas,Tennessee, Illinois, Michigan, Indians, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Boston, and through New York.
The Twirlin’ phenomenon has transformed itself into a digital art on the net, via websites like Facebook.com, Youtube.com, Myspace.com, and most recently Twirlin.info, a social community that caters directly to twirlin’ patrons.
- Keith Group Innovation (2007), Twirlin’ Dot Info and International Step League
- Fine, Elizabeth. (2003) Soulstepping: African American Step Shows. Chicago: University of Illinois Press.
- Malone, Jacqui. (1996) Steppin on the Blues. Chicago: University of Illinois Press.
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