Anyone torn between watching Game 5 of the NBA playoffs or heading out into the heat to see Step Afrika! on Thursday had to be relieved after walking into the Atlas Performing Arts Center and seeing the dance troupe’s props:
Basketballs. Two racks of them. Because any object you can pound a rhythm with is fair game for Step Afrika! Usually, the dancers stick to pounding their body parts — feet, hands and thighs — but in a clever, rambunctious opening sequence, crossover dribbling provided the dancers with a baseline beat.
That scene — set in a schoolyard and also featuring jump-ropes, recess chants and a rapping teacher — is the best of nine works that Step Afrika! is offering at its annual June series. Last year, the District-based troupe went serious, performing an extended work inspired by the art of Jacob Lawrence. This year’s format was more of a variety show, with an emphasis on music and theatrics rather than footwork.