Pendu Malik, Jason Nious and Danielle Hicks step dance at the community center on Thursday night.
Pendu Malik, Jason Nious and Danielle Hicks step dance at the community center on Thursday night.
The Lovelock audience noticed right away. There was something different about the performers who came to the community center on Thursday night. 

They brought no instruments – no drums, keyboard or strings, but Jason Nious, Danielle Hicks and Pendu Malik didn’t need them.

The Las Vegas trio is part of a 15-member ensemble known as Molodi (Mo-lah-di).  

“We are ambassadors of stepping,” said Nious, 42, the group’s founder and artistic director. “We call ourselves an experiment in body percussion.”

The dance troupe practices a form of percussive dance, using their bodies as instruments to produce rhythms. The audience responded enthusiastically, peppering the trio with questions and requesting an encore.

“Could we have just a little bit more?” asked one audience member after the interactive performance.

Nious, Hicks and Malik taught the audience the lyrics to Shosholoza, a song often referred to as South Africa’s second national anthem. The call and response style lent itself to audience participation.

Malik, a choreographer, explained that the traditional miner’s song originated in Zimbabwe. Groups of men traveled by steam train to work in South Africa’s diamond and gold mines for little pay. They spoke many different dialects but bonded by singing Shosholoza.

Hicks whipped her hair to the beat. Her braids fell almost to her knees. She learned about step dancing when she joined a college sorority. African American fraternities and sororities developed stepping to unify their organizations, she explained.

Nious stomped in gumboots, footwear the miners used to communicate with one another in a harsh environment where speaking could bring punishment.  

Nious reminisced about his first exposure to stepping.

“I watched the NAACP awards on television when I was still in high school,” he said. One performance changed the course of his life.

“I recorded it, put it on slow motion and learned every nuance,” he said. Within weeks, Nious launched a step group at his school. He started Molodi as a college student at the University of New Mexico while working on his BA in Theater. 

Nious also spoke about the Stono Rebellion, a slave rebellion that took place in 1739 in the colony of South Carolina. In response, the legislature of South Carolina passed the Negro Act of 1740.

“They made it illegal for African Americans to have drums,” he said. “They’d cut off your hands or kill you. If everything is taken away, what could you do? You’re still an artist. You’re still creative.”

Percussive body dancing provided an answer.

“Take away one hand, and I’ll use the other hand. If I have one foot, I’m going to keep going,” said Nious.