UCSB Arts & Lectures (A&L) will present the Step Afrika! dance troupe performing traditional and contemporary movement from across the African diaspora, 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 16 at Campbell Hall.

Drums were once outlawed among enslaved Africans in the American South as a way of curtailing communication, connection and culture. But rhythm could not be suppressed, and it was preserved and transmitted through body percussion: juba, hambone, tap dance and stepping.

Step Afrika! continues and extends the tradition of stepping, integrating contemporary dance and art forms with songs, storytelling, humor and audience participation.

Founded in 1994 by C. Brian Williams, Step Afrika! is the first professional company dedicated to the tradition of stepping. Under Williams’ leadership, stepping has evolved into one of America’s cultural exports, touring more than 50 countries.

Step Afrika! now ranks as one of the top 10 African-American dance companies in the U.S. The troupe blends percussive dance styles practiced by historically African American fraternities and sororities; traditional West and Southern African dances and an array of contemporary dance and art forms.

Step Afrika! promotes stepping as an educational tool for young people, focusing on teamwork, academic achievement and cross-cultural understanding. The program has earned Mayor’s Arts awards for Outstanding Contribution to Arts Education; Innovation in the Arts; and Excellence in an Artistic Discipline; and performed at the White House for President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

Step Afrika! is featured at the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African-American History & Culture with the world’s first stepping interactive.

Tickets are $30-$45, general public; $15, youth and UCSB students (current student ID required).

For tickets or more information, call UCSB Arts & Lectures, 805-893-3535 or purchase online at www.ArtsAndLectures.UCSB.edu.