You are here > Home Community ChiStepper Checks In With L. A.'s Denise Barrow
Thu 18 Dec 2014
ChiStepper Checks In With L. A.'s Denise Barrow
  Denise Barrow

ChiStepper checks in with L.A. renaissance woman Denise Barrow, a former Steppin B’s Workshop instructor, who is instrumental in the Harlem Nights Steppers Ball and 3 other sets throughout Southern California.  Get the scoop …  

T. Pratt (TP): How long have you been Steppin Denise?

Denise Barrow (DB): I’ve been Steppin about 5 ½ years?

TP: From what I understand, you started off working with Steppin B. 

DB: Yes I did.

TP: Are you still affiliated with Steppin B’s Workshop?

DB: Ummm, he’s still affiliated with Harlem Nights Ball.  I don’t help him with his class – I was his assistant.  I don’t do that but he is affiliated with Harlem Nights.

TP: Is Harlem Nights your only involvement right now?

DB: Actually, I do Harlem Nights and about 3 sets per month. 

TP: What are the sets called?

DB: One is called 1st Sundays and the other one is called Mellow Wednesdays.  The other one is called 3rd Thursday.

TP: And where do you do them at?

DB: All over the Inland Empire.  I have two at one place.  All of these sets pretty much started with Steppin B.  I have one at Acapulco’s.  It’s Mellow Wednesday in Montclair, California.  The other one, 1st Sundays, is in San Demas, California.  We’ve been there about 3 years.  Then there’s 3rd Thursday in San Bernardino. 

TP:  There’s another popular Denise in Steppin B’s class…

DB: … Denise Lichter.

TP: Yep.  And course you two look nothing alike but does it drive you crazy when people confuse the two of you?

DB: No it doesn’t actually.  Some people do that.  They’ll try to describe me and I’ll say no, that’s not me.  But no, that doesn’t bother me at all.  Denise is a wonderful person.  I have no problem with that at all.

TP: Speaking of Harlem Nights, I heard rave reviews about the weekend this year. 

DB: Why thank you!

TP: What made it so special this year?

TP: Umm, I think we have a good team of people working with us.  I attribute it to that.  There was a lot of hard work put into it.  More hard work than had been put in in the past.  We did a lot of different stuff.  We changed things around a lot.  We basically went back to the 1920’s and 30’s and everybody came dressed for the occasion.  They definitely represented that weekend.  It was nice to see everybody in their dresses.  I would say 95% of the people came dressed in some sort of Harlem Nights attire.  That made it that much more special.  We had cigar girls walking around selling cigars.  It was just wonderful.  We had a best dressed contest.  It was really nice. 

TP: I’ll have to get out there and check it out.

DB: Yes, you’ll have to come and visit us next year. 

TP: I know there may be a little bias involved, but where would you say Harlem Nights ranks as far as major weekends in Los Angeles?  I mean, the Original Out-of-Town Weekend was Steppin 4 A Dream.  I know Tony Dow did something with Dow House, but you’d have a better gage of where Harlem Nights ranks amidst the others.  I know there may be some bias involved and people might not always agree but for instance, we do the World’s Largest Weekend in Chicago, but I have no problem acknowledging that the Heritage Ball is bigger, you know. 

DB: Of course.  I know Steppin  4 A Dream has been bigger in the past, yes.  Way bigger than Harlem Nights has been.  As far as now today … I’d prefer not to get into comparisons with other groups, but I’d say we rank about 8 or 9 in that category. 

TP: I haven’t been Steppin in L.A. in a while.  So I’ll tell you how I remember the culture and how it developed and then I want to get an idea of how L. A. is today.  In the early 2000’s I remember Steppin sort of being kicked off by Tulivu Jadi.  Then I remember Maxx coming out for a little while and doing some instruction.  Then I started to see Steppin really start to flourish when Steppin B. came out there.

DB: That’s what I heard.  That’s when I started Steppin, so I didn’t know what it was like before. He was my instructor and I become his assistant and that’s all I really know.  I was told the community wasn’t really as developed before he got here and that he put Steppin on the map in [Southern] California. 

TP: That’s the way I kinda remember it as well.  And I know there were many others that contributed along the way like Lana Reid …

DB: … oh yes, as far as promoting.  I feel that Steppin B is an excellent instructor.  He made a difference here.  He definitely made a difference here in Southern California.  

TP: Who are some of the … I know Tony (Dow’s) out there now.  Of course you have old faithful’s like Lonzo, Garry Fields, and Tarrence Jones.  Who would you say are some of the major players in the L.A. Steppin community today?

DB: Major players … hmmm, I would say Steppin B.  I would say Lonzo.  Tony Dow. Umm, Garry Fields.  That’s pretty much it I think. 

TP: What would you like to see improve in the L.A. dance community?

DB: I would like to see everyone coming together more as one to make this an even better dance … A more enjoyable dance community.  Everybody coming together as one.  There’s not a whole lot of division, but nothing is ever perfect.  Let’s just work together to make this happen.  Let’s put Steppin on the map here in Southern California.  This is the perfect place to put Steppin on the map like Salsa, ballroom, and all these other sort of dances.  I’d like to see it flourish into something great.    

TP: What do you think makes the L.A. Steppin community unique?

DB: What do people say? A lot of people say it’s a young up and coming group of Steppers who like to travel and have fun and a lot of people like to come here for that reason. 

TP: And the weather.  Don’t forget the weather!

DB: Yes, the weather is wonderful.  The weather is good pretty much most of the time.  Right now it’s raining but other than that … that’s pretty much what draws people here in the first place. This is actually a good group [of Steppers].  The Inland Empire is a good group.  Good, positive, hardworking people.  They come out to have a good time and you can tell. 

TP: L. A. is really one of the more established dance communities in the nation.  One of the first major cities to develop after Detroit and Atlanta, of course.  Where would you say L.A. is skill wise compared to cities like Detroit, Atlanta, and Milwaukee?

DB: I feel that it has some growth.  It needs more growth.  Skill wise, I’ve been to some cities … I think we’re okay.  Like any community there are some things that need to be worked on but I think we’re up and coming.  It’s wonderful. 

TP: Well, I’m going to keep this short Denise.  Anything that you want to say in closing that I may have left out of forgotten? 

DB: Stay tuned for Harlem Nights, Veteran’s Day Weekend, November 7th through the 11th, 2013.  More surprises to come.

TP: Awesome!
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Tags: Interviews | Los Angeles

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