For the sponsor of the Tates Creek High School step team, stepping skills aren't as important as finding students who need the team as much as it needs them.
Getting students like that into an extracurricular activity like step builds confidence and school pride, said David Clark. It also gives students an incentive to do their best academically.
"I check their behavior, their attendance, their grades," Clark said. "All these kids need is a little attention."
On Saturday, they definitely got it. Tates Creek hosted its 10th regional step show, featuring one hip-hop team from Lexington and 10 middle- and high-school step teams from Lexington, Louisville, Cincinnati and Jeffersonville, Ind.
One by one, teams took to the floor, strutting their stuff in seven-minute routines.
Jeffersonville High School has been performing at the exhibition for about four years, head coach Jacqueline Brown said.
"It's just been a tradition," she said. The out-of-state trip near the end of the season gives students an incentive to stay with the team.
Stepping can be a lot of work. First cousins Michelle Fee, 16, and Natasha Fee, 17, are sophomores on Tates Creek's team. The girls have been stepping since middle school.
Michelle, who wants to work as a neonatal intensive care nurse, said joining the team as freshmen helped them make friends and feel more at home.
"It's good for you to meet different people," she said. "You are new — fresh meat."
Natasha, who wants to be a stylist, designer or teacher, said she's enjoyed the attention that comes after exhibitions.
"Random people just come up to you and, like, 'Didn't I see you on TV?'" she said.
But it isn't all about the spotlight. The team practices Monday through Thursday and, if there is a weekend show, there is practice Friday, too.
The cousins also are in advanced classes, meaning juggling practice and homework.
Some days, Natasha said, "I'll be feeling like not even getting out of bed in the morning for school."
But somehow she makes it, and Clark stays after them to keep motivated.
During a last-minute practice before the show, the cousins, along with the rest of the team, clapped, stomped and slid to Whip My Hair, until Clark made an appearance. True to character, for him the bigger picture took precedence over the quality of the performance.
"Get down there! Be a host," he hollered, pointing toward the gymnasium. "Shake everybody's hand. Thank 'em for coming. Y'all can't stay up here and hide. You're the host team!"