It’s pep rally day at Lincoln Southeast High School (LSE) and every square inch of the school is flooded with conversations, excitement and Knight pride, students eventually find themselves seated at the prasche gym waiting to turn their school spirit back on. As the cheerleaders and dancers leave their mark, a group of passionate, energized and diverse students enter the stage in a unique manner: stepping.
LSE junior Kelly Pinto is stepping into his third year of belonging on an upbeat spirit team known as Step Chain. For Pinto, this journey began when he was an eighth-grader.
“In eighth grade, I saw a step team performance and all I could think was, ‘I can do that,’” Pinto said. “They seemed like a fun group, and I saw myself in the diversity.”
Pinto, now much older, holds the Choreography Captain role for the team.
“I run practices, create a majority of the steps we perform, and help choreography groups create other steps,” Pinto said.
Choreography, along with many other aspects, plays a huge role in what Step Chain is about. Coming up with brand new, never-before-seen choreography may seem impossible in today’s hyper-connected world, but for Pinto, he manages to not overcomplicate his vision.
“A step can start with any idea or concept. If I have an idea for a really gnarly partner part, I just try to build off of it. If a song gives me an idea, I’ll start by making something, [too],” Pinto said. “It’s kind of like writing an essay.”
In comparison to his first year being on the team, Pinto believes that the strong creativity the team holds has allowed them to produce more choreographies this year.
“My freshman year, we made around eight different steps. This year, we’re already on our third [step], and it’s only September.” Pinto said.
Aside from all of the exciting steps, Pinto believes that Step Chain values something deeper that makes Southeast’s team stick out from the rest.
“I think the existence of Step Chain at Southeast makes it unique alone. We celebrate diversity and honor the culture behind stepping as an art form,” Pinto said.
Although high school may seem a bit more stressful for many when extracurricular activities are added, Pinto still remains passionate and excited about the team he is a part of.
“I’m motivated to stay on step because it provides an outlet for my creativity,” Pinto said. “My favorite part about it is being able to have a part of my day where I’m surrounded by open-minded individuals who are all present to come together and be the best team we can be.”
To any future steppers, Pinto believes that anyone is capable of being on the team, even if there hasn’t been any past experience.
“If you’re wanting to try out for step, the best advice I can give is to just do it. Stepping looks a little intimidating at first, but once you get the hang of it, you become a stepping fool,” Pinto said.
Overall, Pinto’s experience on Step Chain has been filled with energy, creativity, culture and great people. Even though Pinto graduates in the May of 2023, Step Chain will always hold a special place in his heart.
“After graduation, I’ll never underestimate my creative abilities,” Pinto said. “I’ll carry over some lessons I learned about what it means to be a leader and how to support a group.”