I think both of the posts by Janet and Ariadne are interesting and well written.
I started teaching step in early 1992 when it was very new. We stepped slow, about 122bpm, simple repetitive movements, and we used 2 risers. The benefits that were touted by Reebok University (which I attended once) and Exersafety (my step certification – entity has since folded) were that, compared to hi/lo and cardio dance, the heart rate response was more predictable and more consistent.
And then somewhere around the late 1990’s, things went crazy for a while. The choreography got more complex and the music got faster. But the step height didn’t go down right away! Eventually, it felt like step split into two separate categories, “athletic” step at 130bpm or less, and “dance” step with lower steps and faster music.
I’m more on the “athletic” end of the spectrum, and continued to teach step until 2011 in the 130bpm range. At that speed and with my style, I did lose one class because I replaced a dancy instructor who taught well over 150bpm, and members hated my style. So I sympathize completely with the instructors who say if they step slowly, no one will come to their class. I’ve been there! But at the end of the day, I am responsible for the safety of my class. I can’t control how fast other instructors step, or whether they do contraindicated moves, or how they cue. All I can do is know where my personal “lines in the sand” are and stick with them.
The dance step that I see around my area is about 130 – 135bpm. The dance step I see on youtube, much faster than that.
I am really excited to see what Zumba Step brings to the step format! I got my license March 1 and have been teaching it for 3 weeks. Since Zumba, it is a dance format that uses the step. But another tenet of Zumba is the simplicity of the movement – easy to learn. I think that a lot of the people who felt intimidated by the complicated step classes that evolved in recent years might tip-toe in and try a Zumba Step class. The step platforms are low. There are moves both on and off the floor, all simple to learn. It’s a fun mix of dance and step, without feeling like you have to have a PhD in step choreo to walk in the door.