“Now that I’m in this part of my life, recovering from cancer, stepping seems like a perfect thing to do,” says Miller. “I’m discovering my body and feeling all the muscles awakening."
Steppin’ is a type of partner dance that hails from Chicago. The form is accompanied by old-school R&B and is popular among African-American communities. “Steppin' is everywhere, in Southern California, Texas, Georgia and all over the Bay,” says Miller. “I want to be ready to go to all of these steppin' events. They’re just everywhere.”
Listen to Miller talk about how steppin' helped her and her daughter recover from cancer:
In 2014, Miller's daughter called to tell her she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer. “I immediately flew back out to California to take care of her," Miller says. Then, six months later, Miller herself was diagnosed with breast cancer. "My daughter went from patient to caretaker and I went from caretaker to patient," Miller says. "We both became each other’s caretaker."
Watch Mitzi Mock's video for KQED Arts about the history, basics and pleasure of steppin':
Bouncing back from cancer
Miller ended her chemotherapy treatment in May 2015. But the treatment gave her memory loss and left her physically depleted. Her therapist recommended a regimen of weight bearing exercise, like walking. But Miller came up with another idea. "I thought, steppin' can take the place of walking!" Miller says. “Sometimes I’m tired and the fatigue level is very high. But because the stepping is so fun, I just don’t want to stop.”
Miller and her daughter joined the steppin' class together. Currently, her daughter is taking a break from the class to act in a play, but she still dances in the living room with her mom to remember the steps.
Few people in Miller's steppin' class know about her condition. “I’m so happy I joined the steppin’ class," Miller says. "Getting into steppin' has opened my world up to a whole new family. Everyone is so welcoming and patient, even though they don’t know my story."