How to majorette dance

A viral majorette dance team blazes new trail amid backlash

When a clip of the Cardinal Divas, a majorette dance team at the University of Southern California — Los Angeles, went viral last month, the group’s founder, Princess Isis Lang, said she didn’t expect her life to dramatically change. 

“Honestly, my life has been so crazy,” said Lang, 20, who is studying musical theater at USC. “Some people have come up to me and they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, are you Princess? Are you that girl that created that majorette team?’”

“I’m really blessed. And I can only really thank God and my friends and family,” she added. 

USC Cardinal Divas.Aziza Hutcherson

The clip, which has garnered over 3 million views on Twitter, has brought Lang and her teammates praise from across the country, including supportive responses from rapper Saweetie and former “Bring It!” star Dianna Williams. However, amid the celebrations and acclaim for making history by launching the first ever majorette dance team on a predominately white institution (PWI), the group has also encountered backlash on social media for exactly the same reason: bringing a traditionally Black style of dance that is associated with historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to a predominantly white institution. Some social media users have accused Lang of cultural appropriation while others have said it would have been better if she had created this team at an HBCU.

HBCU expert Joy Williamson-Lott, who is the dean of the University of Washington’s Graduate School in Seattle, said she’s not surprised by the criticism. She said that HBCUs are underfunded and some underenrolled compared to predominantly white colleges, which explains why many feel that popular HBCU traditions — which are a big appeal for incoming students — shouldn’t be at PWIs.

“They don’t have the same kinds of resources as PWIs and so what they don’t want is elements of who they are, their essence being carved off, so that they’re left with nothing — and then there’s no reason for people to go there,” Williamson-Lott said, adding that HBCUs are “fighting for their own existence.”

Although the dean questioned the online claims of cultural appropriation since the majorettes are “still Black women,” she did acknowledge that having a majorette dance team at a predominantly white school could bring about major issues like racial stereotypes.

“Before Instagram and Facebook, you had to be at the Black college to see these things, all of this happened in a Black context,” she said, adding that having this dance happen, “away from all the Black people around them in the stands could lead a white audience to view them through a stereotypical lens.” 

“When these Black women are dancing in these ways at an HBCU, it’s still sensual and charged, but people also know these Black women as students, as scientists, as sisters, as aunties, as friends, as full human people,” Williamson-Lott said. “But, when you put them in a white context … it’s with whatever interpretations they bring.” 

Lang, who has been dancing since she was a child, said she started the majorettes dance team because she wanted Black women to have a space on campus where they could express themselves freely through movement. She said that she did not see herself reflected on other dance teams on campus.

“I didn’t see any girls with curly hair, I didn’t see any dark or brown-skinned girls,” Lang said. “I knew that I would be going into a space that … I wouldn’t feel comfortable dancing in and I wouldn’t feel comfortable being my full self.” 

“This is really my way to create a space for people that are like me because I know that if I’m feeling like this, I’m most likely not the only girl that feels like this on this really large campus,” she added. 

The history of majorette-style dance teams

Starting in the 1960s, majorette dance teams became popular at HBCUs for their high energy movements that infuse jazz, West African and hip-hop dance styles. The majorette dance teams often perform alongside a marching band in glittery outfits while doing flips in the air or showcasing other gymnast moves. 

“It’s about freedom of expression, kind of letting loose and sisterhood,” Williamson-Lott said. “They’re athletes who love dance, who have often been dancing all of their lives and now they can continue to do that in college.” 

Williamson-Lott said the majorette dance lines in the 1960s shifted away from respectability politics and into an era in which Black people were able to show their whole selves. Those performances, usually held at HBCU football games and homecoming events, were an opportunity for majorette dance teams to show off their skill and even battle with rival schools. 

“So you see bands starting to play different music, including contemporary music like jazz, even now you see them doing hip-hop songs,” Williamson-Lott said. “When a Black school plays a Black school at a football game, it’s all about whose girls are bringing it.” 

She said the dancers also participate in a lot of call-and-response “with the crowd and with each other.” 

‘Why can’t she dance?’ 

Along with the criticism online, Lang has received some positive feedback from HBCU majorette dance teams. Christine Jenkins, a coach for Howard University’s Ooh La La! dance line, said she supports Lang’s efforts. 

“She is creating her own community and I am so proud of her for doing so,” Jenkins said, before adding that she hoped the Cardinal Divas were also “acknowledging the ones that came before.

Still, like many other HBCU advocates, Jenkins said she is aware of the concerns about the dance line at PWIs given the history of racism on white campuses. She said some members of Howard University’s band community feared the HBCU tradition was being displaced.

“They are very upset, especially coming from HBCUs because … it was their safe space, ‘so now you’re bringing our safe space to a space that didn’t want us to begin with,’” she said. “I had to inform my friends that this is a young girl who probably doesn’t have a lot of people who look like her? … why can’t she dance?” 

Jenkins said it’s not the responsibility for HBCUs to be “gatekeepers.”

“We want to be better than those who gatekeep their institutions … So why are we doing that to our own?” she asked. 

Another coach for the team, Princess Alintah, agreed, saying groups like the USC Cardinal Divas show that majorette dance teams are not monolithic. 

“We’re now starting to see it in different forms and shapes,” Alintah said, adding that majorette dance groups are diverse and it’s important for them to be accepted and given “the space and capacity to perform. ” 

Meanwhile, Lang said she’s not allowing the criticism to overshadow the movement she created to uplift Black girls across the country. 

“I can’t appropriate what I’ve always been a part of,” Lang said. “I’m not here to take away from culture or take it as my own. I’m here to put majorettes on an even larger platform and I want everybody to know what majorette style dancing is.” 

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SA woman overcomes hardships through majorette dance, provides outlet for youth

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Japhanie Gray, Anchor

Joe Arredondo, Photojournalist

Jennifer Galvan, Photojournalist



Tags: Majorette Dance, Whats Up South Texas, Something Good

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At one time, Haddesah Jones was very shy, but majorette dancing helped her break out of her shell

Japhanie Gray, Anchor

Joe Arredondo, Photojournalist

Jennifer Galvan, Photojournalist

Tags: Majorette Dance, Whats Up South Texas, Something Good

SAN ANTONIO – A San Antonio woman is hoping to change the lives of the youth in the Alamo City through majorette dancing. It is a historical Black college or university style of dancing that changed her life in many ways.

Haddesah Jones, 24, who is originally from Memphis, Tennessee, decided to bring her own style of the dance to San Antonio.

“They have this kind of dance in Texas,” Jones said. “The original style was with baton twirlers. It has since been tweaked to be hip-hop majorette now. It’s a lot of dance moves and a lot of stunts. It is pretty difficult because you have to be flexible.”

In March 2020, she founded the Prestigious Jewels Majorette Team for ages 7 to 18.

“Right now, we have 7, 8, and 12-year-olds,” Jones said. “They are eager. Some of them are shy but are excited to be here, which makes me happy. I am here to help them in any way I can. We do many backbends and pop-outs and death drops toe touches. It is a very athletic, fun, crazy sport.”

Jones was also a shy child growing up in a single parent household. She challenged herself though.

“I was a cheerleader at first and decided to try something new, jumped into majorette dancing, loved it and it stuck with me,” Jones said. “It brought me out of my shell. That is why I am doing it today. I want to make sure that other girls in the city can get that same feel as well.”

She said the dance made her more confident.

“I was afraid of public everything,” Jones said. “With dance, I was the tailback, so I was the person that did the extra things in the background and that forced me to be a little more outgoing. I had to be in the public eye. I didn’t like it at the time, but it helped me. It helped a lot more people speak to me and it made me a lot more comfortable.”

Her high school team was like her family.

“You get close as teammates,” Jones said. “My coach was like a mother to me. They helped push me in school. It helped me in school presentations and things like that because without the help of the team pushing me out there, I probably wouldn’t be a presentation type of person,” she laughed.

There were some deep hardships that molded Jones into the woman she is today.

“My childhood was a rough one,” Jones said. “My family had a lot of struggles. My mom worked at FedEx in Memphis and she had to work a lot to take care of us.”

She and her mother are also victims of Hurricane Elvis, which hit in 2003 when she was only 6.

“Basically, we had a big oak tree in our yard that smashed through our house,” Jones said. “It was a lot. We were affected by that and had to move home to home after that,” she said as she got emotional. “A lot of other trauma went on during that time of my life.

On top of their struggles, Jones’s mother was battling breast cancer most of her life.

“She had her first tumor when she was 22-years-old,” Jones said. “She ended up fighting a long battle with cancer. It took a toll on her. We moved here about three years ago for alternative treatments, but they gave her about a year to live. Growing up as a child in a single parent household with a parent with breast cancer that ended up being stage four was very difficult.”

Jones also suffers from ADHD and PTSD.

“The normal things people do like with regular jobs, that wouldn’t work for me,” she said. “I needed something to be able to control my ADHD and PTSD and that was dance. After treatments, I would go to dance classes to release my mind and just release myself. I would teach classes and that got my mind off everything that was going on and I could be free in the moment. I would dance the pain away. I would dance and put that emotion into my dance so that instead of holding it in and balling it up inside I am able to release it in a different manner.

Sadly, her mother passed away when she was 22, but in honor of her mother, she dances and helps others express themselves through dance as well.

“I want to be able to expand and change lives of other girls,” Jones said. “If I can go back to my hometown in Memphis and start a dance team there, that would be great.”

She said the Prestigious Jewels Majorette Team welcomes any dancer who wants to join, especially those who need an outlet in their lives.

“No matter how many obstacles are in your way, keep going because you are here for a reason to do it,” Jones said.

Below are ways to contact Jones if you’re interested in joining the team:

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About the Authors:
Japhanie Gray

Japhanie Gray joined 10 News as an anchor in March 2022.

Joe Arredondo

Joe Arredondo is a photojournalist at KSAT 12.

Residents of Kemerovo and Yekaterinburg took away the Grand Prix of the festival "Olympus of the Urals" in majoret sports and baton twirling, which took place in Zauralsky

The third interregional festival "Olympus of the Urals" again pleased with a colorful and interesting competitive program.

Sports festival of music, grace, powerful energy took place on May 28 in Zauralsky. Due to the endless rain that accompanied the whole of last Saturday, the gym of school No. 15 became the site of the festival. Mobile and cheerful contestants endured force majeure with firmness!

More than 160 athletes from five territories came to the festival. Six original teams from Kemerovo, Yekaterinburg, Chelyabinsk, Yemanzhelinsk (4), Krasnogorsk, Uvelskoe performed in nine disciplines. Winner of gold and silver medals of the European Championship (Czech Republic), winner of the XI Cup of Russia, two-time winner of the competition for percussionists "Shock Wave" (St. Petersburg), ensemble "Helikon", two-time silver medalists of the World Championship (Czech Republic), winners of the Asian Championship multiple winners of the World Dance Olympiad GradJunior and GradMajor, winner of the Friendship Cup (this is an open championship and the championship of Chelyabinsk), twice bronze winner of the Chelyabinsk Cup team "Elen", silver medalist of the XI Cup of Russia, laureate of international competitions ensemble of school No. 5 "Merry drummers", winner regional competition "Marathon of talents" "Emotion", winner of the regional championships, all-Russian championships "Battle of the Titans" and "Northern Palmyra" (St. Petersburg), cheersport team "Spark", ensemble of majorettes of the Palace of Culture. A.S. Pushkin "Constellation", winner and prize-winner of international, all-Russian and regional festivals, choreographic group of the Palace of Culture named after. IN AND. Lenin "Vivat", dance group "Dream".

They were greeted and then congratulated on their successful performances by honored guests - head of the Yemanzhelinsky district Evgeny Svetlov , chairman of the Assembly of Deputies of the Yemanzhelinsky district Ivan Yurteev , deputy of the Legislative Assembly of the Chelyabinsk region Vladimir Perezolov , head of the Zauralsk urban settlement . Special words of gratitude were addressed to Valentina Petrovna Plaksina, an honorary citizen of the district, a member of the Board of Directors of Russian Schools, who was present at the festival - she was the initiator of the creation of a team of drummers in our district on the basis of the Red Banner Fifth School.

- Dear participants of the festival, friends, invited guests, for the third time we are holding an interregional festival among drummers and majorettes "Olympus of the Urals". It is an honor and honor for us to host you in Yemanzhelinsky district. The weather has made adjustments, but I think this will not make the festival less bright and exciting, - opening the festival, in particular, the head of the municipality Evgeny Svetlov noted and wished everyone bright emotions.

Evgeniy Vladimirovich thanked Alexander Ivanov, head of the Federation of Baton Twirling and Majorette Sports of the Chelyabinsk Region and the founder of this trend in the Yemanzhelinsky District.

Krasnogorsk hosts Nadezhda Voyazitova and Alexander Zemlyanov, who also performed as a vocalist, introduced the audience to the basic concepts of majorette sport and baton twirling, with the history of the development of this movement in Russia, noting that today the geography has covered the whole country - 20 regions from Moscow to Khabarovsk - and adaptive twirling received active development.

The Yemanzhelinsky ballroom dance studio "Freestyle" and Chelyabinsk cheer-sportsmen "Elen" performed demonstration numbers.

Professional musicians from Chelyabinsk graced the event: the children's brass band "Sirius" conducted by Alexander Zhidkov and the orchestra of the main department of the Russian Guard in the Chelyabinsk region under the direction of Ivan Kuznetsov, who performed the anthem of the Russian Federation and the program of the parade-concert. During the musical break, adult orchestra members performed pop and jazz sketches of domestic and foreign composers so incendiary that they were applauded by both the audience and the contestants. We have never had such a show in Yemanzhelinsky district!

Majorettes and orchestra members share a common history. Drum majors (literally: "drum" and "senior") in the armies were called the heads of military bands. Majorettes marched sedately in front of the column, a staff (mace) was used to give signals and commands. Later, loaves, flags and pompoms appeared in the arsenal of majorettes - this is how twirling (“rotate”) was formed. Modern sports majorettes show technically complex tricks, and conductors show bright musical performance.

The festival demonstrated that in the arsenal of majorettes and drummers beautiful choreography, spectacular tricks and experiments give them a special charm and create an unforgettable impression of stylish and bright costumes. Athletes masterfully played the drums, deftly twisted, threw, rotated loaves, pompons, flags. They surprised the audience with flips, rolls, spirals... Hundreds of spectators in different cities watched what was happening thanks to the live broadcast of the festival-competition on the network, which was organized by the Global TV channel.

Summing up the results of the first half of the festival and addressing the contestants, judge Vladislav Subichev from Chelyabinsk, head of the children's variety show of drummers "Jumbo Kids" (winner of all-Russian and international competitions), noted:

- It turned out to be a real holiday! You are great fellows, you all tried, and I made some notes for myself. I wish you to continue practicing, to develop the majorette movement, practice more on the snare drums!

For almost five hours, cadets, juniors and seniors demonstrated their skills and creativity on an impromptu stage. Of course, everyone got a new experience. And the best of the best were awarded with exclusive medals and cups.

Residents of Kemerovo and Yekaterinburg won the Grand Prix of the festival "Olympus of the Urals".

The teams of the Yemanzhelinsky district were awarded in various disciplines. The cadets of the ensemble of majorettes "Constellation" became the winners in the "baton" nomination. Juniors of the exemplary choreographic group "Vivat" were also awarded gold medals. Among the soloists in their age groups, the first places were taken by Ksenia Antropova ("Constellation"), Lev Kudashov ("Merry Drummers"), Anastasia Raeva ("Vivat"). The second place was taken by Yegor Bersenev ("Merry Drummers"). Medals for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd places were earned by the "Merry Drummers" ensemble. The team of cadets "Emotion" performed in a new discipline "pompom group" and took 1st place. The youngest participant of the festival, mini-cadet Alisa Shumakova, took 2nd place in the “pompom solo” nomination.

- Alice prepared very hard when she had no strength - rehearsed with tears, approached the performance very responsibly. Learning how to catch a pom-pom at the age of 6 turned out to be a difficult task, but Alisa did her best and brought silver to her native kindergarten No. 7 and the Spark team, - said coach Ekaterina Korshunova.

– Thanks to all participants, mentors, coaches, fans. We are watched all over the country! It's great that this event took place! Thank you guys for doing such a beautiful sport, creativity. Thank you mentors, leaders for inspiring you, investing in you. Thanks to the parents who support you. New victories and new heights! - Saying goodbye to the contestants, said Evgeny Svetlov.

The event was held as part of the "Culture of a Small Motherland" project with the support of the administration of the Yemanzhelinsky district and with the participation of the local branch of the United Russia WFP. The organizers are the regional branch of the FBTM, the education department of the district administration, DDT "Kaskad", school No. 15. Sponsors - the upholstered furniture store "XXI century", LLC "Vector", the television company "GlobalTV".

Batons and pom-poms fought in Tver for the Cup of Russia

Bright costumes, drumming, incendiary numbers. For the first time in Tver, the Cup of Russia in majorette sports was held - a celebration of dance, music, grace and beauty.

The regional Palace of Culture "Proletarka" hosted the ninth national competition. The organizers were the Federation of Baton Twirling and Majorettes of Russia and the Committee for Cultural Affairs of the Tver Region. And the Cup was brought to Tver by the exemplary ensemble "Biliv" from the village of Bely Gorodok, Kimrsky district.

“Exactly one year ago we won the main prize of the national tournament at home and received the right to host competitions again,” the head of Biliv and the founder of majorette sports in the Tver region told Elena Osmolovskaya . – But this time we decided to expand the geography and hold the Cup of the country in the capital of the region.

About 200 girls and boys from Ufa, Podolsk, Dmitrov, Tver, Kimr and the Kimrsky region decorated Saturday, which was frowning with rain, with rich colors of ceremonial uniforms, original costumes and their bewitching craftsmanship.

- For various reasons, not all teams were able to come to Tver. But teams from the Kimrsky district and Kimr, Ufa and Podolsk today are among the recognized leaders in majorette sports in Russia. They will perform in different disciplines - and the audience will definitely remember the holiday, - said the chairman of the board of the National Federation of Baton Twirling and Majorettes Irina Voitsekhovskaya .

In the Cup program, both solo performers and duets, groups, and teams demonstrated their skills in handling drumsticks, batons (batons), pompoms and flags, and, of course, with their body. Competitions were held in four age groups: from 4 to 7 years old (mini-cadets), from 7 to 11 years old (cadets), from 12 to 14 years old (juniors) and from 15 years and older (seniors).

One of the main stars of the tournament was 16-year-old Daniil Pshenichny from Bely Gorodok is a winner of all-Russian and international majorette tournaments and a finalist of the European Baton Twirling Championship.

- A baton is a rod with two tips, which is juggled during a performance, demonstrating manual dexterity and excellent coordination. And twirling comes from the English word “twirl” (twirl, twist), – Daniel explained. - During the number, according to the rules, the loaf must be in motion all the time. Actually it is very difficult. We train for several hours six days a week.

According to Daniil, he came to majorette sport five years ago from a circus circle. Three years ago, I began to master the twirling loaf. This art attracted him with its beauty and dexterity and universalism. Here you need to be a gymnast, acrobat, dancer and juggler at the same time. And it is also necessary to create a spectacular show that would take your breath away.

- Recently, the team of girls of the Biliv ensemble and Daniil Pshenichny represented our country for the first time at the European Baton Twirling Championship in Croatia and performed very successfully. The debutants made it to three finals, frightening the Europeans with the suddenly increased competition in the fight for prizes, - Irina Voitsekhovskaya smiled.

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