The Central Virginian

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Learning to be a majorette

Posted on Wednesday, September 4, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Melissa Sanford teaches Tabatha Byiers, 11, how to position her fingers on the baton.

Melissa Sanford teaches Tabatha Byiers, 11, how to position her fingers on the baton.

Youth in Louisa County have a new offering to choose from among the classes being taught through Louisa County Parks and Recreation this fall.  One of them is beginner baton twirling taught by Melissa Sanford.

Sanford, can twirl a baton in both hands, throw it high into the air, turn around and still catch it and continue the twirling action, making it all look so easy—but in truth,  it’s not.

Sanford has been twirling since she was a young girl.

“I was always in dance, ballet and tap,” Sanford said, now 43.
I really liked doing twirling.”

Today, Sanford, who is also a real estate agent with Valere Real Estate at Lake Anna, finds twirling to be a kind of cathartic. When she’s stressed or deep in concentration, her hand reaches for the baton and she begins twirling.

“It’s a lot of fun,” she said.  “Everybody likes to be part of a group or team.”

Using professional weighted batons, Sanford will teach youth between the ages of 10 and 18  the six key steps of twirling including verticals, horizontals, rap and roll, fingers, thump pause and form.

She hopes to have her group twirling and strutting and parade ready in time for the Louisa Christmas Parade on Saturday, Dec. 7.  Sanford is already counting down the 12 weeks she has to prepare her students before the parade.

Tabatha Byiers, 11, was the first student to sign up for the class and was at the gym recently practicing in advance of the class starting.

“I wanted to try to something different,” said Byiers, adding that it made her “pretty happy” to be the first girl to sign up.

“It’s great and little girls can teach their children,” said Sanford.  “It’s truly a skill and takes a lot of practice. It takes repetition.”

Sanford will teach beginning baton twirling on Wednesday evenings at the Betty J. Queen Intergenerational Center from 6 until 7 p.m. beginning Sept. 18.

Students will need to be measured for their baton on Monday, Sept.  9 from 6 until 8 p.m. at the center. The cost to purchase a baton for the class will be under $15, according to Sanford.

Keeping young people active these days is important to Sanford, who believes it’s important for them to get outside the comfort of their home, participate in an activity and meet friends. Learning a new skill is an added bonus.