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These Louisa divas are determined

Posted on Tuesday, April 16, 2019 at 5:00 am

Lanayah Dean practiced with fellow members of Divas of Destruction last week. The hip hop majorette group recently opened a studio in the town of Mineral.

Sierra Dean calls her group of dancers the Divas of Destruction, and adds the word “danger” on their shirts for good measure.

She means that the young women she trains believe they are important, and won’t hesitate to let their audience know.

“Someone asked me, ‘Are you proud of the word destruction?’” Dean said last week at her studio in the town of Mineral. “It’s not what you think it is. It’s how the girls execute the moves, how they perform.”

The Divas are hip hop majorette dancers, performing a style popularized in recent years through the cable television show Bring It! Dean started training girls in hip-hop dance four years ago, but transitioned recently to the hip hop majorette style to encourage them to “show more of their flexibility.” She said hip hop majorette entails more “tricks, splits and cartwheels.”

“Hip hop majorette is just a deeper expression of dancing,” she said. “When we went to competitions, we started to see girls doing it differently than we were, and winning. That was what the crowd wanted to see.”

But some dancers, including some of the Divas’ competitors around Virginia, take that flexibility a bit too far for some people’s taste.

“If you were to see what hip hop majorette dancing really is, we are the church edition,” Dean said.

The Divas have performed in numerous parades in Louisa and at high school football and basketball games. After their last show, at halftime of the Jan. 25 varsity boys’ basketball game, Dean said Louisa County High School Principal Lee Downey and Athletic Director George Stanley told her they had gotten a few complaints. Some audience members thought the girls’ dancing was sexually suggestive.

“We kept it classy, professional and age-appropriate,” Dean said. “But Louisa does not know about hip hop majorette dancing, so they are confined to what they see … I don’t think it’s any different from what they do at school dances. I think people are really noticing us, but they’re like, ‘Hey, this is something different from what I’m used to.’”

The Divas are diverse in their ages—seven to 18—and have a range of sizes and races. Dean insists any girl is welcome to join her group, pointing to members who have competed just weeks after joining with no experience.

“They can’t go out and be a cheerleader,” she said. “The first thing a person’s going to say, is, ‘I need you to execute these moves to be a cheerleader.’ In track, they’ll say, ‘I need you to run this amount of meters. If you can’t, I’m going to cut you.’ I don’t look at that. Whether they can or can’t dance, whether they’re shy or not, I give them that opportunity.”

Dean was a cheerleader as a youth in Washington, D.C. A few years after she moved to Louisa, she became a cheer coach at the Betty J. Queen Intergenerational Center, then transformed the team into a dance group.

(Article by David Holtzman)

This is a partial article. Read the full story in The Central Virginian’s April 11, 2019 issue.

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