Baton-twirling majorettes are a thing of the past at most high schools; however, North Rowan High School is bringing them back with the Dazzling Emeralds dance team.
The Emeralds, formed last school year, perform at football games, in parades and at competitions. They are the school's first dance team since 1986.
“Bands have pretty much depleted the auxiliary except for maybe a color guard,” said Krystal Stukes, the Emeralds' coach.
Promoting school spirit and teaching students to dance aren't the only purposes of the Dazzling Emeralds. The team is key to the Communities in Schools program at North Rowan High School.
Communities in Schools is a behavior intervention program that focuses on helping public school students graduate.
Stukes also serves as the Communities in Schools site coordinator for North Rowan. She identifies at-risk students, builds relationships with them and coordinates community volunteers.
The team is open to female and male students at North Rowan High School who are involved in the Communities in Schools program. This year, the team is comprised of 11 girls who are ninth- through 11th-graders.
Being a member of the Dazzling Emeralds takes a serious amount of commitment.
“They practice a lot,” Stukes said.
The Dazzling Emeralds practice two hours a day Monday through Thursday following a mandatory study hall. They perform at football and varsity boys basketball games and could potentially perform some varsity girls basketball games later this year.
The team learns ballet, jazz, lyrical dance and baton twirling basics. They choose their performance style based on the audience, according to Stukes.
“They're very, very versatile,” she said.
Each practice begins with a general fitness workout. The dancers run, stretch and do pushups and crunches. Then, the students practice ballet to work on their technique. They also practice dancing, baton throwing and performance routines
Only one girl on the team has any formal dance training outside of Dazzling Emerald practices.
Auditions for the team take place each spring. Hopeful members learn a jazz routine and execute different techniques during the process.
If selected, dancers are expected to attend a monthlong boot camp during the summer. They practice eight hours a day for an entire month, focusing on strength, endurance, flexibility and dance skills.
Stukes said the Dazzling Emeralds are held to high standards off the dance floor as well.
“From behavior to academics, we look at all that,” she said.
The dancers are expected to have exemplary conduct. Coaches periodically check with teachers to make sure each student has exceptional behavior.
Athletes at North Rowan are required to maintain a 2.0 grade point average, but the Dazzling Emeralds must maintain at least a 2.5 GPA to continue performing with the team.
Last semester, every student received a 3.0 GPA or higher.
In addition, team captains are required to complete a leadership workshop with Stukes, where they focus on communication, presentation and self-control.
“It's all about working with others,” team captain, Ebony Stockton said.
Her co-captain, Jayla Krider, said that learning to balance themselves is hard to learn to balance yourself.
The Dazzling Emeralds competed Dec. 7 against teams from the Charlotte area and throughout South Carolina in the Fever Production Cheer and Dance competition in Fort Mill, S.C. They competed against “at least 10 routines,” Stukes said.
The team was named the regional winner, won first place in the high school senior dance division and were the overall dance champions. The Dazzling Emeralds also took home the director's choice award, which means “they were the stand-out team that stood out to the judges on and off the floor,” according to Stukes.
Although the team didn't twirl batons at the competition in Fort Mill, they will be dancing and twirling at an all-day cheer and dance competition in Concord on Feb. 1.
The Dazzling Emeralds twirled in Livingstone College's homecoming parade and won the best overall parade entry against bands and drill teams.
After the parade, the girls got to tour Livingstone's campus.
Stockton and Krider said the parade was the first parade for the Dazzling Emeralds, as well as for many of the dancers.
“That was a big deal for us. It was a lot of fun,” Stockton said.
The Dazzling Emeralds will also be performing in Salisbury's Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations Sat., Jan. 18. The majorettes will march in the parade at 11 a.m. and dance in post-parade festivities, which run from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m., at the Miller Parks and Recreation Center.
Stukes isn't new to dancing and baton twirling. She was a majorette on N.C. Agricultural and Technical University's “Golden Delights” dance team when she was in college.
Her goal is to teach her dancers leadership skills, perseverance and to be scholars as well.
“You have to stand out on your own to lead. Don't blend in with the crowd,” she tells the Dazzling Emeralds.
She says her dancers are really close knit and that the team is a safe haven.
The Dazzling Emeralds give back to the community by mentoring young girls through the Dazzlette Dance Diva Program and the DancCIS program at Overton Elementary School. The Dazzlettes get to perform with the Dazzling Emeralds at either a football or a basketball game.
“Some parents can't afford to send their kids to a professional studio,” Stukes said.
The Dazzling Emeralds teach both groups good posture, basic dance skills and discipline, according to Stockton and Krider.
We teach them “all the things you basically need to know,” Stockton said.
“It gives little girls something to look up to,” said Krider.