Drill team versus cheerleading versus dance team
July 25, 2018 8:37 PM   Subscribe

Every year my neighborhood parade has some drill teams. Many of them are full of young women of color. The parents seem very involved. I want to know more about this and how it differs from other groups.

Reality shows! Longform journalism! Point me in the right direction!
posted by k8t to Human Relations (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Have you seen "Bring It!"?
posted by Rob Rockets at 9:14 PM on July 25, 2018 [3 favorites]

More on Seattle drill teams here.
posted by k8t at 10:06 PM on July 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

I was still in the beginners' training class before we had to move, so I never made it as far as marching or competing. Not only could I not twirl a baton to save my life anymore, I'm sure I would actually take several lives in the process. All our group did was twirl batons and rifles, and do fancy marching formations.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:57 PM on July 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

You might also want to look into stepping as a search term.
posted by advicepig at 7:10 AM on July 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

k8t, are you in Columbia City? The parade has been cancelled this year!
posted by QuakerMel at 8:19 AM on July 26, 2018

This was in Greenwood.

A bit more here.
posted by k8t at 9:07 AM on July 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

You might also want to look into stepping as a search term.

NYT: In ‘Step,’ Finding a Language for Hopes, Fears and Dreams
posted by MonkeyToes at 9:20 AM on July 26, 2018

I don’t know of any formal literature, but the thing you’re calling Drill was called Step at my very diverse Bay Area high school. So, I agree that Step will be a useful search term.
posted by samthemander at 11:15 AM on July 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

sorry, I meant to add - we had something akin to what The Underpants Monster describes too, but it wasn’t called Drill - it was called Color Guard. While Step was primarily made up of African American students, Color Guard was not. (Our school didn’t have a lot of white kids, but I primarily remember Philipino kids and Mexican kids in Color Guard.)
posted by samthemander at 11:18 AM on July 26, 2018

I believe you're looking for Drill Team more like in this link, eh?
posted by frecklefaerie at 11:27 AM on July 26, 2018

Drill and step overlap but aren't necessarily the same. This chapter in a book about black Greek organizations talks about the origins of both of them, and it takes a whole chapter because their influences are really complex. Here's a shorter history with some pictures.

This sort of thing is adjacent to color guard in my experience; I (white suburban kid) did color guard in high school and college and we occasionally performed alongside a drill team with dancers and a drumline, which was as you describe: all kids of color with very involved parents. My high school had a dance team and a step team, but no drill team. One year in college I marched with a guard from Baltimore that had started out, long before my time, as a mostly black community organization, and became a competitive winter guard.
posted by clavicle at 1:40 PM on July 26, 2018 [4 favorites]

Yeah, I should have mentioned that my school was almost all white.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:40 PM on July 26, 2018

I want to know more about this and how it differs from other groups.

But what sort of other groups are you wondering about? Other types of drill teams? Drill teams with other age groups? Groups that aren't drill teams? Other groups that have involved parents? Other groups for young women of color? Other groups for people under 18?

For one difference, high school and junior high dance teams and drill teams don't have as broad an age range of the groups you linked in the article, because the people on those teams are attending the school with which the group is affiliated. Parents of the people in such a group might be less involved because students whose parents are less able to be involved are more likely to be able to join a school affiliated group, however that's highly dependent on the culture of parent involvement in a particular area.

For other sorts of differences, there is a huge variety of groups for children and teens that tend to have involved parents, covering pretty much any activity that is legal for children to participate in.
posted by yohko at 3:58 PM on July 26, 2018

If you are interested in other similar type groups you may want to search for Color Guard as well. Yes, there is the military version but there is also the marching band version (me in high school!) and they generally combine dance with flags, rifles, and sabers.

Winter Guard is especially fun, it is the second semester of the year and just the color guard performs a routine on a basketball court. Routines get much more intricate and involved than Field Season. Field season is the marching band season where you perform with the whole marching band on a football field (usually at halftime).
posted by magnetsphere at 5:49 PM on July 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

To clarify, I was looking for more of the cultural background aspect of this.
posted by k8t at 9:49 AM on July 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

Stepping on Up... Drill and Step in Omaha, a nicely done student project (with bibliography)

Howard University step teams drill for homecoming (WaPo)
posted by MonkeyToes at 10:57 AM on July 27, 2018

You might find knowing a bit more about the history of interest to put the cultural background in more context, here's one article, google has many more.
posted by yohko at 1:33 PM on July 28, 2018

Ooh, I just found a great article about this in Baltimore, touching on the history!
Baltimore has a long marching band history. In 1870, when freed black men were given the right to vote, the city had one of the largest parades in the country to celebrate the 15th Amendment. According to the May 20, 1870, edition of The New York Times, "There were seven full bands in the procession, beside a number of drum corps." Today, Baltimore is home to popular bands like the East Coast Westsiders and New Edition Marching Band, founded in 1985 by Anna Elizabeth Hart. Both bands have robust memberships and are known in other cities.

Sakakeeny said his research in New Orleans has shown these bands engender a tremendous amount of good in communities and create a profound sense of accomplishment. And in impoverished areas where music funding has been cut from school budgets, they play a critical educational as well as social role.
Looks like searching on Marching Bands might dig up more!
posted by frecklefaerie at 10:11 AM on August 1, 2018

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