USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘dance team’
Customs
Folk Beliefs
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Prayer Before Performance

“The Rangerette Prayer was a very special prayer to our team, and we said it before every performance on the football field or dance competition or wherever we were or whatever we were about to do. We would get in a circle, and um cross our arms, right over left, and hold each other’s hands with one foot pointing toward the middle, facing the middle. Um and basically the um seniors and juniors would sing like uh the first part of the song and have the freshmen and sophomores imitate the second part, and essentially we had to learn it that way, we learned the song from the seniors and juniors. And the prayer was the Lord’s prayer and we sang it in a more dragged out kind of tone, and we were never really taught the tune, we just sort of had to pick it up from the juniors and seniors. We also had like a special ending that was, “In the name of the Father who created us, the spirit who sanctified us, and the son who redeemed us,” or something like that and then we all said Amen. It was kind of funny because the ending we all did not know very well because the seniors and juniors said it so quickly that we didn’t even really know what we were saying until much later.”

 

Informant: The informant is a nineteen-year-old college freshman from Dallas, Texas. While in high school, she was a member of the Jesuit Rangerettes Dance and Drill Team. She attended the all-girls Catholic high-school, Ursuline Academy of Dallas, the sister school of Jesuit Dallas (an all-boys Catholic school). She began dancing when she was three, performing ballet, jazz, and lyrical styles of dance, which eventually led her to the high-school drill team. She currently attends Oklahoma State University.

 

Analysis:

The Rangerettes Dance and Drill Team is an extracurricular activity unique to Texas and a few other southern states. The team performs at the half-time of football games on Friday nights, as well as at basketball, soccer, and rugby games. They wear leotards with fringe skirts, fringe and sequin overlays, gauntlets, a belt, white cowgirl boots, and sequined cow-boy hats. The season does not end with football season; rather, the team continues to perform at Jesuit events and participates in two dance competitions in the spring. Because this team is a year-long commitment, there are many extenuating traditions that serve to unify and “bond” the members of the team, in order to foster a spirit of sisterhood.

I think that this practice exemplifies the bonds that the members of the Rangerettes are supposed to have. Because members of the team attend an all-girls Catholic school, there is an emphasis upon prayer. By holding hands in a circle and singing a prayer, the bonds of the team are exhibited through this practice. The holding hands in a circle solidifies the bonds that hold a team together, and also represent the sisterhood that is supposed to be in place. A team cannot succeed if they are not unified, and by demonstrating their unity before a performance, they are striving to succeed in their performance. Also, if this ritual is not practiced before a performance, there is a possibility of failure or bad luck when the team performs. This once again reinforces the need for the team to be unified as they are dancing as one team and must be on count.

In addition, the manner in which the team members learn the prayer is representative of the way in which the team works. The older, veteran members, always juniors and seniors begin the prayer. This demonstrates their “seniority” and their authority on the team. They have been there before, and understand the importance of this ritual, and are in turn passing it on to the next generation of team members. As the younger, new members, always freshmen and sophomores, echo the seniors and juniors, they are reflecting their need to learn from the older members in order to become fully part of the team so that they might continue to pass down this tradition over the years. It is also interesting how the juniors and seniors never formally taught the prayer, but rather expected the new members to simply pick it up.

This may not be unique to simply the prayer ritual on this team, but could also extend to the rest of the ways in which the new members are expected to become acclimated to the team. The veteran members expect the new members to simply “pick up” what they already know, without overtly telling them. This could be concordant with rituals that decide who is “in” and who is “out” when it comes to members of the team, as well as the attitudes that older members generally had toward the new members. The idea that the older members were wiser due to their experience might have been carried out not just through this prayer ritual, but through other practices on the team as well.

Customs
Humor
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Kidnapping the New Members

“So basically when we were sophomores, we um started this thing, like it was our coach’s idea, and she thought it would be fun for the veteran members, who had been on the team at least a year, to kidnap the new members right before football season started. And this was kind of like an opportunity for the veteran members to have a lot of fun with sneaking into the house and scaring the new members and forcing them to put on different parts of the uniform, like as a joke, over their pajamas, or like blindfold them sometimes, but it was all ok with the parents and everything. We emailed them and they knew about it and let us in without waking up the new members so we would surprise them. But it wasn’t too mean because we took them to breakfast afterwards so it was kind of humiliating for the new members but like fun at the same time.”

 

Informant: The informant is a nineteen-year-old college freshman from Dallas, Texas. While in high school, she was a member of the Jesuit Rangerettes Dance and Drill Team. She attended the all-girls Catholic high-school, Ursuline Academy of Dallas, the sister school of Jesuit Dallas (an all-boys Catholic school). She began dancing when she was three, performing ballet, jazz, and lyrical styles of dance, which eventually led her to the high-school drill team. She currently attends Oklahoma State University.

 

Analysis:

 

The Rangerettes Dance and Drill Team is an extracurricular activity unique to Texas and a few other southern states. The team performs at the half-time of football games on Friday nights, as well as at basketball, soccer, and rugby games. They wear leotards with fringe skirts, fringe and sequin overlays, gauntlets, a belt, white cowgirl boots, and sequined cow-boy hats. The season does not end with football season; rather, the team continues to perform at Jesuit events and participates in two dance competitions in the spring. Because this team is a year-long commitment, there are many extenuating traditions that serve to unify and “bond” the members of the team, in order to foster a spirit of sisterhood.

I believe that this tradition is an important part of the initiation process. Within most teams and organizations there is an initiation process that can be humiliating at times, but the purpose is to essentially assert the dominance of those who have more experience, while also inducting the new members into the group. Because the kidnapping of the freshmen was an event that was meant to frighten the freshmen in a mild manner, it was carried out with gusto by the veteran members. I believe that this was their opportunity to not only be assertive of their prowess as veteran members, but to also remind the sometimes insubordinate new members of who was in charge. While this task was carried in good fun, it had a distinct message of who was in charge.

However, it also promoted a bonding experience for the team. Although the initial element of scaring the freshmen may demonstrate the apparent division in the team between new members and veterans, the ending of the ritual is a team breakfast. When the blindfolds are removed, and the new members are allowed to orient themselves with where they are, they are allowed to realize that the practice took place in good faith. The reconciliation with the team at breakfast, which culminates with the veteran members buying the breakfast for the new members, demonstrates the finality of the initiation process. The timing of this event also reinforces this as well, as it is carried out at the beginning of football season. This means that the practice and training of the new members is over, and that they will be able to finally perform as true team members, while still recognizing the authority of the veterans.

 

Customs
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Rangerette Big-Sis/Little-Sis Reveal

“So big sis/little sis reveal was a really exciting time during rangerettes because that is when you got like a special buddy who was a junior or a senior um if you were like an incoming freshman or a brand new sophomore and basically your big sis is what we called it and that is just someone who you can text with questions, someone who is a mentor, they teach you about rangerettes, they just help you out, and the reveal is really exciting because the freshmen would line up facing the juniors and a couple seniors who made us a hat box because we wore cowgirl hats on the field when we performed and they would like I guess each senior one by one would step up and walk down the line of freshmen and slow down to trick you and stop at the girl who was their little sis and it was very fun.”

 

Informant: The informant is a nineteen-year-old college freshman from Dallas, Texas. While in high school, she was a member of the Jesuit Rangerettes Dance and Drill Team. She attended the all-girls Catholic high-school, Ursuline Academy of Dallas, the sister school of Jesuit Dallas (an all-boys Catholic school). She began dancing when she was three, performing ballet, jazz, and lyrical styles of dance, which eventually led her to the high-school drill team. She currently attends Oklahoma State University.

 

Analysis:

I believe that this tradition is significant because it reveals the emphasis of sisterhood on a drill team. The Rangerettes Dance and Drill Team is an extracurricular activity unique to Texas and a few other southern states. The team performs at the half-time of football games on Friday nights, as well as at basketball, soccer, and rugby games. They wear leotards with fringe skirts, fringe and sequin overlays, gauntlets, a belt, white cowgirl boots, and sequined cow-boy hats. The season does not end with football season; rather, the team continues to perform at Jesuit events and participates in two dance competitions in the spring. Because this team is a year-long commitment, there are many extenuating traditions that serve to unify and “bond” the members of the team, in order to foster a spirit of sisterhood.

Because sisterhood is so essential to a team that is committed to working very hard year-round, the Big-Sis/Little-Sis tradition is especially important. I think the relationship between a big sister and a little sister is one of learning, motivating, and solidarity. Knowing that you have a “big-sis” on the team could give a new member the confidence that they need to effectively participate on the team. They have someone they can go to for advice and help if they ever have any questions. Their big-sis should be an approachable member of the team, and this practice also is a strategic way to foster relationships between older (and therefore more stand-offish) members of the team, and younger members of the team.

I think the practice of lining up the freshmen to surprise them with their big-sis emphasizes the importance of this tradition, as well as the nervousness that surrounds the situation. As new members trying to find a place on the team, as well as make new friends, the big-sis that they are assigned to could make a very significant impact upon how they feel as a member of the team. The drill team seems to place great emphasis on team bonding, so this is an important time. This nervousness and apprehension about who their big-sis is almost being mocked by the big sisters as they walk up and down the line trying to “trick” the new members about who their big–sis is.

In addition, the gift of the hatbox is especially significant in this tradition. Because the drill team members wear sequined cowgirl hats, which some consider the most important part of the uniform, your hatbox is going to be an essential component during one’s time on the drill team. To have it decorated specifically for a new member is especially noteworthy because it requires the big-sis to attempt to discover the personality of her little-sis so that she might make a hatbox that suits her, and it gives the little-sis a keepsake and symbol of her time on Rangerettes. These boxes are usually only big enough to fit the hat, but they are carried everywhere with the team. They serve both as protection for the hat, as well as decoration as they hold the symbolism of what it is to be a member of the drill team.

Game
Holidays
Humor
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Rangerette White Elephant

“Ok so the Rangerette Christmas tradition of the White Elephant was when every single member came with a silly gift, and we put them all in the middle, and one by one, we grabbed a gift, opened it up, and if you didn’t like the gift that you got, then you could like switch with somebody. It was pretty fun. So there was this picture that has been going around for I’d say about six years, six plus years. And it’s a very hideous picture of this one girl that was on the team and it was framed and she was the captain of the team and so you are pretty unlucky if you get that picture and the next year you bring it back so that way it stays in the circle, the rotation.”

 

Informant: The informant is a nineteen-year-old college freshman from Dallas, Texas. While in high school, she was a member of the Jesuit Rangerettes Dance and Drill Team. She attended the all-girls Catholic high-school, Ursuline Academy of Dallas, the sister school of Jesuit Dallas (an all-boys Catholic school). She began dancing when she was three, performing ballet, jazz, and lyrical styles of dance, which eventually led her to the high-school drill team. She currently attends Oklahoma State University.

 

Analysis:

The Rangerettes Dance and Drill Team is an extracurricular activity unique to Texas and a few other southern states. The team performs at the half-time of football games on Friday nights, as well as at basketball, soccer, and rugby games. They wear leotards with fringe skirts, fringe and sequin overlays, gauntlets, a belt, white cowgirl boots, and sequined cow-boy hats. The season does not end with football season; rather, the team continues to perform at Jesuit events and participates in two dance competitions in the spring. Because this team is a year-long commitment, there are many extenuating traditions that serve to unify and “bond” the members of the team, in order to foster a spirit of sisterhood.

Because of its association with Catholic schools, the team celebrates the Catholic holidays. Therefore, they have embraced the White Elephant, a game that is practiced at many Christmas gatherings in the US, and embedded it with their own tradition. Sitting in a circle with everyone on the team is a significant bonding factor, as no one is left out of the festivities. The picture of the captain may be unique because there are several stories surrounding the girl in the picture about how disliked she was because of her harsh manner of running the team.

The picture itself makes the captain look like a mix-between a clown and the Joker, which I believe represents the distaste the team had for this specific captain. I think this is an exhibition of the dynamics of a team. There may be one girl who is in charge, and she may be very talented in her own right, thereby expecting more from the team. This expectation may be exemplified by her harsh policies, therefore breeding contempt amongst the team. When the team does not like their captain, they are likely to come up with something like this picture as a way of bringing her back down to their level.

In addition, the captain is always a senior, but the other seniors on the team may not like taking orders or instruction from a girl who is their age. If this picture was first brought about by the seniors, then it would once again exhibit the desire to belittle the captain in order that she might remember that she is no better than the rest of the seniors, despite her rank.

The tradition of passing this picture around as giving someone bad luck is what I believe to be symbolic of the fragile threads of kinship that hold a team together. What may unite the team could be their dislike of the captain, and by randomizing who is going to receive the picture, and therefore “bad luck,” there is a reinforcement of the equality amongst team members. It is also something for all of the team members to look forward to as they wonder who is going to receive the picture the next year.

Customs
general
Kinesthetic

Dance Shakeout

This is a ritual performed by my informant’s dance team prior to every performance. The team would stand in a circle and the team captain would select a number, generally 10 or 15. The girls would start to shake their right hand in the air at the wrist, counting up from one to the number previously selected by the captain. Once they had shaken that hand that many times, they would switch to the left hand and repeat the process. Then the right foot, then the left. Then they would return to the right hand and shake that one fewer times than the previous shake, and the ritual would continue on. Each round would be counted slightly louder than the previous. When it got down to where you only shook every hand and foot once, all of the girls would either do a pre-decided cheer or simply jump up and down yelling to prepare them for their performance, and then go out onstage.

This is a very common warmup exercise in many performing arts; it is described in the book Acting Antics: A Theatrical Approach to Teaching Social Understanding to Kids and Teens with Asperger’s Syndrome (29), and was also mentioned to me by another informant from Georgia before her dance competitions. It’s important because it loosens the muscles after stretching them and honing focus, and it is done together in a circle to encourage the connection between the performers before they go onstage. It increases in volume to either release some of the tension or egg it on, throwing into a constructive use. The cheer or scream at the end fosters team unity and spirit, and prepares the team to go out and perform.

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