In this article, we twist and twirl through everything majorette. Things like what makes a great majorette dance, core moves, how to get started as a majorette and how to join or form a dance team.
So without further ado, let’s kick-on…
What is a majorette?
Simple question you’d think but actually there’s so much variation out there. We thought it might help to go back to this definition from the Cambridge English Dictionary:
What is a majorette?
a young woman or girl who wears a uniform and makes a pattern of movements with a baton (= stick) by turning it and throwing it into the air, as part of a group of girls who do this or as the leader of a musical group
Today, there are many styles of majorettes, as this type of dance has evolved. Many for instance will regularly not have batons, in performances for example, but we’ll dig into that later.
Majorette Characteristics, Moves and Techniques
Majorette dancing has real flair.
Often the choreography is weaving a mixture of sharp synchronized moves, stunts and work with props (usually batons, flags and pom poms), to a background of upbeat music and bright outfits. Pulling this off takes extensive team training.
Marching & ‘high stepping’
Often accompanying marching bands during parades, majorettes entertain the crowds. So marching techniques are a cornerstone of many majorette performances.
The exact style of majorette marching followed rally depends on the style or origin of the routine. Generally, across all styles, the majorette will dancers maintain a solid upright posture. Each step will typically be to a consistent marching really emphasising the rhythm and co-ordination of the group, embellished by fast, energetic high kicks.
In this video AbbyTwirls provides an overview of a marching style and how to learn majorette marching – syncing leg and baton timing.
As with marching, baton twirling can consist of lots of moves including:
- Baton spins
- Baton throws
- Finger twirls
- Palm spins
Then you can add twirls, additional batons, juggling and even use fire batons, like this great fire baton routine.
In this video, you can learn a basic baton spin exercise to get started.
HBCU Style Moves
An exciting, versatile style of from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the United States, with a fresh take on majorette routines. A couple of the more common moves:
A high-stepping, energetic style set that utilizes call and response between dancers. This was made popular by the Jackson State University Prancing J-Settes. ‘Bucking’ is a signature J-setting move. These are powerful body and arm thrusts. It may be accompanies by J-Settes marching techniques known as the ‘J-Sette Walk’ ‘Salt and Pepper’ or ‘Tip Toe’ to name but a few.
Port de bras:
Another but more graceful arm movements. This time made famous in majorettes by the Southern University Dancing Dolls.
History of Majorette Dance
Majorettes have been around even before 1800. Originally known as Tanzmariechen (translating as ‘Dance Marys’) in German or Dansmarietjes in Dutch.
Originally the Tanzmariechen were a group of ‘camp followers’ of the large German army, who would provide goods and services for the soldiers. This increasingly became more regulated over time but the wives of the soldiers did create entertainment for the soldiers. This included a parody of the battling forces, dressed in male, military attire. This video gives a more modern take on these traditions but keeps a taste of the military influences.
The 1900’s Europe:
With the increase of dance styles such as ballet and input of dance groups such as the revue girls and the Tiller girls the parades and postwar carnivals of the Tanzmariechen evolved. These dance troops had costumers closer to those we associate with majorettes today. There was more emphasis on the performance, femininity and athleticism than the parody the Tanzmariechen started with, and is still key to German and European carnivals today.
Majorettes in the USA:
Today, much of the world associates ‘Majorettes’ more instinctively to American parades and sports shows. In the 1960s, young majorettes and dance troupes in America began to embellish the majorette performances with their own culture and styles.
As an interesting side note on majorette dance history, we also came across this really interesting guide from 1953, a University thesis capturing many of the core majorette techniques and detailing how to complete each. Worth a little look if you’re curious and have a few minutes.
A style of majorettes developed with the performance art of historically black colleges (HBCUs), blending in elements of gymnastics, jazz, hip-hop and African dance.
Majorettes continued to front marching bands but came instrumental to representing their colleges, universities and sports teams, similar to cheerleading squads.
- Southern University (featured in Beyoncé’s 2018 Coachella performance )
- Alcorn State University (incorporating elements of jazz-ballet and hip-hop dance)
- The Dancing Dolls of Jackson, Mississippi (covered in the TV series “Bring It!” and known for their fierce call-out dance battles)
It is from this style that Tik-Tok dance challenges have brought mass attention to majorettes more recently, with challenges like the ‘No love challenge’, ‘let it whip challenge’ and ‘her way challenge’.
Do boys and men majorette dance?
Traditionally majorettes has been for girls and women but that could be slowly changing. A US show about a group of men ‘The Prancing Elites’, who pursue their love of majorette dance helped to highlight the issue. Today, it’s also much easier to find groups including boys into their majorettes. Eventually this may feed the higher tier groups and championships to a greater extent. I you love dance, we say go for it!
How do you become a majorette dancer?
To become a majorette dancer:
1. Give it a try: As we’ve seen in this article, in todays world of YouTube and online dance classes you don’t even need to have joined a majorette group to know if it’s something that appeals and to get the basics down. So test out those dance moves, marches and baton twirls.
2. Join a majorette team: It’s a group performance, so if you’re serious about becoming a majorette dancer, have a look what groups are near you. Go along and try them out.
3. Attend competitions and workshops. Like all sports, there our competitions right up to world championships for majorettes. Participating in these can give real focus to your group to help you improve and develop collectively, as well as individually as a dancer.
4. Continued practice and dedication to master both the moves and routines.
How to Start a Majorette Dance Team?
If accessing a majorette dance team isn’t easy in your area, for your age group, you can always start one up yourself.
1. Establish a vision for the team, the age range, skill level, what might be your style and how seriously will you take it.
2. Recruit members for your team. Advertise and hold auditions in partnership with local schools, dance studios or community groups.
3. Set a clear time and location for regular practice space. Possibly a local dance studio or hall. Have a ‘code of conduct’ emphasising the importance of prompt, regular training.
4. Find a qualified advisor or coach to guide your team who knows the Majorette dance rules and guidelines. They will help develop a practice schedule, routines, and give instruction on mastering the majorette techniques and routines.
If you found this article interesting, have a look at other dances from around the world:
Cover image by Eduard Egorov from Paxabay.