Schools' cheerleaders get lessons from Falcons' dancers

"Don't be like the Twerk-it teams," said Shamea, a dancer for the Atlanta Falcons Cheer Team.

A "Twerk-it team," as she explained to a roomful of adolescent girls, is a dance ensemble in which the dancers position their bodies as low as possible to the floor, and shake –– or "pop" –– their derrieres, in rapid, up-and-down motions. A routine that, she added, is neither classy, nor tasteful, during school performances.

These words of advice were imparted to the scores of middle school and high school girls, who attended the Clayton County Public Schools Cheer and Dance Workshop, held at the district's Administrative Complex, Monday evening.

Chato Waters, who is the lead counselor for Clayton County Public Schools, was responsible for spearheading the workshop, and said the purpose was to provide a complimentary etiquette seminar to students participating in cheer and dance programs. Waters added that she is not only an employee of the district, but also the dance coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons' dance team.

Because of that connection, she was able to get some members of the professional dance team to volunteer their time, and offer first-hand advice on proper dance conduct.

The session touched on topics, such as the importance of character, proper attire, leadership, academics, discipline, balance, choreography, school spirit, parental support, healthy eating habits, and exercise.

The evening kicked off with a bag, filled with healthy goodies, prepared the Falcons cheerleaders, that was handed out to young girls sitting in the audience. That was followed a brief discussion on healthy-eating habits and exercise, which was led Denita, a 3-year veteran cheerleader for the Falcons (For reasons they did not explain, the Falcons dancers wanted only their first names used in this article).

"Your plate should be like a rainbow," said Denita. "You want to make sure you have greens and purples, and other colors, on your plate." After touching on the basics of eating healthily, Denita highlighted key points about exercise regimens, and ways the girls can keep their bodies in tip-top shape.

Then, the young women in attendance, got an ear full on school spirit, and were offered a plethora of suggestions, the Falcons cheerleaders, on how to increase school spirit in the schools they attend.. Shamea, who is also a cheer captain for the Falcons, suggested that the girls consider dressing up in costumes to represent a particular theme, in the effort to increase school spirit.

One participant, however, shouted out that demonstrating school spirit in that way is hindered the school district's "strictly" enforced dress code. School Superintendent Edmond Heatley, who sat quietly in the balcony during the workshop, spoke to that concern. He told the gathering that dressing out of uniform during school spirit week would not be a violation of the district's dress code.

But, once spirit week was over, the dress code is "reinforced," said Heatley. "Every school's principle in the district is aware of this condition, and it would be up to the students to enforce this with their school's principle," he added.

In addition to the topics on etiquette, attire and proper nutrition, the young ladies also got a demonstration and advice on using cosmetics. Nikole Morrow-Penttus, a make-up artist for the Atlanta Falcons' dancers, showed the young women the proper way to apply makeup for a dance performance, while looking age appropriate.

She demonstrated proper make-up application on participant, Faith Laster, 15, who performs on the Flag team at North Clayton High School. "I was excited to get my makeup done," said Laster, beaming.

In parting words of advice, Lead Counselor Waters told the young cheerleaders and dancers: "Make sure your choreography is not offensive," she said. "Sexy [and] 16 don't go together."