Drum majorettes at St Dominic’s Catholic School for Girls, Boksburg

| April 10, 2018 | 0 Comments

BY SHARON ANTONIZZI

The early concept of drum majorettes (better known to many South Africans as “drummies”) was that they were merely “long-legged lovelies” who lent glamour to university RAG (a day at universities during which processions of floats are displayed to raise money for charities) and other parades.

However, St Dominic’s Catholic School for Girls in Boksburg, Gauteng, decided that things had to change: drum majoretting was to become a respected, demanding arena for precision drill and teamwork. And, above all, St Dominic’s drum majorettes were going to put the school, and Boksburg, on the international map.

Triumphing over apartheid

From 1980, the St Dominic’s drum majorettes team was multiracial. The inclusion of all races raised fierce controversy when the team competed at government schools around the then-Transvaal (now Gauteng province), where apartheid was entrenched. There was strong objection to St Dominic’s having African girls in the team. Their parents offered to remove these girls from drummies to avoid trouble for St Dominic’s, but the staff and all the other parents demanded that the non-racial team continued or the drum majorettes would be disbanded. At one competition in the early 1980s, demonstrators carrying banners marched against St Dominic’s and ordered them off the field – the police and St Dominic’s supporters cleared the field just seconds before the St Dominic’s squad competed. As usual, they won all categories – but that day, St Dominic’s won much, much more than a drum majorettes competition. They showed South Africa that they stood for a just, non-racial society and they lived their belief.

The St Dominic’s squad has competed in the United States (US) on more than one occasion. In 1981, a team of 39 St Dominic’s drum majorettes, ranging in age from 14 to 18, travelled to the US and returned as world champions. As they say – the rest is history!

A sport that demands discipline

Team members get up at unearthly hours of the morning to travel long distances, and to be dressed and ready for uniform inspection before they appear on the sports field to perform at competitions. Any girl who takes up majoretting as a sport has to be prepared to become totally dedicated and involved. She has to learn to discipline herself and her time to cope with school, homework, training, competitions and social commitments.

The South African Majorette and Cheerleading Association (SAMCA) is the official South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC)-recognised federation for majorettes and cheerleaders in South Africa. There are three leagues in which the teams can compete: the President’s League, the Premier League and the Elite League. St Dominic’s drummies compete in the Elite League.

Opportunities and awards for all ages

St Dominic’s boasts three teams: the mini drummies (Grade 0 and Grade 1), the primary school drummies (grades 2 to 7, affectionately known as “The Saintees”), and high school drummies (grades 8 to 12, affectionately known as “The Saints”). Each display is completely different, performed to different music and each requires a different uniform. To perfect displays and routines, the Saints practise on average 15 hours a week, and around 12 hours a day for the week before they compete at the SAMCA Nationals competition.

In July 2017, the Saints and Saintees travelled to KwaZulu- Natal to compete in the annual SAMCA Nationals, held at the Chatsworth Stadium. The St Dominic’s teams made history by becoming the first school to win the coveted Champion of Champions title in both the primary and high school Elite division in the same year.

A living legend

Head coach Allan Donaldson, who lives in Boksburg, is known as the father of majorettes in South Africa and became the St Dominic’s drum majorettes’ trainer in 1976. Primary school team coaches Alisha Venter and Jenna-Lee van Niekerk are equally passionate and dedicated.

The secret to the team’s success is that Donaldson is always looking for innovations to keep the drummies “flying high”. To mention all would be a task and a half, but for example, the teams have been the first to use arm movements as a feature of choreography (other than to swing them army-style) and to introduce props other than maces into their routine.

To keep up to international standards, the team travels abroad every few years, and they have won the World Championship title on three occasions. Planning for the next USA tour is underway.

St Dominic’s drum majorettes will be working hard to continue their proud history at the 2018 National Championships, which will be held in Oudtshoorn.

 

Category: Autumn 2018

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