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Thursday, December 7, 2023

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A Decade of Diamonds: The West Coast's First Collegiate Majorette Team

The SDSU Diamonds pave the way for more majorette teams at PWIs.
By JohVonne Roberts

If you’ve been to a football game at Snapdragon Stadium, you’ve seen the sparkle of the San Diego State University Diamonds. 


The Diamonds were created by Maderia Toatley in 2012. Inspired by the HBCU style of dance, she planted the seed that bloomed the first collegiate majorette team on the West Coast. Bringing this style to SDSU was revitalizing, but the journey for the first Diamonds was not the prettiest. 


Performing on the field with the SDSU’s Marching Aztecs was something that seemed out of their reach. Today, the Diamonds are the only collegiate majorette team on the West Coast that is guaranteed a slot in the halftime shows. 


Majorette was popularized in the 1960s at historically black colleges and universities. It fuses the style of jazz and hip-hop with the hard-hitting approach of black college bands. It is unlike any style of dancing that is traditionally seen on the west coast.


This year's team is led by Captain Sakina Buycks. The fourth-year nutritional science major has dedicated all four of her collegiate years to the team. Buycks takes on many roles like assisting with choreography and leading the team during every performance. 


The tryout process for the Diamonds requires hard work and training. This three-day long audition begins with learning techniques such as pirouettes and leaps. For three hours, auditionees must learn the captain’s choreography. On the last day, they must give their best shot to impress the judges.


While many people are still discovering the Diamonds, the SDSU community has been showing constant love for the team. The support is something that first-year Diamond, Kya Thompson has cherished since her first game. 


“I love how much the fans appreciate our presence at the football games because it truly makes the experience of being a Diamond so much more special,” Thompson said. 


The Diamonds make sure to represent themselves highly on and off campus. By being involved with the community, the Diamonds strive to introduce the university, and all that it has to offer, to many people who are not aware of it. 


In October, Coach Brionna June conducted a community-wide audition for their upcoming Christmas special, “The Majorette Nutcracker.” Participants of all ages and genders learned majorette, hip hop and technical dance routines. The classical Tchaikovsky musical with a majorette and hip-hop flare is the overall vision that will come to life. 


Two first-year Diamonds, Hayli Collier and Amaria Bradley taught choreography to the toddlers who auditioned. “I can't wait to see them in the show, and wherever dancing may take them in the future,” said Bradley. 


Inspiring the next generation of dancers is what the team holds very close to their hearts. In September, they had the pleasure of dancing with the Pink Polish Dance Studio and the Lincoln High School Emeraldettes at their homecoming game. Kailani Smith, a third-year Diamond, reflected on this experience. 


“We not only got to show young girls that there is a space for them at SDSU but also there is a sisterhood of prestige and poise that fosters growth as a dancer and performer,” said Smith.


To celebrate 10 years of the Diamonds, they will be having a banquet to celebrate the decade of sisterhood. 


“It is very important because we need to know our history,” said the second-year Diamond, Taylor Shorter-Wilson, about the importance of meeting alumni at the banquet. “ These are the people who came before us.”


The majorette team ensures to be a support system for every member of the team. Many Diamonds have been on executive boards for clubs and employees for campus organizations.


Associated Students Operations Lead, Jenna Bagonghasa, said the skills she had gained as a Diamond “have provided insight on how I can execute my duties smoothly. I have been able to apply these skills so I can academically improve as well.”


This excellence doesn't stop there. Alumni of the team have gone on to be physical therapists, Disney professionals, veterinarians, and more. Saweetie, a Grammy-nominated rapper best known for her song “My Type,” is a Diamond alumna. 


Da’Nelle Garrett, another Diamond alumna, is a professional dancer who can be seen in productions like the BET awards and “Coming 2 America” starring Eddie Murphy. She has performed for artists ranging from Lizzo to John Legend. 


Majorette teams on the West Coast have emerged after the establishment of the Diamonds at San Francisco State University, UC Berkeley, the University of Southern California, and Cal State Dominguez Hills.