SF State’s Dancing Divas bring moves, and space for community
Say hello to SF State’s first HBCU inspired majorette and hip-hop team
March 11, 2023
Anaya Block never had the opportunity to dance until she stumbled across the Dancing Divas Instagram profile. Growing up, she only ran track, but dancing was something she always wanted to do. She watched videos here and there to learn some skills, but at Dancing Divas she was finally part of a team.
Dancing Divas of State was born from the desire to not only be a dance group, but also to bring community. Isis Aminah, head coach of the Divas, began her college career in 2017. She said it wasn’t easy finding a community on campus and felt lonely at times, which reminded her of growing up when she felt she was always the token Black girl on her cheer teams.
Aminah always loved the idea of a majorette team and her favorite style of dance is hip-hop. She decided not to join the cheer team at SF State and as a result, the Dancing Divas were born.
“I wanted to do something where I can find my place in school, instead of dropping out,” Aminah said. “I wanted to bring something that I can stick with and do. That was something that I always wanted to do — I’ve always wanted to perform with people, make it enjoyable and bring that sense of Black community on campus.”
The first tryouts were met with over 100 team candidates — for only 12 spots on the team. Traditionally, majorette teams are small, with 11 or 12 dancers as the max.
The majorette-style dance started in the south at historically Black colleges and universities in the 1960s. The dance combines energetic high-step marching, hip-hop, jazz, West African and modern choreography.
Block, a junior majoring in kinesiology, was nervous to try out because she had no prior experience and was so anxious she wanted to quit after the first day. It seemed like the other prospects had way more experience than her –– there was no way she was going to make the team. Coach Isis told her to not give up and she pushed her to come back the next day.
Block has been a Dancing Diva for two years now. The team not only relies on their moves, but also their sisterhood. Some of Block’s favorite moments are when they are not performing.
“We take time outside of practice to hang out. We go to the club, we [go to] events together — that really makes me inspired to keep going,” Block said. “I think the best time is when we get to kind of relax a little bit. Yeah, we don’t get so stressed out, like learning and teaching and performing and like our natural selves, and that you really get to see how we all mesh together.”
Being a Dancing Diva has provided Block with an opportunity, as well as a new perspective on life.
“I feel like it’s made me more open into being who I am, I’ve always been [in the] background, Block said.“It’s really pushed me to be the main character and to step out of my comfort zone, to do things I don’t always want to do but I have to do.”
Being a Black woman and being surrounded by Black women has empowered her. She said it gives her a voice she never knew she had. The experience of being a Dancing Diva has helped her be the fullest version of herself by watching and learning from other women on the team.
“It gives you that opportunity to really just be yourself to the fullest capacity because we all have different levels that we learn dance, we all have different levels in which we dance and how we dance,” Block said. “I’m not strong in hip hop, but my teammate is and I can watch and see her. I know that I don’t do what she does, but I can still fit in and still stand out.”
Taliyah Irvin, second-year interior design major, and co-captain of the team started practicing hip-hop dancing at a young age.
“I always would just dance with my cousins,” Irvin said.“We always used to make little groups and then make videos and I liked to watch all the dancing movies like ‘Step It Up’, ‘Stomp The Yard’ even ‘Bring It On.’”
The first time she performed majorette was on her high school majorette team.
“I always loved to dance. I wanted to try a different type of dance besides hip-hop,” Irvin said. “I just took a chance and I made it. My junior and senior year I became the captain and it was really fun.”
Irvin believes being on the Dancing Divas and having Aminah as a mentor helped her not only to perfect her craft, but also grow within.
“She does a lot of things, she makes us stare at ourselves in the mirrors, [to] make ourselves feel confident, [she] tells us to tell ourselves we look beautiful, we got this,” Irvin said. “She is very good at giving critiques so we can learn how to better ourselves. When I came here, I didn’t know as much stuff as I [do] right now. I definitely didn’t know how to do a toe touch. I couldn’t do splits on my right leg, [I] couldn’t do leg holds, let alone a death drop. Here I am doing all those things— so I love it.”
Irvin believes that it’s important that we have a majorette team at SF State because it’s an opportunity to bring culture and representation for Black students on campus.
“You don’t see a lot of people that look like us. When you do, we’re always looked down upon, people just look at us differently. I feel like it gives us a safe space to be ourselves,” Irvin said.
Irvin describes the dance as a stepping stone that has helped her express herself as a Black woman.
“Dancing gives me the chance to just be me. I don’t really know how to explain it, it’s just one of those things that you know that I love what I do by how I do it,” Irvin said.
Aminah said her ultimate goal is to have the team hone in on their self-confidence as they continue to dance and as they transition after college.
The current team has grown in confidence as a unit.
“In life, you have to be able to stand up for yourself. You have to be able to believe in yourself. When you walk into a room you have to give that energy off, like yeah I run this, this is me I’m confident,” Aminah said. “So I tell them to implement that not just in dance and in performance, but in their lives.”
Aminah has been dancing her whole life, but she always had a liking for coaching beginning in high school. She doesn’t mind that she doesn’t dance as often as she used to.
“I will never ever give up dance and I’ve never wanted to be a professional dancer. However, I love to teach it. I like to see my work being produced, even the team overall– I like to see that I gave birth to this team,” said Aminah. “Now it’s becoming greater than it was, it’s become more popular than I could have ever imagined.”