Thursday, October 8, 2015

Two 1980s Examples Of "Cheerleader" (The Title Of Specific Foot Stomping Cheers)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post presents two examples of the foot stomping cheer entitled "Cheerleader" that I collected in the mid 1980s (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania).

The content of this post is presented for folkloric, cultural, recreational, and aesthetic purposes.

Thanks to all those who shared these examples with me.

"Foot stomping cheers" is the term that I coined in 2000 for a
relatively new category of children's recreational play that involves chanting and choreographed foot and hand clapping movements. The 1978 vinyl/LP record Old Mother Hippletoe-Rural And Urban Children's Songs (New World Records ‎– NW 291) is the earliest recording or print documentation that I have found of a new style of children's recreational chanting and performance activity that I have termed "foot stomping cheers".

"Foot stomping cheers" have a textual structure and "traditional" performance style that is distinct from hand clap rhymes, jump rope rhymes, other cheerleader cheers, and other categories of children's recreational rhymes. That record featured four examples of African American girls from Washington D. C. performing cheers in 1973-1975. Two of those examples are combinations of two different cheers. At least two of the cheer examples that are featured on that record - one entitled "Cheering Is My Game" and one entitled "Hollywood Now Swingin" - fit the textual structure of what I refer to as "foot stomping cheers".

Click for a pancocojams post about the cheer examples that are featured on the "Old Mother Hippletoe" Record.

Foot stomping cheers "traditionally" have a signature group call & consecutive soloist response structure. "Group call" means that the entire group (or the group minus the first soloist) is heard first. "Consecutive soloist"' means that in that cheer is immediately repeated from the beginning so that every member of the squad can an opportunity to be the soloist. Each soloist's performance is the same length. Some foot stomping cheers have several group calls followed by brief responses by the soloist before the soloist has a somewhat longer verbal and/or movement response. Other foot stomping cheers have one or two group calls followed by the soloist's verbal and/or movement response.

Another signature feature of the textual style of foot stomping cheers is that the cheer is supposed to be repeated in its entirety (sometimes with soloist text changes and sometimes not) until every group member has one turn as the soloist.

Traditionally, foot stomping cheers are chanted while the group performs a synchronized, percussive routine in which individual hand claps (chanters clapping their own hands) (and sometimes substitutes hand claps for body pats) and alternates those hand claps with bass sounding foot stomps. Once this foot stomping routine begins, it is supposed to continue throughout the routine. However, toward the end of most examples of foot stomping cheers that I've found, the soloist chants a verse or line. That soloist's portion serves as a "call" and the group has a responsive line or lines during that call. While the rest of the group watches, the soloist usually performs a dance step or steps, and/or pantomime movements, and/or gymnastic movements during this portion of the cheer. In some cheers that I've found, the cheer ends with the entire group-including the soloist- performing the same exact movements that the soloist performed. The cheer then immediately begins from the beginning with the next soloist and that pattern continues until every member of the group has had a turn as the soloist (hence the term "consecutive soloists). Each soloist turn is exactly the same length. In some cheers, the words and movements are exactly the same with each soloist, except for personal information such as the soloist's name or nickname and the soloist's astrological sun sign. In other cheers, the words for the soloist portions can change within a seemingly small memorized, formulaic set of verses that have the same theme and the same rhythmical pattern.

It appears to me that one difference between "old school" foot stomping cheers, and those types of cheers that are performed since at least the 1990s (which I call "neo-foot stomping cheers")is that instead of being informally performed by children or pre-teens pretending to be cheerleaders, these cheers (or modified versions of these cheers) are performed by actual (children's and teenage) cheerleaders either during the warm up to a game, or during "cheer offs" (cheer competitions), or as part of the cheerleading squad's cheer performances during actual athletic competitions. It appears to me that the post 1990s neo forms of foot stomping cheer performances have much less foot stomping or no foot stomping at all- particularly when these cheers are performed by squads that are majority White. Instead of actual syncopated, choreographed foot stomping routines, nowadays performances of modified or actual foot stomping cheers (particularly with squads which are majority White) feature much more pantomiming of actions, such as "turn around" and "touch the ground". Also, it appears to me that these neo foot stomping cheer performances by majority non-Black squads appears to feature little to no dance moves, and more actual standing, jumping up and down, and shaking pompoms. Furthermore, all individual members of the squad may not have a turn as the soloist. Instead, the squad is divided into sub-sets (such as school grade levels, or two or more line formations) that have their own "soloists time". Also, instead of individual soloist, or sub-sets of the squad, the entire squad might recite these neo-foot stomping cheers.

Text examples-words only- and to a much limited extent video examples of old school foot stomping cheers and neo-foot stomping cheers are found throughout this pancocojams blog.


CHEERLEADER (Version #1)
All: Cheerleader.
Roll Call.
Soloist #1: Yolanda.
They call me Lannie.
Group: Hey Hey.
Soloist #2: Erica.
They call me Ree Ree.
Group: Hey Hey.
Soloist #3: Ebony.
They call me Ebony.
Group: Hey Hey
Soloist #4: Melissa.
They call me Missy.
Group: Hey Hey.

[Performance instructions:
The cheer continues in this pattern until everyone says their name and nickname. If the girl [or boy] doesn't have a nickname, the first name is repeated.
-Tazi M. Powell (African American girl; memories of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, early to mid 1980s

A "roll call" is a list of names for members of a class or group. When the teacher “does the roll”, she or he calls out a student’s name, and the student whose name is called responds by saying “Here.” or "Present."

The 2006 American movie Bring It On: All or Nothing, featured a roll call cheer entitled "Shabooya Roll Call". It's possible that these foot stomping cheers named "Cheerleader" were one of the sources of that movie's cheer.

Back in the mid to late 1980s, I got the impression that "Cheerleader Roll Call" foot stomping cheers were very widely known in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania among urban African American girls ages 6-12 years old. However, I don't believe that this cheer is still performed today.

"Cheerleader" was performed by the girls standing in a horizontal line. The girls say the words to the cheer while they perform a bass sounding stomp stomp clap/ stomp stomp clap beat. ("Clap" means to clap your hands. There are no partners in foot stomping cheers and there's never any physical touching of anyone.

CHEERLEADER (Version #2)
All: Cheer.
Are you ready?
Soloist #1: Shayla.
They call me Rosa.
Soloist #2: Shana.
They call me Poo.
Soloist #3: Shana.
They call me Shay.
Soloist #4: Jamie.
They call me Jay Jay.
Soloist #5: Jackie.
They call me HaJack (HighJack?).
All: Cheer.
Zodiac signs.
Soloist #1: Aquarius.
That’s a dog.
Soloist #2: Cancer.
That’s a crab.
Soloist #3: Leo.
That’s a lion.
Soloist #4: Scorpio.
That’s a spider.
Soloist #5: Scorpio.
That’s a spider.
All: Cheer.
Are you ready?
Soloist #1: 348-5110.
Group: Always busy.
Soloist #2: 348-4554.
Group: Always busy.
Soloist #3 348-3322
Group: Always busy.
Soloist #4: 348-5779
Group: Always busy.
Soloist #5 348-4285
Group: Always busy.
-Shayla, Shana, Shana, Jamie, and Jackie {African American females about 10 years-12 years old}, Braddock, PA; 1985

Collected by Azizi Powell, 1985 (transcription of audio tape recording)

This version of Cheerleader uses the same stompstomp clap stomp stomp clap” beat as is used in Version #1. As is the case with most foot stomping cheers that I have observed and that I have collected online, the girls stood in a horizontal line. The order of soloist was decided by the fastest person to call "First!", "Second!" ect. The girls started the cheer a couple of times before every girl “got the beat”. Once everyone was “on beat” the chant began. That beat continues without any gaps throughout the entire cheer. If someone "messes up" by missing the beat or not chanting their soloist lines without hesitation and on beat, the cheer starts all over again from the beginning.

This version of Cheerleader began with each girl saying her name and nickname. The group then returned to the Cheer Leader refrain, and then announcing another subject.

The second subject was “Zodiac signs” (That order of subjects probably was fixed for this group of girls but could have been different for other groups of chanters). When the girls chanted the Zodiac Sign "verse", they didn't add “Are you ready?”. Instead, they moved right to the individual chants. One after another the girls responded to the announced subject by stating their astrological sun sign and its symbol. For the record, it should be noted that the girls gave the wrong information about the astrological symbol for Aquarius and Scorpio. The symbol for Aquarius is the water bearer and the symbol for Scorpio is the scorpion and/or the eagle. However, in my opinion, that erroneous information was and is actually quite immaterial to the aesthetic and folkloric richness of this example.

After the "verse" on astrological signs, the girls repeated the cheer leader refrain, and announced a new subject “telephone numbers”. After announcing that subject, the girls added “Are you ready?” However, this time the pattern changes. After each girl provided her telephone number (which are changed here in the interest of confidentiality), the group responded with the phrase “Always busy”. This inferred that the girl was very popular because she was always talking on the telephone.

It should be noted that this cheer was performed before the days of the “call waiting” telephone feature that allows people to receive another telephone call when they are already talking to a previous caller. Because of this feature, busy signals are largely a thing of the past. Note also that this cheer was performed before phone numbers in Pittsburgh and its surrounding area included area codes. And that's a good thing, since putting those 3 number area codes in front of the seven digit telephone number would have messed up the beat.

Presumably, the Braddock group of girls had performed this cheer together before, and knew what subjects to expect, and in which order to expect them. In order to maintain the steady beat, it would seem to me that the subjects and their order had to have been decided before the cheer begins. Also, the girls had to know without hesitation their responses to the subject matter. For instance, they each had to know their astrological sun sign before the cheer started. In this performance, some members of the group had ended the cheer with the “zodiac sign” portion. But a couple of the girls reminded the others about the “telephone number” section.

it's interesting to note that this cheer (as well as other foot stomping cheers) could have an open ended format, meaning its format could lend itself to the addition of new categories, and/or the substitution of one category for another. However, if that were the case, prior to starting the cheer, the group would have had to decide which categories were to be part of the cheer and when those categories would be introduced. To decide this after the cheer had started would disrupt the flow of the recitation and completely mess up the beat.

It's possible that this cheer could have any number of additional subjects, hence my earlier comment about it “approaching” an open-ended format.

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