Latest Revision- November 21, 2021
This is Part I of a two part pancocojams series on foot stomping cheers. This post provides a general overview of the textual structure and performance of foot stomping cheers. Part I also includes my theories about the sources of this children's recreational activity.
Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2014/11/an-overview-of-foot-stomping-cheers.html for Part II of a post on foot stomping cheers. Part II provides examples of foot stomping cheers from four different categories of those cheers.
The content of this post is presented for folkloric, cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.
All copyrights remain with their owners.
Thanks to the unknown composer/s of these cheers. Thanks also to all those who are quoted in this post, the performers who are featured in these videos, and the publishers of these videos on YouTube.
Update: Nov. 20, 2021-
In this pancocojams post about foot stomping cheers I go back and forth between the use of present tense and past tense. As my Nov. 19, 2021 update shows, I believe that foot stomping cheers are rarely if ever performed anymore. Hence, the past tense in updates to this post. Read the "Demise Of Foot Stomping Cheers" section below.
WHAT ARE FOOT STOMPING CHEERS?
"Foot stomping cheers" is my term for a sub-set of children's cheerleader cheers (the compositions) and foot stomping cheer routines (the choreographed foot stomp and hand clap movements) which appear to have originated among African American school girls in the mid 1970s.
"Foot stomping cheers" are formulaic compositions which have a modified call & response structure that I refer to as "group/consecutive soloist". What "group/consecutive soloist" means is that the group voice is the first voice that is heard in those cheers. A designated soloist responds to the rest of the group's words and those voices alternate until that rendition ends (usually with the soloist's voice or the soloist & the rest of the group's voice). However, the cheer immediately begins again with the next designated soloist and this pattern continues until every member of the group has had a turn as the soloist.
Foot stomping cheers are chanted while their performers execute choreographed, syncopated, percussive movement routines that are very similar to African American originated Greek lettered fraternity & sorority stepping (steppin).
THE TERM "FOOT STOMPING CHEER" AND OTHER TERMS THAT ARE USED FOR THESE CHEERS AND FOR THEIR MOVEMENT ROUTINES
Note that this post on foot stomping cheers isn't about "stomp cheers" (also called "stomps"). The textual structure (words) of stomp cheers may be the same as the words for early foot stomping cheers. However, usually stomp cheers' words and movements are slightly or very different from early foot stomping cheers.
Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2014/11/how-stomp-cheers-differ-from-foot.html "How Stomp Cheers Differ From Foot Stomping Cheers"
The "Shabooya Roll Call" cheer that is performed in the 2006 cheerleading movie Bring It On All Or Nothing is probably the most well known example of a foot stomping cheer. However, I don't consider the stepping/dance movement that the girls do in that movie while chanting to the way that foot stomping routines were (are) performed.
EARLY EXAMPLES OF FOOT STOMPING CHEERS
Two early examples of what I call foot stomping cheers are included in the 1978 vinyl record Old Mother Hippletoe: Rural and Urban Children’s Songs (New World NW 291). That album provided recordings of and notes about four different examples (actually five, since one example is a combination of two different cheers) that are credited to "Barbara Borum and other Washington, D.C., schoolgirls, vocals, Recorded 1976 in Washington, D.C., by Kate Rinzler. That record features four cheers:
- Your Left
- Cheering Is My Game
- Hollywood Now Swingin' / Dynomite
Only two of those cheers fit the textual structural description of what I call "foot stomping cheers" - "Cheering Is My Game" and "Hollywood Now Swingin'/Dynomite". I believe that the last recorded cheer is a combination of two independent [stand alone] cheers - "Hollywood Now Swingin'" and "Dynomite". I have directly collected several examples of "Cheering Is My Game" and "Hollywood Now Swinging" cheers from the 1980s in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. And I have found online examples of those two cheers from the 1980s and 1990s in multiple African American communities throughout the United States.
"Your Left" is the earliest documented example that I've found of the cheer/rhyme that's now widely known as "Bang Bang Choo Choo Train". The title "Your Left" points to one of that cheer's sources - the Duckworth Chant military cadence.
Given the racial composition of Washington D.C. in the 1970s, is reasonable to assume that the Washington D.C. school girls were African American. "School girls" usually refers to females who are pre-college/university age (ages 5- 18 years). Given the references to boyfriends in those examples my guess is that those particular school girls were at least 10 years old. My documentation of what I call "foot stomping cheers" in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (1980-2005), those who performed those cheers were African American girls who usually were between 6 years old and 13 years old.
Kate Rinzler, the collector of the cheers featured in Old Mother Hippletoes also wrote the album's notes. In those notes, Rinzler refers to these examples as "neighborhood cheers" and wrote:
"Unlike the more communal games, neighborhood cheerleading as performed by girls in Washington, D.C., requires rehearsal and is often dominated by a single dynamic girl who solicits recruits and kicks out slackers. Girls practice by themselves, best friends cheer together, groups proliferate, and everyone who wants to gets into the act.
In 1973-75, fieldwork for the Festival of American Folklife revealed cheerleading girls taking turns doing a dance step or a simple gymnastic trick. In 1976, perhaps because of the popularity on television of the Olympic Games, there was a sudden citywide interest in gymnastic pyrotechnics: complete frontward and sideward splits, forward and backward flips,
and cartwheels ending in jumped splits.
The texts of the cheers suit the girls' growing sense of attractiveness, group solidarity, and allegiance to school and boyfriend. They also attest to their knowledge and misinformation about forbidden subjects —inebriation, aggression, sexuality—and to their interest in the heroes and heroines of movies that exploit these subjects."
-end of quote-
Notice that these cheer examples were documented as being part of the recreational play of girls pretending to be cheerleaders. This is in contrast to cheers that actual school cheerleaders performed using foot stomping and hand clap motions as early as 2000. These cheerleading movements and their accompanying chants are similar but not the same as the recreational activity that I refer to as foot stomping cheers.
Although those album notes make no reference to this, it's reasonable to assume that, like other recreational play, and like the foot stomping cheers that I observed my daughter and her friends perform in the 1980s, and other children perform since then, there is usually no formal audience for foot stomping cheers. The girls pretending to be cheerleaders perform in front of pretend audiences. They perform in groups of two or in a small group to learn the words to specific cheers and to master the specific cheer routines that they have choreographed.
My direct experiences with foot stomping cheers are largely from my observations of my daughter and her friends performing foot stomping cheers in the mid 1980s, and from other African American girls performing those cheers in Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania and some other surrouding communities from the mid 1980s to around 2007. These girls referred to cheer performances as "doing cheers" or "doing steps". (The word "steps" is most closely associated with the movement art of steppin/g that is performed by historically Black (African American) Greek letter fraternities and sororities. That movement art became more widely known in the 1970s around the same time that foot stomping cheers became known.
My position is that "foot stomping cheer movements -but not the textual (word) structure of foot stomping cheers- develped from historical Black Greek letter fraternity and sorority stepping. The textual structure of historically Black Greek letter fraternity and sorority chants is different from the textual structure of foot stomping cheers. While historically Black Greek letter fraternity and sorority cheers are chanted in unisong, foot stomping cheers have a distinctive call & response structure that I refer to as "group/consecutive soloists. The group voice is usually heard first, eventually followed by a soloist. The soloist usually says some words or does a dance or some other movement alone. The rest of the group may or may not repeat what the soloist says or does. The entire cheer immediately starts again from the beginning with a new soloist who has the same amount of time as the previous soloist. This pattern continues until every member of the group has one equal turn as the soloist for that cheer.
Stomp and shake cheerleading also appears to have developed in the 1970s. That African American originated style of cheerleading is an offshoot of "mainstream" cheerleading. I believe that Stomp and Shake cheerleading and foot stomping cheers were greatly influenced by Washington D.C. based go go music and by funk music of the late 1970s.
Kate Rinzler wrote that the girls she recorded in 1976 doing those "neighborhood cheers" did back flips and splits. She might have been referring to the other cheers that she collected during that session- Read my earlier comments. In my observations (in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and surrounding communities) no back flips, splits, or other gymnastic moves were done during foot stomping cheer performances. Instead, for the solo portions, girls did moves from currently popular R&B/Hip Hop dances.
Foot stomping cheers are part of children's recreational play, and therefore have no known composers or choreographers. For that reason, they belong to no one and anyone can chant or perform them. This is very different from the social disapproval that is attached to people chanting or performing fraternity/sorority step chants and/or chanting and/or performing certain stomp and shake cheers. In those performance arts, certain chants/cheers and certain movmements are signature cultural products of those groups and non-members are socially prohibited from using them, unless-particularly in the case of stomp and shake cheers- they receive direct permission from the cheer squads which composed and choreographed those cheers.
Here's information about the structure, themes, and words of foot stomping cheers as indicated by the examples given in the Old Mother Hippletoe album suggests, and as I have documented from my direct collecting from 1980s to 2010, and my online collecting to date:
1. Foot stomping cheers are composed using a variant form of call & response that I've termed "group/consecutive soloists".
Usually the group voice (often without the first soloist) is heard first. The soloist then responds to the group.
This pattern continues, and usually the soloist then has a short solo portion. The group may or may not chant again before the cheer begins again from the beginning with a new soloist. This pattern continues until every member of the group has had one equal (same amount of time) turn as the soloist. My experience is that the order of soloist is determined before the cheer begins, often with girls trying to be the first to call out "first", "second", "third" etc.
2. I believe the earliest formation for these cheers was a circle with the soloist in the middle. That circle formation changed to semi-circles or a line or lines (usually a horizontal line) when foot stomping cheers began to be performed in front of actual audiences and not casual onlookers or imagined audiences.
My experiences of foot stomping cheers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was with girls standing in semi-circles or in horizontal lines (or two vertical lines which merged into one while performing a particular introduction cheer.). It wasn't until those cheers were performed on stage as part of a game song group that I founded that I observed the soloist stepping up (performing stepping moves) to the front of the other girls and then, still facing forward, moving back to a place in the line while the new soloist stepped to the front of the other girls.
3. Unlike folk songs, these cheers feature only a limited amount of improvisation and choices of what words to say. My experience is that some cheers had "fixed" words, including the soloists' words. In other cheers, a certain amount of line choices and/or improvisation was expected in the soloists' portion. It appeared to me that girls memorized key lines and used them in those cheers that allowed for improvisation, as long as those lines fit the same theme as the cheer, and as long as those lines fit the same beat as the cheer. However, it was easy to fit lines with the beat, since, in my experience there were only two beat patterns used for foot stomping cheers.
4. Drama (role playing) is supposed to be an important part of chanting insult/bragging foot stomping cheers. These cheer performances fail if the stompers/chanters don't have "attitude" (i.e. How they say the cheer (intonation), their facial expressions, their moves and body gestures are supposed to support and reinforce the word of the cheer. For instance, in confrontational (insult, bragging) cheers the girls are pretending to have disdain for and aggressive stance toward their (imaginary, unnamed) opponent.
5. The following beat patterns were (are?) standard for foot stomping cheers: "stomp clap stomp stomp clap" or ""stomp stomp clap, stomp stomp clap". The beat of the cheer's tune determined which of these beat pattern was used. Judging from my direct observation in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area from the mid 1980s to around 2007, "stomp clap; stomp stomp clap" appears to have been the most often used foot stomping cheers. Either one or the other beat patterns is used for a particular cheer. They aren't combined. Once this beat pattern started it was done throughout the entire cheer, unless someone went "off beat" (messed up the beat by stomping when they were supposed to clap, stomping on the wrong foot, saying words that didn't fit the pattern of the cheer etc.) When that happened, the cheer had to start again from the beginning. For that reason, I've observed that girls would usually sit out a cheer that they weren't sure that they really knew rather than be responsible for messing up a cheer (and getting static about it from the other girls who were doing the cheer.).
The "stomp" portion of this pattern is made by hitting the foot hard on the ground to make a bass sound. The "clap" portion of the cheer was made by girls clapping their own hands (individual hand claps). In some cheers, girls alternated body pats with stomps. Hands could be clapped in front of a girl, between her legs, or less often - as I have observed, over her head.
While the words to foot stomping cheers are important, the most important thing in the performance of foot stomping cheers is keeping the beat. Foot stomping is performed in a metronome like manner throughout the entire cheer. Once the beat starts, with very few exceptions, the exact same beat continues until the end of the cheer.
The idea of a metronome beat can best be demonstrated by the Pop group Queen's 1977 hit song "We Will Rock You":
Queen - We Will Rock You
d4v1s, Uploaded on Apr 13, 2006
The "We will we will rock you" words of that song are used in a number of mainstream cheerleader cheers.
THE DEMISE OF FOOT STOMPING CHEERS & WHAT TOOK ITS PLACE
Around 2009 I stopped collecting children's rhymes and cheers offline (through observation and directly asking children about their recreational activities). I still search online for these cheers, but haven't come across any examples after around 2007. My guess is that foot stomping cheer movements are rarely performed anymore, at least not the way they were in the 1980s to the early 2000s. However, YouTube videos, a few other internet sites (such as pdfs and websites that provide text examples of cheerleading cheers), and some cheerleader movies (such as the Bring It On movies) document that the words for some foot stomping cheers are still being chanted, although the word and textual pattern of these "surviving" foot stomping cheers may not be the same as the words and textual pattern of their early versions.
For example, here's a 2008 video of African American female and male teenagers perform the foot stomping cheer "Jump In Jump Out" at a camp:
Jump In Jump Out
Dan Weir, Dec 24, 2008
First song for campers and staff to sing at Camp Sizanani
Turn yourself around
Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2016/09/foot-stomping-cheers-alphabetical-list_6.html for five examples of the "Jump In Jump Out" foot stomping cheer that I've collected as of 2021 (not including that Camp Sizanani example). The earliest example that I collected is from my daughter "TMP" in the mid 1980s Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
With regard to that Camp Sizanani fragment of "Jump In Jump Out", there at least two White adults in the circle that is formed for this game. Given the summary statement that is included with this video, it's likely that the White adults (and possibly adults of other races) taught those teens that "camp song". However, that shouldn't have deterred the teens from moving to the beat while they sung or chanted the words to that song- other than jumping in and out, turning around, and other than the soloist doing a brief dance when it was her or his turn.
1. The informal recreational activity that I call "foot stomping cheers" was started in the 1970s in imitation of actual cheerleading (i.e. performing cheers as part of a cheerleading squad).
Since the 1970s it has become much easier for Black American girls to join actual cheerleading squads- both "so-called" mainstream cheerleading, African American orginated "Stomp & Shake cheerleading, and the modified mainstream/stomp & shake cheerleading styles.
As to why more middle/high schools didn't/don't perform "foot stomping cheers" -the synchronized stomping and clapping movement activity of foot stomping cheers isn't easy for everyone to do-and particularly isn't easy for many non-Black people who haven't been immersed in the percussive music throughout their secular and religious lives. That immersion makes it easier for many Black people to perform these foot stomping movements.
Furthermore, the group/consecutive soloist textual structure of foot stomping cheers (where every member of the group has to have an equal time as the soloist) isn't compatible with the time constrictions of actual cheerleading during athletic events.
2. The popularity of organized Hip Hop majorette dance teams (such as the Dancing Dolls on the television series Bring It!) among many African American girls provides performance opportunities that have replaced the informal foot stomping cheer activities.
3, The existence of high school, middle school, and other pre-university step teams have also replaced foot stomping cheer activities (with "stepping" meaning the movement arts that are most commonly associated with historically Black Greek letter fraternities and sororities).
In addition to these activities, Tiktok dance challenges and spending time on othr internet sites such as Roblox have replaced the time and energy (and creativity) that African American girls once gave to the recreational activity known as "foot stomping cheers".
As this section of this pancocojams post documents, it appears that the art of performing foot stomping cheer routines and the art of composing and chanting foot stomping cheers has been retired usually without hardly being noticed or commented upon.. However, while it appears that the art of chanting foot stomping cheers such as those that were done from the late 1970s to the early 2000s, and performing the movements associated most foot stomping cheers, a few foot stomping cheers have survived*, although they are performed with greatly modified movements, and the spirit and attitude of those cheers have been changed.
Some surviving foot stomping cheers don't include the back and forth introductions which I call "command/compliance" patterns. If those exchanges are included in the cheers my guess is that the performers and their audience don't understand their cultural significance.
For example, the early "Introduce Yourself" cheers have a comand/compliance textual beginning in which the group commands the soloist to introduce herself, and at first she refuses to do so:
Group: Innn-TRO-duce yourself.
Soloist #1: No way.
Group: Innn-TRO-duce yourself.
In my opinion, this pattern documented either that African American culture valued independence (not readily doing what others commanded you to do) and/or African American culture didn't like show offs. Also, that command/compliance pattern and other words in that sub-set and other examples of foot stomping cheers demonstate the value that is (was) placed on being tough and sticking up for yourself in adverse situations or in situations that could be adverse.
It's important to emphasize that this is sassy personality is role playing for many girls. The girls acted (performed) this persona in cheers and not necessarily act that way in their every day real life. That type of recreational experience is quite similar to what African American folklorist Bessie Jones is quoted as calling African American Georgia Sea Isles singing games and their movements "plays" in the 1987 book Step It Down" that was also authored by Bess Hawes Lomax.
Probably later versions of the "Introduce Yourself" cheer had this textual pattern:
my name (say your name)"
In that pattern, a value is placed upon trying to do something even though it is difficult for you for one reason or another.
It seems to me that all those cultural nuances are lost with the modified "Introduce Yourself" cheers which only appear to focus on the cheerleaders giving their names, even if some of those examples still include the command/compliance words.
[CFA =Champion Force Athletics]. That pdf includes examples of the following foot stomping cheers:
- "1-2-3-4-5" [and I say hi]
- "Hula,hula,who thinks she’s bad" *
- "Jump in, Jump out, introduce yourself"
-"My name is __"
-"Show us how to get down"
-"Who rocks the house"
Additional examples of cheers that come from African American originalted foot stomping cheers are also found in that pdf file.
VIDEOS OF FOOT STOMPING CHEERS
Although I've come across some YouTube videos of one or more people chanting versions of foot stomping cheers, unfortunately, I've only found a very small number of YouTube videos of groups performing the movements to foot stomping cheers the way that I recall them being performed in the 1980s, the 1990s, and the early 2000s.
Sesame Street - Three Girls clap a song about Vegetables
wattamack4, Uploaded on Jul 31, 2007
Sesame Street - Girls clap out a song about K
wattamack4, Uploaded on Jul 11, 2007
The tune for this chant is exactly the same tune that I remember for the "L-O-V-E" cheer that is given below. However, the foot sliding in the front motion is different from the movements that I recall observing for this cheer, and I didn't observe girls performing that cheer standing in that formation.
Sesame Street - Girls clap out a song about seven
wattamack4, Uploaded on Aug 1, 2007
Here's a comment from that video's discussion thread:
"LOL! What they were doing was "stepping." it's derived from African cultures. Africans used to "step" as a way to prepare for war or celebrate. Today, it is celebrated as a form of song and dance. And speaking of boys, I know that little boy in the middle had to get some kind of slack for being the only one with all those girls at that age."
That comment highlights the similarity between the movement arts of "foot stomping cheers" and "steppin/g". Besides who performed these two movements arts, and when they are performed, and the difference types of chanting that occurs while these movements are performed, the main difference is that once a foot stomping begins, the choreographed, synchornized movements continue in metronone fashion until that chanting is ended (i.e. until everyone in the group has a turn as the soloist.)
Here's a video of a Black girl steppin.
swtytwty9988, July 4, 2006
steppingg -snip- Imagine that girl joined by a least one other girl, but more often with at least four other girls, all of whom are doing the exact same movements while chanting in a distinctive group/soloist pattern to the beat of their foot stomps, hand clapps(and possibly also body patting movements.) That description is an example of foot stomping.
Here's a video of a historically Black university cheerleading squad chanting in a circle before a basketball game. I consider this chant a foot stomping cheer, although the group isn't doing hard bass sounding foot stomps and the soloist performs movements and doesn't chant as soloist did/do for most foot stomping cheer.
Shaw Cheerleaders "Move Girl"
Brandon Thurman, Jan 9, 2011
Shaw High School Cheerleaders Before the game hype
Here are the words to that cheer:
"You betta move girl you betta move. (3x). Now drop it low."
Here's a video of young African American girls performing a foot stomping cheer in a line The soloist does a movement without saying any words:
Popcorn On A Train
Ashaletta Johnson, May 14, 2011
The publisher of this video shared in a comment that this group is from Durham, North Carolina
Here are the words to that cheer as chanted by this group*:
Popcorn on a train.
Popcorn on a train.
Watch [girl's name] do her thing.
She said ah
Boom tic tic Boom tic.
Boom tic tic Boom tic.
Popcorn on a train.
[The girl whose name is called does a gymnastic motion]
The cheer then repeats from the beginning with the next girl whose name is chanted. That girl also does a gymnastic motion, a different one or one that has been done before.]
[When all the girls have had one turn as the soloist, they all say in unison]
Popcorn on a train.
Popcorn on a train.
Watch The Pinks [group name] do their thing.
We said ah
Boom tic tic Boom tic.
Boom tic tic Boom tic.
Popcorn on a train.
*Transcription by Azizi Powell, with corrections by the video publisher, Ashaletta Johnson.
"Rock It" as performed by the cheerleading group in the video below isn't a foot stomping cheer because the cheer is chanted in unison. (Foot stomping cheers have a distinctive group/consecultive soloist textual structure.)
Dailey Tigers - Rock It
dailey tigers, Dec 8, 2013
Click https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xPswNBnwvLQ&ab_channel=daileytigers for a YouTube video of the Dailey Tigers performing "Rock Steady". That well known cheerleader cheer isn't a foot stomping cheer because it is chanted in unison. However, the foot stomping/hand clapping movement routine that the girls perform is similar to how foot stomping routines were/are performed.
However, the foot stomping/hand clapping movement that is documented in the following YouTube video is quite similar to the movements that were/are done for some foot stomping cheers:
Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2013/05/an-overview-of-black-greek-letter.html for a post about historically Black (African American) Greek letter steppin (stepping).
Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2013/05/overview-of-stomp-shake-cheerleading.html for an overview of stomp & shake cheerleading.
This concludes Part I of this post on foot stomping cheers.
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The metronome-like foot stomping beat is present in many genres of African American music.ReplyDelete
For an example of that persistent beat in African American religious music, click this link for a video of a Black church congregation singing & moving to the African American Spiritual "Walk In Jerusalem Just Like John":
I've just read this 2016 comment while I was searching pancocojams posts that might have videos of children doing foot stomping cheers.Delete
Thanks Unknown, for that comment. I appreciate it.