I can’t remember how many times I tried out for cheerleading. It looked like fun. I liked the flirty little skirts. I think I liked the movement of them. I didn’t make it. I could never do a cartwheel.
I also don’t remember it being linked to the superficial popularity contest I see in so many teen angst movies. My two best friends were on the squad. Maybe that’s why. And no, I wasn’t part of the popular crowd or the cool crowd either. I was pretty much invisible. Ahhh… the joys of being the new teen in town.
Those days have long passed. If I were a teen now, I’d go out for the dance team instead. No silly cartwheels there!
This week I found out about something I think I’d have liked even more, ParaCheer. It’s a new division of cheerleading that just started last year. It’s cheerleading with mixed abilities. I have seen this in dance for a long time, but it never occurred to me to integrate it into cheerleading. What an empowering sport for everyone involved! And you don’t even have to be a teenager.
The International Cheer Union (ICU) will have a championship event in Orlando, Florida (Disney World) this April, and one of the categories is “Para Performance Cheer Freestyle Pom”. This event combines cheerleading with elements from jazz and ballet. Routines will be judged with special focus on integration of abilities.
ParaCheer is changing the way we view mixed abilities.
Germany has a team that is poised to compete in the event, and it’s based right here in Leipzig. I talked to paracheerleader Franziska Trojahn, who told me more about the team and how we can support L.E. Dancers on their quest for excellence.
The team is made up of 20 dancers (ages 14-34), who were selected in an open training. Six of the dancers have different disabilities and are included in the dance routine according to their individual capabilities.
The team is trained by two experienced instructors, Kristin and Stefani, who also started the project. Additionally, the project is supported by several helpers, parents and medical staff, who cope with the special needs of a para team.
There is no sponsor for L.E. Dancers, so the trainer Kristin, seven dancers and six supporters are paying the 1600€ each for the trip by themselves. Since all participants work on a voluntary basis for the project, L.E. Dancers has started a crowdfunder to at least cover the flights (600€ per person). The campaign runs for 30 days and it’s “All or Nothing” – the goal of 8400€ must be reached, or all money is returned to the donors.
Let’s cheer the L.E. Dancers along – all the way to Disney. Here is the campaign, where donations can be made until 27 March 2018.
German National ParaCheer Team performances:
17 March: Regional Championships in Riesa.
24 March: AOK Plus Spring Run in Leipzig. They will also have a bake sale at the run to raise funds.
27 April: ICU Worlds live stream.
Cover shot credit: Felix Kunto