Shaking up tradition

The cheering crowds, the blasting noise of the buzzer, shoes scuffing the glossy waxed floor, chants echoing from one end of the gym to the other. Bright orange and royal blue uniforms catch spectators’ eyes as the Cedar Shoals cheerleaders stomp and shake Turner-Neathery Gymnasium with energetic dances and chants.  

“You can always tell when we get done with the cheer. The crowd feeds off of our energy, the players feed off of our energy and it makes the game better,”  senior Dania Flint, a four-year cheerleader, said. 

The Cedar cheerleaders use the stomp and shake style of cheer, incorporating dance and step team aesthetics to create an exciting environment for the crowd and players. This style of cheer originated in North Carolina and Virginia in the 1970s. Historically Black Colleges and Universities such as Winston Salem State University use stomp and shake cheer, and many high schools use this style. But it was not always this way. 

THE ROAR FROM ABOVE: Cedar Shoals cheerleaders stand above the court as the vibrations of their cheers rumble through the stands as the Jaguars face off with the Clarke Central Gladiators. Tensions rise as the two squads cheer side by side in the final stretch of the game. “You can always tell when we get done with the cheer. The crowd feeds off our energy, the players feed off our energy,” said Dania Flint. Photo by Alex Soto.

Stomp and shake cheer was introduced at Cedar Shoals by former coach and current teacher Lakisha Bolton in 2003. She wanted to introduce the idea of stomp and shake cheer to the squad at one of their very first meetings to see if they would be interested in learning it.  

“I asked them what they would like to do. I know traditional cheer and the stomp and shake cheer style. I knew they were doing a mix of both styles at the time when I came to coach, but they were all over the place. When the first practice came they were receptive of the style,” Bolton said. 

Some people on the outside looking in view not only stomp and shake style as combative, but they also view Cedar Shoals negatively.  This one sided perspective does not truly reflect the style or Cedar Shoals.  

“People see Cedar and our cheer style as aggressive, and this paints a bad picture. This is our style of cheer and it is unique,” senior cheerleader D’Nasia Clink said.  

Before stomp and shake cheer was popular in high schools, it was frowned upon and had negative connotations associated with the style. Some viewed it as aggressive, but this idea was anything but the truth.  Many people did not understand the story behind stomp and shake, creating misconceptions about what the style is actually all about. 

“Stomp and shake cheerleading focuses more on trying to win the gym over another squad.  Even though you are cheering for your team, you are also cheering for the clout in the gym. It’s more competitive in that way, but it’s all love,” Bolton said. 

Bolton grew up with cheer and already had a diverse background. When it came to stomp and shake, however, to be different was to be bad. To break the mold of what is considered normal can be dangerous. Stomp and shake cheer is not traditional, and it does not possess the cookie cutter qualities of the long established, more accepted cheer styles. Bolton remembers both a local and general backlash toward stomp and shake.

“It is a stress reliever. I just have the chance to yell and dance. I do not get to do that in a classroom,”

— D’Nasia Clink

“People started making rules specifically targeting stomp and shake cheer. They removed the cheerleaders from the bleachers, and it was obvious that it was being targeted. The things written in the state handbook were only specific to just one style of cheer,”  Bolton said. 

These targeted actions against stomp and shake did not sit well with Bolton. She and a fellow cheer coach took it upon themselves to change the perspective of those who viewed the style as belligerent.  

“We made it a point to join the coaches association, go to those conventions and basically defend the style. It allowed the state to see this is not just something where cheerleaders were going rogue. It’s a different style,” Bolton said.  

The stomp and shake cheer style is unique and acts as an outlet for students. Jaguar cheerleaders adore the style, and it gives them a way to express themselves and their love for Cedar.  

“It is a stress reliever. I just have the chance to yell and dance. I do not get to do that in a classroom,” Clink said. 

The more that knowledge spread, the more stomp and shake became accepted. Social media platforms launched the exposure of the style, allowing for more growth in high school environments. 

“I think social media has really helped the style become more accepted than it was when I started. Back when I did the style there was no Facebook, no Instagram. All you had was the style. So when we did it back then it was more isolated. Social media has allowed other squads to share and see other schools doing the style,” Bolton said. 

Even though the style was not accepted everywhere right away, from the beginning the Cedar community accepted stomp and shake. Stomp and shake emulates the community and the culture of Cedar Shoals, bringing new aspects of cheer that reflect the current generation of students.  

“If we did not have stomp and shake cheer at Cedar I would still want to be a cheerleader, but only so I could introduce the style and continue it,” Clink said.