Dianna “Miss D” Williams is the energetic founder of the Dancing Dolls dance team from Lifetime’s smash series, Bring It! Williams, started dancing at age 3, been teaching dance classes in Jackson, Mississippi recreational centers in 2001 and the same year, founded her competition team, the Dancing Dolls. She opened her own studio, Dollhouse Dance Factory in 2010 and teaches every style of dance imaginable, from jazz and tap to ballet and lyrical. But Williams and her jaw-dripping competition team are best known for their eye popping hip hop and majorette routines and their legendary stand battles. Miss D and I had an awesome chat and she is the inspiring instructor that every parent dreams of coaching their child.
When I think of Majorettes, I think of girls in go-go boots twirling batons. What you’re doing looks nothing like that. What is a modern-day Majorette?
Williams: Some majorettes twirl batons, high march and kick every now and then. Our majorette style is advanced jazz, hip hop and lyrical dance styles. It’s a mixture of multiple styles. Lyrical encompasses emotions; hip hop has attitude and hard-core energy; ballet teaches you poise and balance; tap teaches you footwork. Cheerleading teaches you to jump and tumble. So we use all of that. It’s kind of a mixture of everything. And in the South, it’s just called. “Majorette.”
Can you explain what a stand battle is?
Over the years, the stand battles have evolved. At one point, a stand was just a single 8-count. It would be something that you would see dancers do in the stands of a football game.
Now, there are regular stands, and there are battle stands. They are completely different things. Battle stands have punch lines, and crazy tricks, and gimmicks. Over the years, stand battles have become mini-routines that don’t exceed a number of 8-counts. That number is set by each competition; they all have their own rules. The captain stands in the front, and she throws the first 8-count or a variation thereof, or even a hand signal or a body gesture. That tells you which routine she’s talking about.
How many different battle stands do you practice before a competition?
We practice every battle stand that we have. We have between 50-60 battle stands that we practice before every competition to decide which ones can be utilized against our opponents.
Every team we compete against is different and they all come with a diverse style. We have to make sure that whatever stands we use in the competition are best suited for our opponents. Sometimes we don’t know our competitors at a competition. Last week, we faced a team from Miami and we’d never heard of them. We didn’t know how to prepare for them, because for us, they were non-existent. Some of the other teams who we have competed against, we use Google, or YouTube to check out their dance styles and plan our stands.
We have a game plan but until we’re in a competition, we don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s very strategic. We have a certain set of stands that we want to do, a certain one first, another one second and a different one third, but the strategy can change. It’s like football, you have a plan and if the quarterback sees that it’s not going to work, they can always change the play — call an audible.
Stand Battles can get heated, and sometimes the attacks seems personal, how do you keep your girls gracious?
It’s something that’s taught and something that the team is founded upon. I always tell the girls, “cockiness is nothing, humility is everything.” At any given time, God can snatch your talent just to prove that he is in charge and not you. The talents and gifts that we all present, some are learned, and some are given.
I don’t want my girls to think that just because you won today doesn’t mean you will win tomorrow. And if you lose today, it doesn’t mean you won’t win tomorrow.
I don’t want them to feel that they can put someone down because they won. And it’s not okay for someone else to put them down if the other team won. I want them to maintain great sportsmanship and they know it’s a demand that I have: you are always to cheer for your opponent, and congratulate them for a job well done, whether my girls win or lose. It’s always that way.
Are these life lessons that the girls will take outside of the dance studio?
I know that it is, because I’ve seen the girls go through different situations, where they ran for homecoming queen, student body president, or wanted to get a specific award, and if they didn’t get it, they understood that their opportunity is coming. Or maybe someone else was just better. Sometimes it’s hard to get to this understanding, they’re still kids. They still want everything to happen for them. As adults, we can understand it a little better, but as kids, they’re not going to understand it. As they get older they’ll understand it better.
Let’s talk about your relationship with the moms. Is that a conscious decision that you made to keep the moms outside?
The parents did that to themselves. At one point, there was a rule that a parent had to sit in on practice at least once per month to see the progress of their daughter. The girls would get mad that they weren’t making cuts. Parents were accusing me of favoritism or not liking their daughter. I’m a person who can show you better than I can tell you, and if you don’t want to believe my words, I will show you. So when we would have cuts, I would invite the parents in, so they could see.
I’ll never forget, it was a few years ago, I was going trough a performance and the parents started to get a little rowdy — just talking too much. They were chatting for almost an hour and I kept asking the parents to keep it down and it got to a point where it irritated me. It was distracting, so I kicked them out and I told them they could look in through the window, and it just became permanent.
How does it feel to be such an integral part in the lives of so many girls?
I’ve been the go-to person when things happen in their lives. I’m in the midst of their lives. Kayla has been with me since 5th grade and now she’s a senior in high school. I’ve been through a lot with them. When they get in trouble, they call me. When they’re hurt, they call me. When it’s time for prom, they call me. Class day, they call me. When they succeed, they call me. They call me for everything. I’m a part of their lives and they call me, “Momma D.”
It’s like something that the kids — especially my alumni, girls who have graduated and moved on — it’s something that they do. I still keep up with their lives and what they’re doing. When they pledge a sorority, or if they graduate from college, or if they have a child, they still call me. We’re one big family.
What attributes make for a good Dancing Doll?
One thing that I love about my girls is they are fearless. 90% of the crazy things that you see them do, they have brought to me, wanting to try it. I’m more of a “Keep your feet on the ground, we’re not Spider Man” person. But if they want to try it, let’s try it. Let’s see what happens.
But what makes them successful is definitely dedication, determination, perseverance. And most of all, humility. I am not a cocky person. At all. I am not a person who thinks that I am better than anyone else or that things are going to be handed to me, or given to me. I’ve always explained to the girls, from the time that they make the team, that you will work hard. You will work hard to be a successful member of this team.
But you determine your own fate, not me. It’s up to you to decide if you make cuts this week, not me. You’ve done the hard part by making the team and the rest of it is on you. Any girl who comes on my team who is cocky can’t stay on my team. Same if you’re not going to listen. You and I are going to butt heads. And if I butt heads with somebody, I’m always going to win. Cause I’m not going to argue with you. I’m going to put you off the squad.
You mentioned Kayla before, tell me about some of your other girls. What do you love about Sunjay?
I’ve taken a lot of crap from Selena and the only reason why that I take crap from Selena is because of Sunjay. Sunjay is the underdog. I’m a big rooter for the underdog. Somebody who is trying but can’t seem to get it. Those are the kids who are my favorite, because I want them to prove to themselves that they can do it, and prove to the world, “I am worthy of being on this team.”
What about Crystianna?
And Crystianna is very special because she’s a quiet, silent killer. You don’t see her coming because she’s a powerful dancer but she’s quiet. She’s also divers in jazz/lyrical and hopefully as the season goes on, you’ll see some of her moves.
Camryn seems poised to break out of her shell. Will we see that in Season 2?
Camryn a great at Jazz and lyrical and she’s quiet, but Camryn is starting to come out of her shell. I don’t want to give it away, so keep watching, but Camryn’s attributes are mainly that she wants to become a great leader. Not because of her mom, but because of herself. I’ve talked to Camryn a lot during the tour that we’ve been doing, over the last 6 cities, she’s really stepped up. You’ll see it, but I don’t want to give it away.
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