Pitt’s new majorette team shares Black culture through dance


Romita Das | Senior Staff Photographer

The Royal Girls majorette group in the Petersen Events Center.

By Ben Pisano, Staff Writer

Chelsea Adinuba, a sophomore double majoring in health science and information systems, felt that something was missing from her college experience. When someone broached the subject of a majorette team in a group chat for Black Pitt students, Adinuba finally realized what was missing — dance.

Now, Adinuba is captain, president and choreographer of “Pitt Pantherettes” — a newly formed majorette group that’s stealing the show at the Pitt women’s basketball home games. The group’s nickname is “The Royal Girls.”  

Originating from cultural traditions of historically Black colleges and universities, majorette incorporates West African, contemporary and hip-hop choreography into a style that coordinates with the music of the school’s marching band.

In addition to organizing tryouts and officially registering the club with the University, Adinuba contacted Pitt’s marching band for their recorded set list to use as a basis for the team’s choreography.

“I got in contact with the right people,” Adinuba said. “I knew I had to get in contact with the band, I had to get in contact with people in marketing, I had to get in contact with people to register the club. So I just asked the band and they sent me their files for this school year for the music, and we just went from there.”

According to sophomore anthropology major Ashia Lovelace, majorettes are distinct from cheerleaders or other dance teams because of their connection to Black cultural expression.

“It is a group of Black women doing what they do best,” Lovelace said. “Just triumphing in life. We put a little bit of sass in it. We really get the crowd going at the basketball games. We just really bring that energy that Pitt needs.”

The team currently has nine members, all with varying levels of dancing experience. One member, sophomore biology major Eniola Ayo-Gbenjo, said she had some formal training with her high school’s dance company. Conversely, first-year accounting major Lily Ayuk had no dance experience prior to joining The Royal Girls. For Ayuk, joining a majorette team allowed her to connect with her culture — an opportunity she seldom found growing up in Russia.

“I personally don’t have any dance experience,” Ayuk said. “I never danced or cheered in high school. What attracted me [to the team] was I wanted to do something that made me tap into my culture a little bit. Since I grew up in Europe, I was never around people of color. I felt like this was something that could get me out there and get me comfortable [at Pitt].”

The team also weighed in on the wider conversation regarding the dissemination of HBCU cultural traditions to predominantly white institutions. Mimi Incoom, a first-year undecided major, recalled a news story of a majorette team formed at the University of Southern California, citing it as a reason why she felt a majorette team was also possible at Pitt. 

“The Cardinal Divas” — USC’s first majorette team — went viral in September for a video of the team dancing in the stands of a USC Trojan football game. While the team received widespread support for their performance, others voiced their displeasure at what was deemed appropriation of HBCU culture.

“I think a lot of people have the wrong idea when you bring a majorette team, a historically Black dance team, to a white school,” Ayuk said. “But as a person of color who grew up around white people, it feels really inclusive. I’ve tried to join the cheer team. I’ve tried to join the other dance teams, but I felt out of place because I wasn’t around people who look like me.”

In addition to dancing at the women’s basketball games, The Royal Girls will perform at the annual Controlled Chaos spring showcase in March. The team will hold tryouts for their fall roster at the end of the spring semester and at the beginning of the fall semester.

While Adinuba cited a multitude of reasons for starting the team, she said that her primary motivation was inspiring other students to follow their passions.

“If they have a dream in their heart, they can do that,” Adinuba said. “They don’t have to wait for anybody else’s permission. Once you find the right people, and you have that team and you have that vision, no one can really stop you.”

Editor’s Note: Chelsea Adinuba briefly worked as a writer at The Pitt News. This article was updated to clarify that the group’s official name is “Pitt Pantherettes” and their nickname is “The Royal Girls.”