COLUMBIA — Despite the constant thud of bouncing basketballs from the gym at the Armory Sports and Community Center, a loud “Hey! Hey! Here we go!” chant can still be heard echoing through the halls.
The Lil’ Lady Bulldogs Dance and Cheer Group practices at the Armory Center twice a week in order to learn routines for performances in the community.
The group recently performed at the Family Fun Fest in May and hope to make an appearance at the upcoming Show-Me State Games.
Part of the Columbia Community Recreation program, it was started six months ago as a way to get girls ages 6 to 11 to learn cheerleading and dance skills. Sonrisa Wood, who has five years of experience as a dance and tumbling instructor, took charge of on the group in December.
“I want to make sure the girls have fun, help them learn that exercise and fitness can be fun and assist them in gaining self esteem,” Wood said. “I really want to establish that sense and process of accomplishment.”
As the energetic girls take on a new dance routine at practice Wednesday, Wood, who choreographs all of the group’s numbers, gives them some advice about dancing.
“Here’s the trick about dancing,” Wood calls out as she teaches an eight count of dance moves. “It’s not just thinking about what you’re doing now, but what you need to do next.”
Wood says one way to help the girls improve their dance skills is teaching them to be positive.
“During practice, ‘can’t’ is a four-letter, dirty word,” Wood said. “I tell them that if they try it, then they can do it. Their dance moves don’t have to be perfect.”
Athena Hord joined Wood in January in instructing the group by teaching the cheerleading aspect. She said she tweaks cheers she used in high school to make them easier for the young girls to learn, and hopes to eventually teach the girls how to stunt.
“I want to be that person for them to have fun with, especially if they don’t have a lot of fun at home,” Hord said of working with the group.
Wood added that she really wants to teach the girls what it’s like to be on a team, and instill that team spirit in them.
After an hour-long practice of cheering, tumbling and dancing, Hord and Wood bring their team in for a fun dance to the “Cha Cha Slide” before breaking on a noisy “Gooooooo Bulldogs!”