High hopes for UEA Angels Cheer Stunt

Excitement is building and preparations are well underway for UEA Angels Cheer Stunt’s 2019 season.

As well as the usual national competitions and Derby Day, UEA Sport’s reigning team of the year are hosting several events including the return of the club’s Blind Dates event in the LCR, and an upcoming showcase next week where the public will be able to see the club’s new routines that they’ve been working hard on for the first time ahead of the new season.

Cheer Stunt consists of four sections: tumbling, dance, jumps and stunting, all coming together to make a routine. It is a separate sport from Cheer Dance, the synchronised, pom-pom wielding troupe.

A basic ‘stunt’ sees a brave ‘flyer’ lifted up in the air, with two strong ‘side bases’ standing either side and holding each foot, plus a taller ‘back’ to stand behind the bases and keep the flyer upright.

Some of the cheerleaders have backgrounds in trampolining and gymnastics, but many only started at university. UEA’s squad, like any good Cheer Stunt team, requires a variety of different skills contributing to some impressive moves. The bases and backs need to be strong, with excellent communication when performing stunts, while flyers have to have total confidence in their team-mates to execute each stunt. While the club is naturally female-dominated, it is not exclusive, with everyone welcome.

Cheer Stunt at UEA is split into two squads. Comp squad is selected at the start of the academic year after tryouts, with around 25 members training up to three times a week and representing UEA at several national competitions. Show squad is slightly more relaxed with a weekly training session, and performs its routines at events like showcases and Derby Day.

Comp squad competes at Level 3 of national Cheer while Show squad is at Level 2. Next year, the club is looking to send a group from Show squad to competitions alongside the Comp squad to give them extra experience at Level 2.

Training for both squads takes place in the Sportspark’s Spring Centre, at the end of the corridor to the sports halls. Concrete visited a Show squad training session, and got to see the work that goes on behind the scenes in creating the slick routines for audiences. The club is more popular now than it has ever been, with a membership of over 90, and more than 60 in Show squad creating a real team identity. When Concrete visited, dozens of members took to the springy floor to practise stunting and choreography.

Show squad captain Nicole Bellamy said: ‘It’s so nice to have such a big Show squad this year,’ noting that in previous years they had to put down mats in Congregation Hall but can now benefit from the Sportspark’s safer and better purpose-built gym facilities.

It’s a busy time for the club, with Showcase fast approaching. There’s motivational speeches, teamwork and a real sense of achievement when a group performs well. You get the feeling a documentary maker would love to get their hands on some of the characters in the room. Bellamy wanders around, talking to the team, offering advice and encouragement where needed. Show squad coach Katya Parrish leads the session, referring to a folder of routines, the flood of pencil ‘x’ marks corresponding to a minutely detailed plan of action on the mat.

For most exercises, small groups practice stunting and choreography, transitioning between moves. Cheerleaders, we’re told, love an audience to perform to. Parrish occasionally chooses one group to perform a stunt, with the others gathering around to offer their support and encouragement. Some moves are filmed for analysis later.

Cheer Stunt is one of UEA’s most successful sports, having brought home a host of medals and national titles from previous competitions. Derby Day is never far from the club’s thoughts, with UEA and Essex both having Comp and Show squads that go head to head for the point. UEA are confident of emerging victorious again in 2019.

The club has traditionally had links with UEA’s American Football team, holding joint socials and seeing cheerleaders attend home matches to offer their support. UEA Angels can often be seen selling cakes in the Hive to raise cash.

President Emily Roe sat down with Concrete after training to run through her sport and plans for the season: ‘Cheer Stunt is a sport that is a combination of dance and gymnastics. You need different types of people – people who are confident in the air, people who are strong to be bases, people who are steady as backs and fronts.

‘In the past we’ve been double national champions which is a great achievement and hit clean with no mistakes multiple times in certain routines, especially in BCA which is our big competition.

‘The girls did well in last year’s comps. This year we’d love to become national champions again, like two years ago. We’ve got three competitions coming up, Future Cheer, Legacy and BCA, across the country. We’d love to win those and becoming grand champs overall would be ideal!

‘At the end of a cheer year new coaches get elected. This year for the Comp squad we’ve got Sophie Carter and Becky Davies, and Katya Parrish is the coach for Show squad. They work over summer to come up with the routine before tryouts at the start of the year. They work really hard and come up with the routines on their own, every part, even the dance choreography where every single person has a different bit.

‘We’re trying to improve things for next year and do lots of fundraising to get the Show squad girls uniforms. We’ve got bigger socials, plus more sober socials like paintballing, to make the club more inclusive. There’s a real family feel.

‘You can join Show squad at any time of the year, visit our Facebook page, the SU website or just come along on Tuesdays 8:00-9:30 in the Sportspark.

‘Showcase is four days before our first competition so it’s quite a lot of pressure. We love to have Showcase as a chance to practice performing before our first comp – it gets the new girls less nervous and they can bring family and friends along to watch from the balcony. It’s always a really nice atmosphere and great to have that support going into the first comp and a trial run-through.

‘There will be two routines from show squad to give everyone a chance to perform and have fun because they don’t get to perform a lot.

‘Blind Dates is also going to be a good night – I can’t wait! We’re looking for people of all genders and sexualities to participate so please get in touch if you’re interested in taking part.’

UEA’s Cheer Stunt Showcase 2019 is taking place Wednesday 6 February, in the Sportspark Spring Centre, with routines from the Comp and Show squads in their first show of the year. The club are asking for a small, voluntary donation of around £1 to help fund their travel and participation costs for this year’s competitions.

Blind Dates, based on the format of the legendary ‘90s TV show, will take place on Thursday 28 February in the LCR, with doors open at 7pm for a 7:30pm start. Tickets are £5 each, available from the SU website. The bar will be open for business and there will also be a cake sale to raise cash for the club, following the success of last year’s event.

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Tony Allen

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The University of East Anglia’s official student newspaper. Concrete is in print and online.

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