Some of you may have seen a dance group strutting around campus in tights, high-waisted shorts and extremely flattering turtlenecks. But just who are these mysterious ladies? They are San Diego State’s Aztec Diamonds, a student organization founded by social science junior Maderia Toatley in 2012. The team is made up of 15 women who want to express school pride through dance and choreography.
But this isn’t your average dance team—it’s a drill team. The Aztec Diamonds, who dance in unison to hip-hop, can be compared to the dancers in the movie “Drumline” with Nick Cannon and Zoe Saldana.
Toatley said she was surprised SDSU didn’t already have a drill team before she came to the school. Toatley said in the South, drill teams are almost a rite of passage for every school. Because Toatley is from the South and danced on her high school drill team, it was only fitting she would be the one to found SDSU’s first drill team.
Gussie Nell Davis at Greenville High School in Texas created the first drill team in the 1920s, known as the Flaming Flashes and then went on to create the world famous Rangerettes at Kilgore College. Both teams were crowd-pleasers and started a trend of having drill teams in high schools and colleges throughout the South. Today some of the major teams include Marching Angoras drill team from Atlanta and the South Shore Drill Team in Chicago. Davis’ team goals were to promote school spirit, entertain, and build confidence and self-esteem. Toatley has similar goals for the Aztec Diamonds.
“I hold my Diamonds to a higher standard because not only are we dancers, but we are role models for all students,” Toatley said.
She says all of her teammates maintain high GPAs and she works to uplift them in every way. She said the Aztec Diamonds are not just teammates, but sisters.
Toatley says she chose to call the team “Diamonds” because the name just spoke to her. Merriam-Webster defines a diamond as flawless, which is exactly how Toatley wants her drill team to be perceived.
“As a Diamond, you are expected to be an example to the SDSU student body and San Diego community at large and to always carry yourselves with distinction and class,”
Her mantra for the team is that diamonds are sharp; diamonds endure; diamonds are desired. Everyone wants a diamond, but not everyone can obtain one. With these words, Toatley strikes confidence in her teammates and gives them the self-assurance they need to keep the team strong and grounded.
The Aztec Diamonds gave an unofficial performance during tryouts on April 12 to 14. The routine started with a slow R&B tempo and ended with an upbeat hip-hop song that showcased a variety of talents from flexibility to beveling—which is a complicated drill team step. Although the dances seemed arduous, the members encouraged everyone there to try out.
“Anyone can do it,” management sophomore Crystal Williams said. “When it comes to tryouts we aren’t necessarily looking for the best dancers, we are looking at the person as a whole. How they interact with others, what type of standard they hold themselves to and how they respond to critiques.”
Many of the dancers explained that, at first, they had no idea how to bevel, but their captain was very patient with them and taught them everything they needed to know.
“Patience is key,” communication sophomore Diamonte Harper said.
Harper and Williams said they joined the Aztec Diamonds in order to gain more confidence on the dance floor and in everyday life. The team hopes to spread this confidence to other young girls.
“What we really hope to do is build self-esteem among the young girls that attend our university and I think we do that by not feeding into any negativity and only looking at the positive,” Harper said.
Next fall, you can expect to find the Aztec Diamonds at football games and competitions giving fans reasons to smile. The Diamonds hope to become a renowned team at SDSU and show no sign of slowing down in the future.