Photo credit: Will Sterling / Sterling Photography.
If you're paying attention to the dance scene, then you know Dianna Williams from Lifetime's Bring It! is changing the game for majorette dance. Her Dancing Dolls have not only made an impression on TV for the last five seasons, but they are winning competitions and are consistently packing in audiences for their Bring It! Live tour.
In addition to the television show, Williams authored her memoir, Standing in the Shade, that was published in January. She also opened her third studio, Dollhouse Dance Factory, in Atlanta, Georgia.
Dance Network spoke with Williams recently about how she prepares her dancers for competition, how majorette dance has evolved and whether we will ever see one of her teams compete on World of Dance.
Dance Network: The Dancing Dolls have strong dance technique. What do you expect from them when it comes to training?
Dianna Williams: I expect for every dancer to put in the work on and off the dance floor. From taking class, getting private lessons and doing whatever is needed to get ready for whatever dance style is thrown at them — that is part of the Dancing Dolls foundation.
DN: What are the differences between the dancers in your three studio locations — Birmingham, Alabama, Atlanta, Georgia and Jackson, Mississippi?
Dianna: To be honest, the Atlanta dancers are more advanced as a group. They joined together as a group and when they started they were required to take a ballet, jazz and hip-hop boot camp. The other two locations, we held tryouts over the years, so we would have three dancers join one year and five dancers another year. The Atlanta group was bonded from the beginning.
[Editor's Note: Dianna had some additional thoughts elaborating on this questions after publication. We wanted to share them with you as they are important to her story.]
The differences in each team are their individual swagger. The Atlanta and Birmingham teams started out together so they had a level playing field on training. All dancers are required to take ballet, modern, contemporary and other technique classes to get them trained fast.
The Jackson team had me personally to train them over the years, and although some took class at Dollhouse and others took class at the local performing arts school, they were ahead of their time simply because I was right there. Birmingham and Atlanta didn’t have me with them from the beginning, but their coaches are trained and are able to coach all styles
DN: How have Dancing Dolls evolved over the years when it comes to dance technique and performance?
Dianna: The Dancing Dolls have become way more fearless than the norm. What I love about that is that they are willing to try anything once. They have a can-do attitude. If they see one person do it, they will all try it. Seeing this evolution of them with the tricks and the style is mind-blowing.
DN: Are you training the young women for a professional career in dance?
Dianna: I am training the girls to look outside of the box and not choose one specific thing. Dance can go either way — it doesn't have to be a professional career, it can be a stepping stone to the very next thing.
I always tell the girls to look for something bigger and something better. There are so many different ways to use what they've learned, but I do want them to use what they learned in a more professional setting. I remind them that we all have our own personal journey in life.
DN: You've been credited with creating a whole category of majorette dance, beyond what we see at historically black colleges and universities. That's a big statement, how do you feel about that?
Dianna: It's a big deal and it's a huge responsibility. I don't take it lightly. I take it very seriously. I look at what I do with the Dancing Dolls as a job. I know people are watching and it's kind of scary. I feel good knowing that I am a part of something that is bigger than me. I never thought it would be me.
There is no box to check for majorette dance. When you think about dance, there's ballet, there's tap, there's jazz, there's hip-hop, but we are in our own lane. Uniqueness is something that I preach and the Dancing Dolls are eclectic in their own way.
DN: Have you considered putting a team together for World of Dance? Majorette dance has not been represented on the show yet.
Dianna: I have thought about it. Right now, I am trying to take a mental break from filming and coaching. My son is nine years old and I've spent a lot of time away from him — a lot of time focused on the business and not enough time on my family. So I'm not saying yes, right now, but I'm not saying no. It's definitely on my radar.
Don't miss Dance Network's 'To The Pointe' interview with 'So You Think You Can Dance' All-Star, Robert Roldan: