Leopardettes of the past bridge the generation gap

When former Adamson High School Leopardette Sue Roberts, class of ’61, was asked to dust off her drill team baton for a reunion performance this spring, she never could have predicted the impact that twirling performance would have.

The result was Adamson High School’s drill team director, Kelly Bates, and principal, Evangeline Kircher, asking Roberts and the other self-proclaimed “vintage Leopardettes” to teach the current drill team the art of the twirl, resurrecting a 31-year-old Adamson tradition.

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It all started in April when Leopardette alumni Deanna Sackett-Venable had the idea of reuniting former Leopardettes for a surprise twirling performance at the 11th annual Adamson all-class reunion.

“It was just like riding a bike,” Roberts says. “None of us had ever thought we would twirl again.”

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After six weeks of rehearsal, the vintage ’dettes took the stage, brought down the house, and caught the eyes of current Leopardettes.

Adamson High School alumnae Sue Tucker Roberts, Donna Jones Stice, Suzanne Bass and Deanna Sackette Venable (from left to right) have a few things to teach the current generation of Leopardettes. PHOTO BY BENJAMIN HAGER

“During rehearsals in the auditorium, we noticed some members of the drill team would come to watch,” Roberts says. “Each rehearsal would bring more girls. They wanted to know what it was like to be on the team all those years ago; they wanted to hear our stories and know what we did.”

Roberts and the other vintage ’dettes told the girls how the team had twirled batons from 1950–81, how they had led the Cotton Bowl parade, and how the leaders of the Leopardettes had twirled fire batons.

“We didn’t know the history,” Leopardettes senior captain Jocelyn Sarmiento says. “We didn’t know they twirled, and we were so excited when we found out!”

Once Leopardette director Kelly Bates saw how excited her girls were about twirling, she says she “couldn’t think of any reason not to bring it back.” This summer, the vintage ’dettes will teach the current team the basics of baton twirling for use in their 2011 half-time routines.

“It has really been great for all of us … it’s incredible exercise, and all of our doctors are thrilled we’re doing it,” Roberts says.

The vintage ’dettes hope that this opportunity opens the door to a larger mentoring opportunity.

“My Leopardette experience was not just about twirling; it was a lifestyle full of lofty goals, ideals, behavior and grade expectations, and accomplishments,” Roberts says. “The Leopardettes was a safe place where I could learn the skills I needed later in adult life.”

“Being a Leopardette was like being Miss America,” says Roberts. “Now we are reliving the dream. Never in a million years did I think this could happen.”