By: Krystal Tome and Mary Sutton
In fall of 2022, a group of Black Bruins created a danceline team at UCLA. Less than a year later, that same group would perform in front of thousands of football fans at the Rose Bowl. They are known as the Bruinettes.
Co-founders Sydney Shepherd and Daisa Watkins only recently started their sophomore year when they started building the base of the Bruinettes. To paraphrase their words, the team was created to represent the Black Bruins community on a larger platform by celebrating and highlighting danceline.
Danceline is a style of dance that is a staple of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). It originated in 1968 with the Golden Girls, the danceline team of Alcorn State University in Lorman, Mississippi. Since then, it has expanded into Black culture and American culture in general, from film and television to viral Internet trends and iconic artists who incorporate danceline into their performances. Danceline also impacted communities on the west coast, where some predominantly white institutions (PWIs) have teams inspired by the artform. It was only a matter of time, then, that the same thing would happen to UCLA.
So, who are the Bruinettes?
The Bruinettes is composed of 10 dancers. This includes Shepherd and Watkins, as well as Jasmine Aner (the tail), Matthew Morales-Boyd, Reba Thomas, Sierra Shinn, Alexis Cohen, Zahra Umoja, co-captain Sanaa Jefferson, and captain Alex Hamilton. Although the team is very new, you might recognize some of these names from other campus activities. Aner recently became vice-president of the Afro-Latinx Connection (ALC), and Shinn is the director of the widely popular Jazz Reggae Festival. Hamilton was previously a dance captain for NSU Modern, and in addition to taking the same role in the Bruinettes, she is also the production manager for Untitled Theater Company. Other dancers are involved in similar groups, making it apparent that their love for danceline mirrors that of their love for building community.
While dancers make up the face of the Bruinettes, there are many people working behind the scenes to help them succeed. The Bruinettes Board, for example, has several committees, including a funding committee, with Troy Dyer and Trinity McGregor; the relations committee, with Awo Gulaid and Krystal Tomé; and the branding and marketing committee, with Nate Scott, and Mary Sutton. Lorraine Wangari is the president of the organization, and she makes significant contributions across all areas for the team.
There is also Coach Kayla Marie Jackson and Coach Kalé Woods, who took part in the audition process and built the team that you know today. Both are alumni of Spelman College, the widely celebrated all-women’s HBCU that is home to the collegiate danceline Mahogany N’ Motion. The coaches have prolific careers in dance and entertainment, with Jackson featuring in several major productions in film, TV, and music, and Woods uplifting communities across the country through dance education and psychotherapy. Additionally, the coaches have brought in several professionals in their field to help guide the dancers and develop their skills beyond what they already know.
As football season approaches, the Bruinettes are gearing up to make a good first impression. They previously performed at the away game against San Diego State University (SDSU), where they were positively received by fans and worked alongside the opposing team’s very own danceline, the SDSU Diamonds. Now, after a long summer of practicing dozens of routines and raising funds for the organization, their first home game performance will happen on September 16th. If you absolutely cannot make it, you should try to watch the game in any way you can. Whether you find it live streamed online, or catch a recap of the day on the Bruinettes Instagram page (@bruinettesatucla), it will be a historic event that you will not want to miss.