San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

‘No Diamonds, No Pressure’: San Diego State’s Diamonds give electrifying performance at showcase

SDSU’S historic majorette team, the “Dancing Diamonds,” lit up the student union theater with their performances, showcasing “The Legends of Eleven” to celebrate a historic season
Naiima Paul
The Diamonds performed a Burlesque number as part of their showcase

On March 10, the San Diego State Diamonds presented their season 11 dance team through a series of performances, showcasing the talents and hard work of their members.

The Diamonds are the first college majorette team on the West Coast, representing an important style of dance most associated with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). In their performances at sporting events, parties and competitions, the Diamonds bring Black art to SDSU.

The team was founded in 2012 by Maderia Toatley, a former student who wanted to bring the style she was familiar with dancing in her Atlanta high school to the West Coast. The team brings “the southern flare of HBCU style dance” to the university. 

The showcase celebrated the 2023-2024 team, also known as “the Legends of Eleven.” Season 11 of the team is currently composed of eight dancers: captain JohVonne Roberts, co-captain Taylor Shorter, Kya Thompson, Myah Gilmer, Christina Renee, Layla Ng, CaZaria Smith and Jalia Murvin.  

The showcase included a number of different dance performances from the Diamonds. The team showcased their skills with a wide variety of impeccable choreography, including a West Coast Legends performance, which represented California’s thriving Black culture and also a tribute to Michael Jackson. 

While most of the dances showed off the skilled synchronicity of majorette dance, each member had a chance to showcase their talent and individuality with moments of solo expression. Each move was filled with power and confidence that made it clear why audiences are captivated by the Diamond’s talent. 

The performance also featured guest performances from African dance group Afrique and junior majorette team Beauties that Beast, led by the Diamond’s coach Brionna Jones. 

In an emotional speech after the performances, Jones, known affectionately by her team as “Coach Bri,” expressed her gratitude for the support the Diamonds received in the past year.

“I want to thank anyone who’s helped the Diamonds this season,” Jones said. 

In her second year coaching the team, Jones witnessed the changes that came with the Diamonds as they received more recognition. 

“We had nowhere to practice before I came,” Jones said. “They were practicing in a parking lot no matter what the temperature was. And now they allow us to dance in the dance classrooms. We have rental spaces. We have the ARC. We have all these different things that we didn’t have before. So I’m really, really grateful.”

The showcase exhibited all the work that the season 11 team has put in the past year to get where they are now. With an enthusiastic crowd screaming for their favorite dancers and erupting applause after each dance, it was clear that the Diamonds were applying the pressure associated with their slogan: “No Diamonds, no pressure.”

The event was also a space for Diamonds members to showcase their talents outside of dance, with Spotlight portions for individual members. 

Myah Gilmer’s performance of “Figures” by Jessie Reyes showcased her impressive vocal range. Captain JohVonne Roberts performed a beautiful acapella vocal performance of “Killing Me Softly” by the Fugees supported by an audience keeping the beat. Co-captain Taylor Shorter showcased some of her fashion designs at the event, beautiful crochet pieces modeled by other SDSU students. 

To conclude the showcase, the team members were recognized for their hard work over the season with trophies presented by their coach. As the seniors were given the chance to speak, they discussed the emotional feeling of dancing with the Diamonds for their last season.

“It’s just been such a blessing,” senior co-captain Taylor Shorter said. “And the fact that’s coming to an end, I couldn’t be more happy and more sad. It’s a very bittersweet moment.”

The Diamonds have formed a close-knit community around their love for dance, dedicating hours to practicing together. Several of the team’s alumni were in attendance and helped with the event, representing the ongoing bond the girls have formed in their time dancing together.

“I’m so grateful to all these girls for supporting me since I’ve joined Diamonds,” senior dancer Kya Thompson said. “We really are a sisterhood.”

The team all expressed gratitude for their coach and all the hard work she put into making the Diamonds all they could be. The respect and appreciation they had for their coach was moving, as was Jones’ declarations of pride in her team.

Jones was the first coach the Diamonds had after going over eight years with no professional leadership. Her experience and guidance helped further elevate the team’s skills in the style of dance less well-known at SDSU.

“I’ve been dancing majorette-style dance since middle school,” Jones said. “And I danced at Miles College in Birmingham, Alabama, a small HBCU but big band.”

Jones’ background in majorette at an HBCU has made her a huge proponent of the importance of the style for self expression.

“To me, majorette is the opportunity to tell your story with dance,” Jones said. “It means so much. Every move is passionate. Every move gives off an emotion. Every move tells each individual story.”

With the recognition of their historical role in bringing majorette dancing to the West Coast, the Diamonds have made a big splash. The team has had a variety of milestones in the past year, including a feature by the local CBS 8 news station, a partnership with Fenty Beauty and a 1st place title in a national majorette competition.

Co-captain Taylor Shorter enjoyed helping lead her team through one of their most prosperous years. After trying out virtually her sophomore year, she has spent three years dancing with the Diamonds. As a former cheerleader, majorette provided a new challenge to expand her dance skills.

“With majorette you have to move your body as a whole,” Shorter said. “It’s truly an art form that requires much more effort into each of its moves.”

In the past year of increased exposure, Shorter has been excited to see her team prosper on and off the field. In response to what she was most proud of, she talked about the opportunities she’d been given on the team.

“I love just being able to be put in spaces that I would have never dreamed,” Shorter said. “And to just be able to use our platform to show that we represent the Black community at (San Diego) State, little girls who love to dance and the spirit community here.” 

As the hard working co-captain of the team, Shorter wanted to provide entertainment to those watching and show off their passion for dance. 

“We’re able to put on a show each and every time we step on a court, a field, or a stage,” Shorter said. 

The Diamonds had been preparing for the March showcase since January, learning complex choreography and planning the best ways to represent the work the season 11 team had put in. As a graduating senior, Shorter takes pride in closing out her time with the Diamonds with such a memorable showcase.

“I was sad it was the last one,” Shorter said. “However, I knew I was going to be excited with the show that we had in store for everyone.”

As the season comes to a close and several graduating seniors prepare to join their previous Diamond alumni in continuing to claim their love for the Diamonds. With Jones as their mentor, the Diamonds consider their teammates their sisters.

“I love doing it with this group of girls,” Shorter said. “Diamond sisterhood means everything to me.”

The showcase displayed why the Diamonds continue to grow well known across the region and bring the pressure of majorette dancing to the West Coast. 

For more information about the Diamonds, visit their Instagram here.

About the Contributor
Naiima Paul, Senior Staff Writer
Naiima Paul is a fourth year JMS major with an emphasis in Media Studies and a minor in TFM with an emphasis in film. She began contributing to the publication in 2022 and officially joined the Arts & Culture Section of the Daily Aztec in 2023. She started by reviewing TV shows but branched out to cover events, especially related to cultural events. Outside of the Daily Aztec she’s also hosted a radio show called “Underqualified Overthinking” on KCR College Radio for almost 3 years. She’s a huge fan of movies and music of all genres, and always interested in discussing new entertainment news.