The circles are kept relatively small: no more than 25 women. Participants include those who make six-figure incomes and others with more modest means. They meet for two hours, once a week over three months and often learn that more things connect than separate them. Just having the experience of being a part of a sister circle, makes me think about the survival of the generations of women that came before us.
The bond between sister friends is a deep aspect of our history. And that is why I believe Black women have become so resilient. Not out of anger but out of emotional bonds that hold us up. So today, I just want to say thank you to all of my sister friends and our sister circle. Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor is a publisher and multicultural communications specialist.
To reach J. View all posts by JAM Aiwuyor. This is beautiful! It reminds me of my girlfriends back home. Thanks Nikki!
WHY AN ALL GIRLS' SCHOOL
Your friendship has definitely been a blessing : I think there is something about the bonds of sisterhood that has enabled Black women to go farther than anyone imagined of us. Hi Jessica, I love how you eloquently summed up our sisterhood. Sure Angela! Feel free to repost. I truly enjoyed this read! I really miss that bond and now since I no longer attend I feel as if a part of me is missing. Thank you so much for sharing this it reaffirmed a lot for me.
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I hope you rejoin the group because it sounds like you had a great experience. Those supportive environments are needed. Reblogged this on Kim's Random Thoughts. Thank you for sharing this story with us. I enjoyed it immensely. We need sister circles in many communities throughout. And from a young age you are discouraged from sharing too much because it makes you vulnerable. I loved reading this because the media would have people think that Black women are not sisters at all with all the ratchetness of reality tv.
I Love to see unity in any form. You raised great points and a lot of people can benefit from reading your piece. Keep up the great work. You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Google account. You are commenting using your Twitter account. Crupi started the music. The girls began to snap their fingers slowly.
One by one they whipped around and did a few solo moves. They ground their rib cages and hips. Tiffany did an aerial — a handless cartwheel, body hanging suspended for a moment upside down in the air. The other girls stalked around the stage, strutting on their tiptoes. They smacked the floor with their palms.
Crupi cut the music. To keep time, the girls counted out loud in unison. Crupi watched, her chin lowered, eyes fixed at ankle level. Angelina sprang into the turn again. She did it several more times while everyone watched. Crupi nodded. The girls learned the dance in December and would perform it until nationals in July; although Crupi had created the dance, in some ways the girls knew the steps more intimately than she did.
When Crupi turned around for a moment, they negotiated further among themselves, behind her back. Crupi split the girls into two groups and had them do the turns again. At one point she became so absorbed that she did a pirouette herself without remembering she was holding an open cup of coffee. The girls laughed politely, but their eyes followed her warily when she walked from one side of the room to the other.
After mistakes, Crupi turned away in genuine disgust, her nostrils flared and her mouth twisted. When Crupi grew irritated with the girls, she began to act out dramatic scenes, growing unexpectedly emotional.
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Color shot quickly to her cheeks, and her voice grew thin and high with feeling. Crupi was hard on Angelina. At competitions, she got angry when Angelina screwed up, becoming icy and giving her the silent treatment.
I cry in the bathroom. I think, Why do I do this if I get upset so much? She was unembarrassed and felt no need to hide that her dreams for Angelina were tied to her dreams for herself. In a way, she even seemed proud. By the time Crupi was satisfied with the turns, it was 10 a. She had the team run the whole piece one more time.
She demonstrated, contracting her spine and shrugging her shoulders forward, conjuring an imaginary garment, something glamorous and strapless. The long-awaited Showbiz meet with Larkin in Hackensack began on April 7. That weekend, there was a special guest: Du-Shaunt Stegall, a year-old hip-hop dancer and competition-dance celebrity from Las Vegas who goes by the name Fik-Shun. Competition dancers with national exposure are not uncommon at regional events, whether they appear as featured teachers or — if they are young enough — competitors. When Fik-Shun took the stage for his performance at midday, the crowd of several hundred girls erupted in piercing screams.
Fik-Shun paced bashfully, waiting for them to stop. When he began to dance, his body looked slippery, like a 3-D animation. In moments of crescendo, he sent a quaking motion from his chin to his toes. Afterward, Fik-Shun retreated backstage, where he was quickly encircled by teenage girls.
Nicole, who had dark hair, long legs and a pleasant New Jersey accent, was famous on the internet. Her follower counts were high for someone who had never been on a competition-dance TV show. She had 20, followers on Instagram and over , followers on musical. Other children were writing their Instagram handles down on a piece of paper to give to him, slightly irritated with themselves, like businesswomen who had forgotten their business cards.
For these children, who are typically paid in merchandise, self-produced leotard modeling shots are susceptible to scrutiny by anyone with access to a smartphone. One mother told me that these accounts, distressingly, often had nothing posted but pictures of infants. Angelina spent a lot of time online tracking the movements of the dancer she perceived to be her main competition at nationals in Florida this year, a year-old named Angel DiMartino Palladino, who was part of a studio in Ontario. She had resolved to work harder on her own performance skills as a result.
Angelina posted videos of her solos for her followers, as well as effusive birthday messages for her dance friends. It was awkward to explain social-media apps to an adult. Nicole had an easier time talking about it. One evening in December , when she was 13, she was featured on the musical. Overnight, she acquired 30, new followers. Her numbers continued to grow. Last year, she went to a special meet-and-greet in Central Park with other famous musical. At competitions, people were scared of her, she said. The other Prestige dancers gathered around to listen. Her fame seemed so permanent to them that it was barely considered worth questioning.
The other girls nodded contemplatively and shook their heads in wonder. Fame was everywhere. A few hours later, as I was leaving the gym, I saw Nicole barreling toward me, followed by Tiffany and Jenna. Fik-Shun loped unhurriedly behind. Tiffany opened the musical.
Fik-Shun did the robot; Nicole hiked her leg in the air, then released her torso to the side in an explosive lean, neck snapping back, one foot reaching dizzily into the air. It took about six seconds. After he walked backstage, Nicole slid to her knees and began replaying the video. The Larkin team, long scrutinized online, was even more intimidating in the flesh. They retired edgily to the dressing room, noting that their mothers were in the audience and would be able to tell them how Larkin looked. Eventually, though, the much-touted rivalry with Larkin seemed to dim.
After the group number, while some of the older Larkin girls performed their solos, the Prestige teammates became consumed by a lengthy hair-braiding exercise in their dressing room and declined to watch. I still want to really get myself up there, too. She congratulated them with genuine warmth as soon as they were finished, but she knew they were hoping to beat her, too.
Rivalries with other schools were a necessary performance, but the most piercing feelings of competition were animated by their friends. The girl she had said this to flashed her an electric look of acknowledgment and pleasure, then turned toward her mother as though nothing had been said. And yet the teammates watched one another onstage with awe and possessiveness, like parents. Once, she told me, she imagined them all in the ocean together, doing their group number while also swimming like a school of fish.
They hissed questions back and forth and improvised last-minute adjustments to timing and steps, making sure each girl understood the movement and planned to do it in the exact same way. The girls knew it was an audition, and the class atmosphere was tense for weeks. Crupi encouraged their anxiety, wondering aloud if she should cast understudies.
At 12, she was on the younger side of the preteen age group, which was mostly year-olds. Jenna sat by her expandable makeup dolly and cried, the line of her scalp showing through the middle part in her reddish hair. The other girls offered comfort, approaching one by one and placing their hands on her shoulders. Frantically, they donned their final leotards of the day. Crupi paced among them, livid about the shoe. The girls nodded and turned toward one another, standing shoulder to shoulder and bouncing on their toes.
Be the dancers we know we can be. The rest of the team groaned with recognition. The piece never failed to inspire emotion in the judges. The video was uploaded in ; the 7-year-olds in the footage are now high-school age. At least one still dances competitively. Three girls wearing striped two-pieces, thigh-high socks and matching bobs, stand in an aggressive, wide-legged stance.
When the song begins, they mouth the lyrics, pouting and stomping. The comments on the video, many of which profess to be from aspiring dancers, claim a mixture of suspicion and awe. Earlier that year, Angelina went to see the Rockettes, but she came away unswayed. At the final awards ceremony at Showbiz, the overall championship trophy stood behind the crowds of children, beside a table that sagged with the weight of smaller trophies.
When it came time to announce the recipient, the announcer hesitated. Crupi climbed slowly toward the place where her team sat.
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She wore a dim smile; everyone needed to be on their best behavior, despite not having won. It was pyramid-shaped with sharp-looking edges, made of glass. Cameraphones clicked. Angelina posed and grinned before leaving the stage. I saw her give herself a searching look in a mirror placed backstage.
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Then she did a little move. It was something else, her own gesture. An earlier version of this article misidentified the location of a dance studio. An earlier version of this article described incorrectly the relationship between the dancer Angel DiMartino Palladino and Dina Crupi, a dance studio owner and teacher.
The Power Of Sister Circles And Safe Spaces
Lizzie Feidelson is a writer and dancer living in Brooklyn. She currently dances for the choreographer Moriah Evans. Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of The New York Times Magazine delivered to your inbox every week. Supported by. Say it!