Penelope Abreu is a sophomore Editing, Writing and Media major, minoring in Communications, but that’s not all. She is a member of the Florida State University Majorette Line called the Spearettes, a division of the FSU Marching Chiefs. The Spearettes play a huge role in halftime performances during football season, and even compete outside of football season in the spring! This week I got to speak with her and chat about all things twirling and FSU.
Her Campus (HC): How long have you been twirling? What made you want to start?
Penelope Abreu (PA): I have been twirling since I was seven years old! I started because my friend was in the baton twirling program at my elementary school/YMCA, and I decided I wanted to try it out.
HC: What made you want to be a majorette at FSU?
PA: Growing up, I would always see the majorette line and feature twirlers compete at local competitions or at nationals, but I never had a longing or feeling of wanting to be a majorette at FSU. I always assumed I would go out of state for college, so I never really paid too much attention to them. However, my view completely changed when I visited FSU for my second time ever in March of 2020. I took a tour of campus and completely fell in love with the university. I committed to FSU that day and decided I would be trying out for the majorette line that summer.
HC: Were you ever nervous thinking about dancing and twirling at the college level?
PA: SO nervous! For a lot of twirlers, including me, it feels like college twirling is what all of those years of hard work leads up to. The process of trying to pick a school that not only suits your educational needs, but your twirling needs as well, was an incredibly difficult process. Especially since the audition process could start as early as December for some schools or as late as April/May for other schools.
HC: Can you walk me through what a typical game day is like for you?
PA: Hours before the game starts, I wake up and get ready for the long day ahead. I usually shower and wash my hair, so that my hair is wet and easier to put up into our team hair (typically two braids into a ponytail). I do my makeup, eat breakfast, change into a practice outfit, pack my bag and zoom out the door (because I’m usually running late).
We run through all of halftime and pregame as many times as we need to. This practice runs anywhere from one to two hours. After this, we all make our way to Dick Howser Stadium. Here, we change into our performance outfits and perform in “Skull Session.” During “Skull Session,” each section of the band performs a piece of music, while the visual teams perform a short routine to any song. At this point, there’s about an hour and a half before kickoff. The majorettes put on our boots and march over to the stadium with the rest of the band.
Once we get to the stadium, we put our stuff down, eat a snack or meal, touch up our hair and makeup and get ready for pregame. We step outside onto the field, warm-up and take turns practicing tricks. When it’s time, we line up in the end zone and begin performing pregame! After pregame, the majorettes line up behind the end zone and watch Chief Osceola throw the flaming spear into the field.
When the game starts, we go back inside to take off our boots, put our batons away, grab pompoms and water, then we head over to the stands. Here, we watch the game from the stands while doing our pom routines to the band music. Midway through the second quarter, we go downstairs to start warming up for halftime. The whole band goes out onto the field to line up during the last few minutes of the second quarter. Right as halftime begins, we march onto the field and start our performance!
HC: Do you have a favorite memory from a game day or competition at FSU?
PA: I have many amazing memories from game days, like when we twirled fire at halftime AND WON THE MIAMI GAME! But, I don’t think anything could ever top the nerves, excitement and pure joy I felt the first time I marched pregame and performed halftime during the first home game of the year against Notre Dame. That night was the first time I truly felt like I was a college twirler and like my dreams came true.
HC: Do you have any tips or advice for young girls who dream of dancing or twirling for their future college like you do?
PA: A big part of college twirling is performance! Just be excited and confident and your audience will be too! You don’t have to be doing huge tricks, just be a performer. Something that took me so long to learn (and that I still struggle with sometimes) is don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Twirling becomes much less stressful when you start doing it for yourself and your own enjoyment, especially in performances and competitions. You’ll find yourself falling in love with twirling all over again if you learn how to have fun with your audience (or judge). No one is perfect. You might make a mistake, drop, forget the routine [and more]. There is no need to panic. Just laugh it off and keep on going. I promise you, the world doesn’t end at one mistake.