By CONNIE ACOSTA
ELYSIAN VALLEY — The holiday season is parade season for coach Norma Ruiz and the 100 members of 1st Impression. In a high-ceilinged studio and gym on Gilroy Street, the drill team has been rigorously practicing new routines in preparation for the upcoming Echo Park Community Parade. It’s one of four parades the group will perform in during the holidays.
Owner Ruiz, who runs the private studio, finds that a parade is like performing on a moving stage.
“We need to repeat a routine over and over from start to finish, and make sure we perform for the crowd,” said Ruiz. The crowd “seems to like our visuals that we create with our routines and how we connect to the theme.”
While Santa is the star attraction of the Echo Park and other holiday parades, drill and cheer teams from schools and private studios make up a big part of the events. For example, 22 drill teams are on the list to shuffle and swing down Sunset Boulevard in this year’s Echo Park parade.
In addition to the parades, 1st Impression participates in 10 competitions and performances a year, including shows during Dodger and Clipper games, Ruiz said with a smile.
The team also raises funds all year long by recycling, selling snacks, and shirts. Team member Jasmine Maldonado said that everyone partakes. “The funds help buy uniforms and pay for the gym,” she said.
Students find the discipline of “drill” — as they refer to the activity with its rigorous routines — can be applied to academics and even distract them from ailments by putting the focus on the present.
High school sophomore Jasmine Maldonado — who has been “doing drill” for seven years — has found that the discipline has many intrinsic rewards.
“I do it because I like it,” Maldonado said. “It helps me with my juvenile arthritis. When I finish a routine, a performance, after the class is over, I feel good. I feel accomplished and I’m no longer focused on my disease.”
In addition, high school sophomore Cindy Gutierrez –third year with 1st Impression and fifth year in drill — said that the commitment and practice towards mastery of the routines can also be used in her school work and other parts of her life.
“In drill, we work out for 2 hours and the routine is 3 minutes; you have to practice until you get it right,” Gutierrez said.
Similarly, Maldonado said that drill team has kept her focused, and as a result she’s doing well in school.
“I want to graduate and go on stage,” she said. “It helps me concentrate more in math since we use counts in drill. I don’t mind doing it over and over until I get it right, just like in drill. ”
Connie Acosta is a former LAUSD secondary mathematics teacher who taught for 21 years.
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