On May 18, 2024, Annapolis Recreation and Parks is hosting the Maryland State Championship in the sport of Twirling. Allora Ferree, the three time Maryland State Twirling Champion, will be there.  So will 17-year-old Alexis Brock and 12-year-old Sammi Cooper, who won an international competition in England last year. Maiya Keen, who Twirls at the University of Delaware, and Carly Pometta, who twirls for Coastal Carolina, two of the 100 colleges that offer the sport, will also attend. So will their coaches, Theresa Ferree and Colleen Rowe, who lead the program at the Pip Moyer Recreation Center. Colleen Rowe, founder of Illusions Baton Twirling Club in Arnold, last year won the National AAA Twirling Team Championship.

Yes! Annapolis is home to twirling champions. Twirling is a sport that employs gymnastics and dance movements while manipulating a baton and it is a sport that is played worldwide. You might recognize twirling champs leading a marching band or majorettes twirling a baton in high school or college. I watched these athletes practice tossing a baton in the air, doing two flips and catching the baton as it falls to earth, with a hand behind their back.

Achieving this skill does not happen easily.  Encouraged by her mom, Alexis Brock started playing with a baton when she was 2-years-old. Allora, who finds this athletic endeavor a good release from school work and just plain fun, began at age 7. So over 10 years of practice and competition rolling a baton over arms and back and in the air while dancing and tumbling to music, leads to the incredible artistry of champion Twirling.

It is an athletic sport featured at World Games but not yet the Olympics. Annapolis Recreation and Parks, Pip Moyer Center, is a Twirling Center. Interested? Leading up to the May 18 Maryland State Championship, the Maryland Baton Twirling Corp will host twirling competitions on April 20 at the Pip Moyer Recreation Center.

Twirling originated in the 18th century in the Rhineland by women as a carnival dance that parodied the camp life of the military. Eventually, the scantily clad women-camp-followers copied ballet education and gathered in dance groups and performed in parades. Majorettes evolved from the dance clubs that also featured baton twirling (the guns) and, increasingly, required knowledge of manipulating the baton.

Baton Twirling requires coordination, flexibility, and the elements of dance and gymnastics that require body control. It is now a fine-tuned sport that began as a parody of Prussian militia by women 300 years ago. One hundred U.S. colleges offer the sport of Twirling.

Annapolis Pip Moyer is a training center with two award-winning coaches instructing 36 students ages 7 to 17. It is hosting the Maryland State Champion Twirling Championship on May 18.

Ellen Moyer is a former mayor of Annapolis. She welcomes comments and idea sharing and can be contacted at [email protected].

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