by Kelly Sublett
Central Arkansas Baton Twirling has been an option for young people in Conway for 10 years, and owner and coach Janice Jackson Seamands says there are more benefits than one might expect in the sport.
“You can have fun while learning, and you get out of the competition what you put in,” she says.
Baton twirling has a long history, beginning with drum majors who were male. Eventually, women began to enhance the techniques and skill associated with the baton and “majorettes,” as we know them now, were born.
“There is a whole baton twirling world, and unless it has been promoted in the area you live in, you might not know there are scholarships and world competitions,” Janice says. “I think one of the biggest things it does for people is that it gives you confidence and the ability to be relaxed while presenting yourself. It even helps with interview skills, especially for those who will go on to twirl for colleges.”
Baton twirling has several categories by which twirlers can be judged in a competition. An event might include strutting events, which consist of constant motion.
“It is likened to walking the football field with the band, twirling the whole time,” Janice says. “It’s not easy.”
There are other categories of competition, too, including the actual number of batons in the air at once (up to three), rhythmic twirling, flag twirling, duets and trio performances and military strut among them.
“The skill involved is fascinating because there are so many parts of it,” Janice says. “It is very important to have a strong dance technique.”
And all ages are welcome for instruction at Central Arkansas Baton Twirling, considering competitive age groups begin as young as age 1-6 and age 16 and older. Both girls and boys are welcome in the sport.
“And yes, we still do fire batons,” Janice smiles. “That’s always fun.”
Janice has an impressive resume as a coach, but her first introduction to the world of twirl was humble and created a lasting bond with her father.
“My dad was an audio engineer,” she says. “One day he came home from working a dance recital and said, ‘I think I saw something at work last night that you might like.’ I guess I was 8 years old. I figured out really quickly twirling was for me, and my dad always supported me.”
And her grandmother helped foster Janice’s skill in the sport, opting for buying lessons instead of Christmas presents.
“I was happy with that,” she says. “That was a big gift and she paid for lessons, competitions and costumes. I meant so much to me. I probably got to travel to 90 places I would never have gone and see a lot of the world. It opened up a world to me I wouldn’t have otherwise.”
Janice now has taught baton twirling for 35 years for athletes across the United States. She also judges competitions worldwide.
She was the USA World Team National Coach in 2009, 2012, 2015 and 2018. She was the acting president of the World Federation of National Baton Twirling Associations in 2015 for the world championships. She is a charter member of the National Baton Association Baton Twirling Hall of Fame.
Janice’s students include Miss Texas 2012 DaNae Couch, Miss Texas 2011 Kendall Morris and Miss Texas 1993 Bashara “Bo” Chandler, among others. She trains featured twirlers for colleges, including the University of Central Arkansas, University of Arkansas, Arkansas Tech and even Ivy League colleges like Yale University.
Central Arkansas Baton Twirling now is accepting new students, and Janice invites those interested to visit the studio at 1089 Front Street in Conway to get an idea of the multi-facets of the sport.