Hillside Recreation Department keeps youths in line

The mission of the Showtime Strutters is to give the community’s youth an activity, other than sports, that will expand their range of interests.

HILLSIDE, NJ — The Hillside Showtime Strutters has been strutting its way into the hearts of many in Hillside and beyond for years.

The drill team and drumline, offered as a program through the Hillside Recreation Department, is composed of approximately 60 drill performers and 25 members on the line.

The drill team and drumline were re-established in 2012 under the direction of Al-Nisa White, who was a member of the team as a child.

“At that time, it was named the ‘Dynamic Marching Unit’ under the direction of J.R. Cowins until his passing,” White told LocalSource in a June 9 email. “I joined the Dynamic Marching Unit when I was 6 years old. After the death of J.R., the drill team and drumline was never the same. The drill team and drumline have gone through multiple directors, as people do move on.”

According to White, the magic of the experience never left her.
“Needless to say, the directors that I had as a child still show support to me today,” White said. “The drill team is more like a family and I still live in Hillside. Just so happens one day, the recreation director, Mr. Dave Klurman, approached me and asked if I was interested in starting the program back up. I remembered how much of a positive experience I had as a child with the drill team and I had no qualms about directing the Showtime Strutters.”

Members of the drill team and drumline, ages 6 to 16, are taught by six instructors, according to White.

“They are taught valuable dance and basic-to-advanced drumming that can be used as they progress to secondary or higher levels of performing,” White said. “Drill performers dance and step in coordination to drum cadences and have a wide variety of performances, from local township appearances to out-of-state parades. We show up and show out.”

According to White, the mission of the Showtime Strutters is to give the community’s youth an activity, other than sports, that will expand their range of interests.

“The children are introduced to dance and percussion instruments that they may not have a chance to experience otherwise, as it can sometimes become costly,” White said. “We also teach discipline, teamwork and leadership skills.”
White said that preparing for performances requires plenty of work and dedication.

“Leading a group of children always has its ups and downs,” White said. “With the vast age and personality differences, the kids must learn to work together and focus on routines and they work very hard.”

David Klurman, Hillside recreation director, said the team often practices at the recreation center and that the center helps out with some activities.

“We supply supplemental material like pizza parties and trophies,” Klurman told LocalSource in a phone interview.

Klurman said that he appreciates the fact that the mayor and council have approved monies in the township’s budget for the drill team, and also praised the parents for helping out throughout the year and covering the costs of uniforms, hats and boots for members.

“This particular group gives the greatest exposure to the youth that represents the Showtime Strutters by showing them off in other communities,” Klurman said. “That gives the greatest exposure in the most positive light.”

White noted how the group has grown over the years.
“When we were re-established, we started with 13 girls and three drummers,” she said. “As word spread, interest in joining grew. Many of the children active now have parents who were members of the original Dynamic Marching Unit. The drill team and drumline give the kids an activity for the summer. They get to shine and show off their hard work during parades and performances and, in turn, the positive feedback of spectators makes them want to work harder. Hillside community has been very supportive and invite the Strutters to perform at local township events.”

Each performance is unique, said White.
“We have some performances where we are the only entertainment,” White said. “The drill team will perform to a drum cadence and the drumline will also get a time to shine with them stepping up and performing. This year, our drumline director came up with a name for the drumline, which is Blue Thunder, because there are a lot of drumlines that have names and it gives the kids something to be proud of.”

According to White, everyone comes together to make the performances a success. While White designs the costumes, music is taught by the drumline directors, and drills and dance moves are choreographed by the staff with the help of the team’s captains.

“The captains select children that have stood out with their leadership and skills and we expect them to lead their team successfully, and they do,” White said.
White said that the team has performed far and wide.

“The Showtime Strutters has the main parades that we perform every year and we are always invited to perform the following year,” she said. “We also get invites from other parade participants or spectators and that’s how our performance schedule keeps building. We also have the help from volunteer parents who we call the SSPA, the Showtime Strutters Parent Association.”

The SSPA assists in a variety of capacities, including costume maintenance, chaperoning, performance registration and providing water and snacks for members at events.

“They have been a constant support,” White said. “The SSPA is there to make sure the operations of the drill team and drumline run smoothly so the instructors can focus on what’s most important, which is teaching the children.”

Although directing the drill team and drumline takes a lot of work, White said she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It is a lot of work and my team of instructors and parents make the program run smoothly,” she said. “To see the look of pride on the children’s faces after finishing a parade or performance and getting accolades from the crowds is priceless. I look forward to returning every season.”

The team is currently preparing for an Independence Day parade in Plainfield.
The Showtime Strutters accepts donations of water bottles, help with transportation and assistance with its end-of-season dinner banquet.

For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/Showtime-Strutters-764745573688049/.