Pom-Poms, Not Bombs
Thompson, Rachel, Herizons
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(VANCOUVER) They're angry, they're tough and they have had enough. They engage (and enrage!) passersby as they shake garbagebag pom-poms and their rear ends. They're the Radical Cheerleaders, and they're making a racket on streets near you.
More of a movement than a cohesive group, the Radical Cheerleaders subvert the American icon with striking sarcasm, political outrage and ironic sexiness. No one is certain where it all began, but legend tells of two sisters in Florida (circa 1999) who wrote cheers to replace tired protest chants, and went out to make some noise.
Today those cheers echo across North America and parts of Europe. In Halifax, Toronto, Winnipeg, Victoria and elsewhere, cheerleaders (about half of whom are male) wear red and black "uniforms" of short skirts, feisty T-shirts, combat boots and wild pigtails. Cheers about globalization, body image politics and police brutality punctuate their acrobatic routines.
Your first clue that these aren't your typical cheerleaders is the "lack of cohesive talent," points out Sonya Jenssen, 28, a Simon Fraser University cheerleader. "Our uniforms are crazy, our moves are not tight, and our message is way different."
Appearing at anti-war and anti-globalization rallies, the cheerleaders aim to break the monotony of "Hey, Ho" chanting. They find that people don't always want to read about the issues, and would at times rather be informed by the "2 Percent Protest, 98 Percent Funky Stuff" of their street theatre. …