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Published: Thursday, 1/3/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

SeaGate Centre plays host to Greater Midwest Cheer and Dance Expo

BY ROD LOCKWOOD
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Expect no sis-boom-bahs at the Greater Midwest Cheer and Dance Expo at the SeaGate Convention Centre on Sunday.

Plan instead to see high-flying gymnastic antics, youthful athleticism, and plenty of energy for an event that last year drew more than 1,000 competitors.

This is a different kind of cheerleading than you see on the sidelines of a high school football game and is more like watching an Olympic sports event crossed with a dance-off than it is seeing who can get the crowd fired up with a boisterous rallying call.

"It is very intense and what's taken over a lot of the cheerleading is the dance portion, and hip-hop is really big," said Teresa Barbiere of Cincinnatti, the co-owner of the Greater Midwest Cheerleading Expo with her husband, Paul.

"It's so exciting. It's no different than if you're a basketball player or [play] any other sport. The parents are just as crazy, that is true. But the kids love to compete and once you do it you are so hooked. It is a passion like every other sport you would participate in."

At stake for the participants from dance and gymnastic studios from all over the state is a chance to win a bid to compete in the U.S. Finals in Indianapolis. Winners at the Toledo event will have their costs reduced to participate at the higher level. Ms. Barbiere said there are 15-20 members on each team.

The athletes range in age from 5 to 18 and training consists of gymnastics, dance, and aerobics. Especially important are core exercises to strengthen the muscles required to hold another person far off the floor, leaping and twisting, and the flexability to maintain a vigorous sustained workout for two and a half minutes.

"Training involves a lot of gymnastics, so it's really important you have a great instructor for gymnastics because a lot of the scoring is tumbling," she said. "There are shirts out there that say, 'You might lift weights, but I lift people' and that's kind of what it's like. Their stretching and strength are very important."

Safety is an important issue in training and competition and Ms. Barbiere said judges will dock a team points if they don't follow "rigorous" safety protocols in their routines. Various procedures are ranked on a scale of one to five, with five being the most difficult, and for the more dangerous ones there are "pages and pages" of safety instructions and rules that must be followed, she said.

The kind of cheerleading you see at high school football and basketball games are "ground bound" without the pyramids and other stacking acts that are featured at competitions such as the Greater Midwest, Ms. Barbiere said.

The athletes on the bottom of the pyramid-type routines are called "bases" and the ones at the top are "flyers."

"There's a lot of trust that goes into the flyers and their bases," she said. "Their job is to make sure those flyers do not hit the floor, especially when they're throwing them. They're going 15 to 20 feet in the air and those girls will throw their bodies under the flyers to keep them safe."

The event starts at 10 a.m. and ends at about 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $10 for adults and there is no charge for children younger than 5. The SeaGate Convention Centre is at 401 Jefferson Ave..

Contact Rod Lockwood at rlockwood@theblade.com or 419-724-6159.



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