Infamous Diamonds dance competition team dazzles Gainesville crowds
Step up and get bucked down. It’s as simple as that.
The Infamous Diamonds of Gainesville always bring their A-game.
Majorette-style dance began in the 1960s, with dance lines at historically Black colleges and universities that typically accompanied marching bands. Shows such as “Bring It!” popularized the hip-hop style of majorette dance and competition in 2014, making it a household dance style for many who were unfamiliar with it.
“A lot of people say majorette isn’t a sport,” said Ja’kayla Lucas, 15, a captain of the Infamous Diamond senior team and a sophomore at Eastside High. “It definitely is. You put in just as much work as you do with other styles of dance, and it takes a lot of power and strength.”
The Infamous Diamonds are a competition team consisting of dancers of all ages, sizes and backgrounds. And they aren’t afraid of a challenge.
With the Diamonds’ high-flying flips, intricate tricks, and all-around raw talent, these dancers are notorious for bringing the house down.
“I’m very strict and particular about what I want, the performance that I have in mind, and what they're going out there in the community to do,” said head coach Justin Doby. “It’s really hard being on the team and maintaining your grades, my attitude and your attitude.”
The Diamonds have performed at multiple University of Florida events, including the Homecoming SoulFest and parade, the UF Black Student Assembly and the annual Florida International Step Show. They are always asked to return after leaving crowds mesmerized with seamless routines.
The majorette-style dance performed by the Infamous Diamonds is different from most traditional styles of dance like ballet, contemporary and lyrical. It involves more showmanship with high-energy routines and skills such as hitch kicks and “death drops.”
The team was founded in 2016, under the name Legacy Elite. But the name didn’t fit the program, so there was a reset.
“It takes a lot of pressure to form a diamond,” Doby said, “and infamous typically means that you’re notorious for doing something, so the name just stuck.”
Over time, dancers have come and gone and graduated out of the program, but the familial aspect instilled in the team never fades.
“My girls have been dancing for two years and they are homeschooled,” said Tiana Nesmith, mother of dancers Aniya, 15, and Ashanti Nesmith, 13. “So for a while, they weren’t used to having much interaction.”
Parents of the dancers on the team attend just about every practice and performance. During practice, you can typically find them on the sidelines making sure all the members of the team are taken care of, and in their spare time, learning eight counts with the team.
Most dancers typically come into the program shy and reserved, but through the tough love and support they receive from their teammates and coach Doby, they become more confident and animated.
“Oh, gosh, my oldest? She was very timid and shy when she first started,” Nesmith said. “But now she’s there with the other kids, and they fight and act just like brothers and sisters.”
Because of Doby’s high standards, multiple dancers receive frequent honor-roll recognition. He will prohibit a dancer from participating in practices and performances if grades or behavior begin to falter.
The Diamonds practice three or more times a week to make sure that routines are seamless. Doby and his dancers are heavily involved in school and outside clubs and sports in addition to dancing.
“Whenever I get work in school, I try to get it done right then and there so that if I have any free time I can get my homework done,” said Kameal Stonerock, 16, who is also a senior team captain and sophomore. “That way, when I get out of school, I can prepare to dance and not be stressed.”
Doby is an Eastside alumnus who participated in the marching band during his time at the school. Upon graduation, he attended Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University where he cheered and was a captain.
“When I moved back to Gainesville after cheerleading in Tallahassee, I noticed it was not very competitive, and there weren’t really any programs here,” Doby said. “At the time, the show “Bring It!” came out and I was like, ‘Oh, maybe I can do that.’”
Doby also noted that his experiences as a cheerleader at FAMU and being in the marching band mixed together make him a great coach for the Diamonds because he’s experienced it all.
“It’s not like I woke up one day and was like, ‘I want to be a coach’” Doby said. “I have a passion for it, and you have to have a passion to deal with all these personalities.”
As an alumnus of the school, Doby also coaches cheerleading at Eastside, in addition to working there during the school day. Lucas, along with some of her teammates, cheerlead for Doby and Eastside High in addition to dancing for Infamous Diamonds.
The school’s marching band has gone through staffing changes in recent years.
Doby said he hopes to be able to bring an auxiliary team back to his alma mater to perform alongside the marching band. During this football season, the Diamonds have performed at Eastside’s games just to test the waters out.
“We were asked to perform at a few more of the games after our first performance,” Doby said.
Doby plans on getting the team a dance studio in the near future. The Infamous Diamonds currently practice and condition at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, no matter what the weather looks like.
The team also works at different fundraising concession events during UF athletic events to pay for things like uniforms, travel and entry fees to dance competitions with other majorette dance teams.
He also recently entered the team in the upcoming Universal Dance Association national dance competition at Disney World, so that his dancers can compete and experience different styles of dance.
“Our goal is to get there and unfortunately it's a lot of money, so we've been kind of working our behinds off to get that money raised,” Doby said.
“I want to be able to show them the competitive side of dance, so currently we are working towards getting the studio and paying our debt to Disney.”