Tonawanda News — During a recent Twin-Ton Twirling Corps practice at Meadow Elementary School in North Tonawanda, there’s a lot to catch the eye.
On one side of the room, instructor and group founder Rita Lovegrove-Weaver walked a group of younger participants through an exercise, the girls watching her as they solemnly spun their silver batons with ever-growing dexterity.
At another, a group of older girls practiced throws and gymnastics moves, batons flashing through the air higher and higher.
And nearby, instructor Debbie Gramza-Dudek keeps an keen on them, occasionally calling out advice and instructions as she speaks about the sport she’s loved and practiced — in one way or another — for decades.
“This has been my life for so many years,” said Gramza-Dudek, a resident of the Town of Tonawanda. “I’ve done it all: Twirled, taught, judged. It can be a recreational thing; you do it once a week and have fun. Or it can be more.
“It can be almost anything you want it to be.”
The Twin-Ton Twirling Corps was started about four years ago by Lovegrove-Weaver, who approached Gramza-Dudek as another coach. Both instructors met in and took part in the now-defunct Twin-Ton-Ettes for years, moving on to other groups, competitions and teaching.
“It’s been a lifelong passion of mine,” Lovegrove-Weaver said. “I’ve twirled all my life, and knew that someday I wanted my children to twirl. It’s shaped me into who I am today, so hopefully it does the same with my children.
“I think for me, growing up in twirling ... it was almost a second family. The people we met back when I was in Twin-Ton-Ettes, we all grew up together. They were lifelong friendships.”
According to the U.S. Twirling Association, one of the bodies governing the sport, twirling is an “artistic and aerobic sport” that “combines dance and gymnastics while manipulating one, two or three batons.” It’s done individually and in teams.