• WHAT: Manteca Parks and Recreation baton twirling camp
• WHEN: Monday, July 1, through Thursday, July 4 (includes participation in Fourth of July parade). Times are 9 to 11 a.m. for ages 4 thru 6 and 10 to 11:45 a.m. for ages 7 thru 18. Parade is at 10 a.m. on July 4
• WHERE: Manteca Library McFall Room, 320 W. Center St., Manteca
• COST: $25 for ages 4 thru 6 ($35 non-[resident) and $35 for ages 7 thru 18 ($45 non-residents). Deadline to register is June 27
• MORE INFO: Go to www.mantgecagov.com/parks or call 456-8600
Dandi Manuel won’t tell you how old she is.
In fact, just asking is kind of rude – it’s the sort of thing that your Dad tells you when you’re old enough to steal dabs of his after shave.
But she’s been baton twirling ever since she was a baby. And now she’s old enough to have a daughter that’s good enough at baton twirling herself to travel around the world and compete against some of the best competition that the sport has to offer.
And that means that she has a lot of knowledge to pass on to those who participate in her annual Fourth of July baton twirling camp at the Manteca Library’s McFall Room starting on July 1.
Those that sign-up – the camp will run through July 3 and all participants will get to march in the annual Fourth of July Parade down Main Street – typically use the experience as a launching point towards year-round classes. The best students move on to competing. The very best travel to distant places (a group is gearing up to head to Florida next month) as both competitors and ambassadors of the sport.
“I enjoy being an instructor,” Manuel said. “I started when I was a baby, and I’ve been doing it all my life. It’s a chance to travel the world to compete if you stick with it.
“Practice helps build the hand-eye coordination that you need to do this. Practice is really what makes the difference.”
Next month one of Manuel’s students - Baylee Pine - will pack up her batons and head to Florida for a competition against other high-performing twirlers that have put in the time and effort to earn their spot on the stage.
Pine has spent more than half of her life with a baton in her hand, and when she starts her routine - practiced for hours and hours and hours - the haphazard tosses and obviously impossible catch attempts give way to something far more elegant.
She glides. She slides. She twirls. She twists.
And throughout the entire routine she doesn’t make a single mistake - avoiding a baton drop at the end by snagging it less than an inch off the ground. For anybody the performance would have been impressive, but coming from a 9-year-old that says she loves being a part of a community like what she finds at the competitions only elevates the impressiveness.
“I get to meet friends from different states and it’s something that I really like,” she said. “It’s fun to learn new things, and they get easier the more that you do them. The timing can be the hard part.”
Manuel says that she encourages anybody that’s interested in baton twirling to contact the Manteca Parks and Recreation Department at (209) 456-8600. A variety of classes are offered, but the three-day camp that leads into the Fourth of July parade, she said, is the perfect introductory opportunity for kids four and up. T-shirts will be available for purchase prior to the parade but are not required.