Tenuta sisters shine as Pitt Golden Girls

| Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, 12:31 a.m.

Since childhood, two Rostraver Township sisters have shared a love for twirling, marching and dancing that has led them to the same collegiate marching and baton team.

Emily Tenuta and Natalie Tenuta both perform with the University of Pittsburgh Golden Girls Majorette squad, a portion of the university's marching band for 37 years.

For senior Emily Tenuta, Nov. 28 marked her farewell regular season performance at Heinz Field during the Pitt vs. Miami football game.

For freshman Natalie Tenuta, the 2013 season was just the start of fun and excitement she has enjoyed sharing with her sister during her first year on the squad.

Emily Tenuta is a nursing major and Natalie Tenuta is a language arts education major, both at Carlow College. The girls cross-register at Pitt.

“I definitely feel a sense of sadness,” said Emily Tenuta of her Senior Day performance. “It's (joining the Golden Girls) really the best choice I've made so far in my life. The amount of wonderful memories, with the chance to travel to other states and Canada and the bowl games (in Birmingham, Ala.) are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to twirl and dance in front of the fans.”

Natalie Tenuta said her sister's enthusiasm for the Golden Girls and the camaraderie she shares with fellow squad and band members was enough to convince her to try out for the corps.

“I watched my sister's dream come true and how much fun she was having so I decided to try out. It was the right decision,” she said.

The sister have been twirling baton since childhood. Emily, a 2010 graduate of Belle Vernon Area High School, and Natalie, a 2013 BVA grad, were both four-year majorettes for the high school marching band. Natalie served as senior captain and Emily as a section leader.

Both girls also twirled with the Martinette Twirling Corps in Belle Vernon, where Natalie was a co-captain. They also took private lessons.

Members of the Golden Girls are required to try out every year to earn a spot on the team. Golden Girls Director E. Michael Baldauf said the applicants choreograph and perform their own routines before the judges. He said they also twirl and dance to a specific routine taught that day.

Baldauf is a 1987 graduate of Ringgold High School and formerly of Finleyville. The squad's director of 22 years said the Tenuta sisters are only the second pair of siblings to perform simultaneously on the squad during those years.

“Emily has been an outstanding Golden Girl over the years,” said Baldauf. “Both girls are a very nice addition to the squad.”

Baldauf said the Golden Girls are a version of Hollywood glamour and glitz. “These girls basically embody that kind of style,” he said.

During the performance season, band and corps members practice 5 to 8 p.m. weekdays.

“Sometimes it's hard to juggle school work and practice, but once you're there it's so much fun and it feels like family,” Natalie Tenuta said. “It's like you're joining with 300 new friends.”

For the shows, the Golden Girls perform dance and twirl routines to the music of two to three songs, using capes, flags, batons, etc. to create visual patterns and images. They perform a different show for every game. At one pre-game, Emily even did a fire-twirling routine! Both sisters said they enjoy the thrill of participating in the cape routine that warms up the crowd prior to the game.

“My favorite part is when we run out onto the field before the game,” said Natalie Tenuta. “There is no greater feeling than seeing the whole crowd cheering. It's pretty awesome.”

“And twirling with my sister has been pretty awesome, too,” she said.

In addition to football games, the Golden Girls at times perform at Pitt's men's and women's basketball games and do one or two promotional shows at high schools.

Emily Tutena said she is glad her sister followed in her marching steps.

“The biggest part of this is that I've enjoyed everyone I've met through this organization,“ said Emily. “I've made wonderful best friends and I wanted to encourage my sister to share the same great experiences.”

Emily and Natalie are the daughters of Frank and Julann Tenuta.

Emily also shared the Golden Girls experience with her roommate, Darcy Mautino, a 2010 Ringgold High School graduate and senior communications major at Pitt.

“The final game was sad, but the day could not have gone more perfectly,” said Mautino of the regular season finale.

A possible bowl-game performance for the Panthers was undecided at press time.

While her twirling days at Pitt are coming to a close, Emily Tenuta says she still looks forward to next season.

“I'll definitely go back to the games and all the pre-game and half-time shows to support the squad and my sister,” she said.

Colleen Pollock is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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