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Gimme an A!

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"I was a junior-high cheerleader," Aimee exclaims, proudly throwing her arms into a stiff V for emphasis. "I'm like, "I'm glad you asked. I did make the squad.'"

"I was rejected," Cara says with a sideways smirk at her sister.

Aimee is not the only former cheerleader to turn radical. Narrowing her eyes in mock scrutiny, Cara says the sisters can usually spot a squad member with previous experience: "It's like, Hey, where'd you get those moves?"

Both say they're inspired by the skill and athleticism of conventional cheerleading, and it motivates them to perfect their moves. In fact, Aimee says, the aggressive sexuality of modern cheerleading inverts the demure moves of old-fashioned pompon girls: "There are some stomps and some grinding the hips that I don't think cheerleading ever intended," she says, arching an eyebrow.

Aimee cheers every day, repeating her favorites like a mantra and busting out the steps to boost her mood. It bothers her, for example, that the squad's most daring stunts are so-called "cheater pyramids" -- not the legit, stacked formations of the top teams.

"I'm constantly practicing," she says. "If I pass by a full-length mirror, I'm like, "Tighten it up!'"

Even though it conflicts with their goal of inclusiveness, the Jennings sisters admit they can't help but cringe at the sight of limp, sloppy moves. They want their cheers loud, their moves tight, and their routines synced. Aimee dreams of elevating radical cheerleading to its sporting-world equivalent: "I'm all watching ESPN and saying, "We can do a basket toss!'"

The cheerleaders strutted their subversive stuff at Fort Lauderdale's Museum of Art last December as part of a program by their friend, Miami artist Naomi Fisher, who designed the squad's posters. While preparing for that show, Cara had to keep her natural perfectionism in check. She wanted the squad's performance to be impressive, but "you know we're antiauthoritarian, so we can't be that tough!"

The national media is also beginning to catch the spirit. Cara says Seventeen magazine contacted the New York City radical cheerleaders, hoping to accompany them to anti-FTAA rallies in Québec City, but the squad ultimately said no.

The Jennings sisters have also been interviewed for an upcoming article about radical cheerleading in Spin magazine and were sent an application to be included in a show at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Though the concept has changed in ways they never imagined, the Jennings sisters don't sweat it. Dissent always gets co-opted, Cara notes. Ideas that were once radical get absorbed by the mainstream and commodified.

For example she heard that the Spice Girls were a commercial outgrowth of the riot grrrl movement, and while they might not be explicitly feminist or anarchist, Cara concedes that the perky girl-group does have attitude -- and a song in praise of nonmonogamy.

"It'd be nice, though, if they looked like other women," Aimee interjects.

"OK, I take it back," Cara says dryly. "The Spice Girls are fucked."

Radical cheerleading may have struck a chord globally, but it's only one aspect of life at the Villa de Vulva. On Tuesdays the residents hold a "stitch and bitch," which is sometimes suspended in favor of 99-cent bowling at a local alley. (To save money, they share shoes.) Thursdays they put on a theme movie night using a borrowed VCR.

Villa residents work to keep things free, cheap, or DIY -- a practice for which un- or underemployment is both cause and effect. Since it's hard to keep both your job and your principles, residents are sometimes fired or forced to resign for speaking their minds. It's just as well, they shrug, for while they usually need to work to live, they don't live to work. Chronic joblessness forces Villa residents to rely on the excess of capitalism, which they find all around them in forest-green bins.

Everyone who Dumpster-dives, like everyone who fishes, loves to tell the story of his or her greatest catch. For Mel it was the time she found a pink Hello Kitty hair set in an Eckerd Dumpster. "I was so happy," she gushes. Another time she and a fellow Dumpster-diver unearthed a perfectly good boom box with just a few messed-up buttons.

Peter's fondest memory is the time former Villa resident Waffle found toy swords in the trash behind a drug store and the two fought a Dumpster duel amid the garbage. He laughs, but Sue keeps a straight face. Things have changed at that particular Dumpster: "They got a compactor now. Fuckers. All of them."

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Amy Roe

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