“How are you wearing your crown today?”
Qwan McIntyre asks his kids this each day.
This is the Dynasty family. More than 40 girls and boys ages 4 to 18 come each week to the warehouse tucked in between a bingo hall and boxing gym. They come to cheer, dance and learn valuable skills for life.
McIntyre is the owner and head coach of Dynasty Harrisburg Cheer and Dance on N. 10th Street in Harrisburg. Beginning in rented spaces in Hershey and Middletown and even holding classes outside, McIntyre started his cheerleading and dance company in 2015 under the name PA Dynasty.
He has been cheering since he was 4 years old, when he would use school recesses to persuade his friends to join him in cheer jumps and tumbles on the playground. But McIntyre was a boy in a girl’s world, and it wasn’t always easy.
“It was hard to protect myself from the stereotype, but, with the help of my family, coaches, friends and teammates, I was able to build tough skin while growing into the coach I am today,” he said. “I would say the older I got, the more I used the stereotype to my advantage.”
Since those days in elementary school, McIntyre worked his way up to a bigger audience than his playground peers. He is now in his second season cheering for the Baltimore Ravens.
Nonetheless, his real passion is found in a hot and sweaty gym surrounded by kids up on the big blue tumbling mat.
“I give this my all, I give it 2,000 percent,” McIntyre said smiling. “This is my baby. They’re my babies.”
Dynasty Harrisburg offers “tiny classes” for cheerleaders around 3 years old as well as hip-hop classes, open gyms and cheer teams. McIntyre stressed that there is no experience necessary, and there’s a team for everyone.
McIntyre kept in touch with childhood cheer friend, Daquan Johnson-Thompson regularly. They had a lot to talk about—Thompson owned a cheer gym in Philadelphia and McIntyre had his in Harrisburg. Realizing how similar their gyms were, they came to a conclusion—it was time for a partnership.
On May 1, PA Dynasty became Dynasty Harrisburg, joining the Dynasty Spirit Elite All-Stars franchise, which is 11 years old and based in Philadelphia. In July, a Maryland location was added to the franchise.
“I can’t wait to see the growth,” said Thompson.
Twice a week, Thompson travels more than two hours from his home gym in Philly to coach in Harrisburg, alongside their staff. That requires more than a passion for cheer, but for the athletes themselves.
“We [Thompson and McIntyre] are like the dads, and the coaches are the uncles and aunts,” he said.
Coming under the Dynasty franchise is a huge deal for Harrisburg’s gym, given the Philly gym’s success. Dynasty All Star Spirit Elite won the Varsity All Star Triple Crown Championship in 2018, making them the first champs to win two years in a row.
Under the new franchise, Dynasty Harrisburg will now offer new programs such as Dynasty Motivated—a community outreach program. Coaches and staff will take the kids into the community to participate in activities such as cleanups, breast cancer awareness walks and food drives.
There will also be life skills classes offered for the athletes themselves. McIntyre listed off cooking and art classes as potential offerings.
“I want to help children learn those life skills,” McIntyre said. “At school, you do learn your biologys and your maths and your world history and all that, but I feel like they miss out on teaching how to do checkbooks and budget for our bills.”
The gym will also follow Dynasty Philadelphia’s cyber school program, where they open up their space for athletes enrolled online to work and study in. McIntyre hopes to have teachers onsite that can help them where needed. He expects all of this to begin in the next year or two.
“You don’t see lots of cheerleading programs doing things like this, so that is a big barrier breaker for us,” McIntyre said.
Like a Family
Not only is Dynasty breaking barriers with its upcoming programs, but also with the atmosphere they work to create.
Sixteen-year-old Annessa Augustine loves to cheer for the adrenaline rush.
“I didn’t really think I could do it, but I always push myself to learn new skills,” she said.
Struggling with being more reserved, Augustine found growth at the gym. She explained how everyone at Dynasty is like a family, which was comforting and created a space for her to come out of her shell.
“It helps me communicate,” she said. “I’m antisocial, so this changed that for me.”
McIntyre exaggerated how the coaches and staff work to foster that familial atmosphere, one where they teach kindness through leading by example.
That’s what stood out to An’jaleeha “Leelee” Goodman when she switched from her previous gym to Dynasty Harrisburg. The atmosphere was completely different, which helped boost her confidence.
“This gym is about making sure you feel comfortable,” Goodman said. “It’s helped me with anxiety. It helps me all the way around.”
McIntyre also stressed that Dynasty is built on the idea of celebrating diversity in competitive cheerleading. Dynasty’s social media posts often include #blackgirlscheer or #blackfranchise.
“We are trying to show everyone that, no matter who you are and what background you come from, that you can do this and you have what it takes and not to second guess who you are or the way you look,” McIntyre said.
Dynasty Harrisburg is a small gym. It’s easy to miss driving by, and it’s quiet during the daytime. But around 6 p.m., it comes alive and fills up fast. Dancers and cheerleaders take their places on the mat, and McIntyre reminds them to think about “what can you do to uplift yourself and the person next to you.”
Kids come for the sport, but receive more than just athletic training—they gain a family, a support system.
“We are building dream chasers,” McIntyre said. “We are building young men and women who will conquer everything that they put out to do in the world and not just in cheerleading.”
Dynasty Harrisburg is located at 125 N. 10th St. Harrisburg, PA. For more information visit their Facebook page: Dynasty Harrisburg Cheer and Dance.