Cheerleader Heaven: The 2010 P-R-O Convention (Part I)

There’s a reason why its called Hotlanta and its not because of the weather.  Last weekend, more than 200 professional cheerleaders and dancers from across the country gathered in Atlanta for All Pro3’s 7th annual P-R-O convention, or as I call it Cheerleader Heaven.  Hot weather, hot cheerleaders and hot dance routines.

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The P-R-O Convention is the premier professional dance convention and the instructors represent the very best in professional cheerleading and dance.  This year’s instructors included:

Sandy Charbonneau – Armed Forces Entertainment
Raquel Torres-Garcia – San Antonio Spurs (NBA) and Silver Stars (WNBA)
Denise Garvey – NY Jets (NFL)
Alto Gary – Houston Texans (NFL)
Tamara Jenkins – FC Dallas (MLS)
Stephanie Jojokian Washinton Redskins
Heather Karberg – Arizona Cardinals (NFL)
Stacie Kinder – Tennessee Titans (NFL)
Shannon Kingsley – Seattle Seahawks (NFL)
Tami Krause – Minnesota Vikings (NFL) and Minnesota Swarm (NLL)
Brandii McCoy – Charlotte Bobcats (NBA) and Charlotte Checkmates (AHL)
Tracey Rutledge – All-Pro3 and former Atlanta Hawks
Michelle Stover – Washington Wizards (NBA)
Derric Whitfield – Houston Energy (WPFL)

The organizers of P-R-O gave James and I complete access to the convention’s events and in this article, I will provide our readers with a first hand look into the premier professional dance convention.  We have a lot to cover so, let’s begin with Saturday’s report.

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I strolled on down to the lobby area of the hotel to grab some juice and a croissant.  It was 8:40 am. Registration was at 9:00 am and I wanted to get a bite to eat before beginning the day.  As soon as the elevators doors opened, there they were…a gaggle of Jets cheerleaders who were in line to get a few snacks of their own and they were soon joined by some Redskins cheerleaders.  They were in full uniform and that must have been a pleasant surprise to the hotel guests lingering in the lobby.

Even though it was early in the morning, these girls were put together.  Perfect hair.  Perfect make up.  And yes, they looked amazing in their uniforms.  I was in cheerleader heaven.

Another pleasant surprise was seeing Amy from the Arizona Cardinals Cheerleaders as I was in line to buy my breakfast.  As I mentioned in my article on the 2010 Arizona Cardinals Cheerleaders auditions, Amy is an amazing dancer, one of the best I have ever seen in my over 30 years of photographing cheerleaders.  We exchanged pleasantries and gave each other a hug before moseying up to the grand ballroom.

I met James in the entrance way to the grand ballroom.  A photo area was set up with a backdrop and he was there to photograph the squads as they arrived for registration.  Catie from All-PRO3 was also there to interview the cheerleaders. She is a former Houston Texans cheerleader who serves as the one of the hosts of P-R-O.

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This year, the red carpet area was like the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Little stars with team names were placed on the carpet.  That was a big hit with the girls and made for a nice photo opportunity…and I took advantage and photographed Ashley from the Washington Redskins.

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I left James alone to do his official job for P-R-O and strolled on over to the registration area to start my coverage of the day’s events.  It was a little after 9:00 am and squads were beginning to roll in.  At the registration table, the girls were given registration materials, a schedule of events and some raffle tickets for Sunday’s sponsor’s raffle event.

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After registration, some of the girls took photos in front of the P-R-O banner, while others visited the sponsor tables.

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First up was the Line Up, which had displays of the many of the uniforms that they provide to the NFL, NBA and minor league teams.

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In fact, many of the squads at P-R-O were wearing the Line Up’s designs.  I was able to snap a few photos of those cheerleaders and will showcase them in another article to be published at a later time.

The next sponsor, Capezio, was featuring a line of custom made boots with the logos of the dance teams on them.  There were boots in all shapes and colors, some typically cheerleader and some more appropriate for Lady Gaga.  Give me a simple, white boot that doesn’t detract away from the line of a cheerleader’s leg…that’s what makes for a strong visual statement.

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A new sponsor to P-R-O was Go Wild Wear. They feature a line of ready to wear designs for working out or auditions.  They do have a company that produces custom designed team uniforms, you might know them as Angela King Designs.

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One of the most popular sponsors was Peavy Hosiery.  As I discovered, Peavy is the brand of pantyhose that the Hooters Girls wear and they have a line of footless tights that seem to be quite popular with cheerleaders and dancers.  Peavy was giving out free pantyhose to all attendees and as you could imagine, the girls were all over the table.  Free stuff is always cool.

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Peavy offered discounted prices to P-R-O attendees and volume discounts to squads. Now I don’t know how many pairs of pantyhose a cheerleader goes through in a season, but if the team doesn’t provide them to the girls for free (and most don’t), then the next best thing is a good discount.

Satin Stitches was the last official sponsor of P-R-O and they feature a line of dancer wear, from ready to wear attire to custom designed uniforms for high school, college, and professional dance teams.

All-PRO3 also had a table with their clothing designs.  It was also a huge hit, judging by the number of girls looking at the merchandise.

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Professional cheerleading is big business.  It’s certainly big time entertainment, as we will soon find out because it was 10:00 am and it was time for the instructors to introduce themselves and get the girls warmed up for the day’s first session, a group dance.

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The most senior cheerleader in attendance, Washington Redskins Cheerleader Jamilla, gave a brief speech welcoming all the attendees before the cheerleaders got down to the business of the day, dancing.

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Warm ups consisted of stretching followed by a series of low impact dance movements intended to get the muscles warm and limbered up for the more exhaustive and technical movements ahead.

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As P-R-O officially got underway, I could sense that the girls were excited and enthusiastic to be here.  By Sunday fatigue and soreness would put a damper on some of that enthusiasm, but I am getting ahead of myself.  For now, smiles and enthusiasm was the order of the day as the girls learned their first routine of P-R-O.

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Now for people who have never formally taken a dance class, the instructors break down a routine into individual 8 count segments and add these elements in a progression.  It’s a laborious process, but through repetition and practice, the instructors are able to teach a routine to a large number of dancers relatively quickly.  And I mean relatively.  So, for a two to three minute routine that may consist of twenty four 8 count segments, it takes about an hour or so to introduce all the material.  And that’s with the best cheerleaders and dancers in country as your students.
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Saturday’s group dance number was a choreographed routine to the music of Dots and DJ RAN and what can only be called the 2010 P-R-O dance.

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Still photos don’t do this routine justice, so here’s a link to a video of the performance taken by the staff of All PRO3.

After the group dance, it was time to introduce the 2010 edition of the Sidelines Distractions magazine and recognize the cheerleaders and dancers who were featured in articles and photo spreads.

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After the providing each attendee with their own copy of Sidelines Distraction, there was some down time for the girls to recover.  I took this opportunity to pose and snap a few photographs of some of the squads in attendance.

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It was 11:30 am and break time was over.  Three breakout sessions were scheduled for this next phase of P-R-O and the teams divided themselves between four smaller conference rooms.  In room 1, Stephanie Jojokian choreographed a jazz/funk routine to Usher’s “OMG”.  In room 2, Alto Gary demonstrated a funk/rock routine to song “Rockstar”.  In room 3, Denise Garvey taught a jazz routine to Christina Aguilera’s “Not My Self Tonight”.  In room 4, Derric Whitfield showcased his skills in a novelty routine to Kesha’s “First Kiss”.

Now at the conclusion of each breakout session, the cheerleaders reconvened in the grand ballroom to showcase what they had learned in front of all the dancers.  The staff of All PRO3 recorded all the performances and provided videos to the squads so they had a copy of the routines for later use.

Well, here are a few photographs from the Saturday’s first break out session.

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It was 1:00 pm and we adjourned across the hall for a delicious lunch.  James and I sat with Michelle Stover and her Wizard Girls.  James had recently covered their auditions and they were one of the reasons why I wanted to cover P-R-O.  Being from the West Coast, I would never get a chance to cover these squads, which were mainly from the East, South and Midwest.  The cool thing about P-R-O is that the most of the dancers were wearing their game day uniforms and were in full hair and make up.  It is essentially a dress rehearsal and for me, it is a tremendous opportunity to take some close up photos of squads that I would never get to see otherwise.

At the lunch break, many of the girls excused themselves to freshen up their make up and change into other uniforms. The Redskins cheerleaders must have made four uniforms changes during the course of the weekend.  I think that is a brilliant idea, to give the girls an idea of how the uniforms fit when going full out on a routine.  A couple of the squads were trying out new uniforms, so if there were any issues, I suppose P-R-O is a good place to discover if everything is in order.  You wouldn’t want any wardrobe malfunctions when the season starts, so I guess now would be a good time to know.

And speaking of new uniforms, I had one of those moments when everything slows down like that scene from the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High…you know the Phoebe Cates scene, except everything was wholesome.  My moment came when the three Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders walked back into the grand ballroom wearing their new Line Up uniforms.  They looked spectacular, like three high fashion models walking the runway.  But I digress.

At 2:00 pm the girls made their way to one of the four rooms for more breakout sessions.  If you are keeping tabs, that’s five routines so far and another seven before the day would end.  In room 1, the grand ballroom, Tamara Jenkins taught what can only be called a hard core funk routine.  In room 2, Tracy Rutledge led the group in a Country oriented routine to the Miranda Lambert song, “Gunpowder and Lead”.  In room 3, Tami Krause choreographed a kick routine to the song, “Women Rule The World”.  And in room 4, Michelle Stover demonstrated a jazz/funk routine.

At the conclusion of this session, the girls once again reconvened in the grand ballroom to display what they had learned.

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No break this time, as time was short.  It was 3:15 pm and the girls quickly made their way to the last of the breakout sessions for the day.  In room 1, Sandy Charbonneau choreographed a routine suitable for breast cancer awareness month (October) to a mix of relevant songs.  In room 2, Brandii McCoy demonstrated a jazz/funk routine to Trina’s song, “Million Dollar Girl“.  In room 3, Stephanie Jojokian taught a rock/jazz inspired routine to The Heavy song, “How You Like Me Now”.

Once again, the girls gathered for their individual performances and then they all came together at the end of the day to perform their group dance routine they learned at the top of the morning.

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At 5:00 pm, the girls were excused for the evening.  A few cheerleaders remained to review and practice what they had learned.  James and I snagged a few of them to take a few photos.  A couple of Jets Flight Crew members were happy to oblige and one of them seemed particularly eager to pose.

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And that was it, the end of a long day of dance.  Six hours of instruction.  Twelve routines.  And this was only the first day.

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