Meet Gotham City Cheerleaders Director Ana De Villegas

Written by The Philster
Pro Player Insiders
November 30, 2013

Until 2007, the NFL teams in the Big Apple didn’t have official cheerleaders. The New York Jets rectified things on their end with the Flight Crew but the Giants cheerleaders, in their 3rd year of existence, aren’t official, just yet. To truly understand how the Giants went from having no cheerleaders at all to a squad of Unofficials, you have to understand the drive of the lady who founded the squad.

After moving to the US from her native Bolivia, the woman known as “Wonder Woman” to her partner, Ana De Villegas, spent her childhood training in ballet and jazz dancing and then joined the dance teams in high school and in college. It was in college where she started studying choreography in addition to earning degrees in Communication and Criminal Justice. She put that training to work in choreographing dances for her home studio, the Ballet Academy of Northern Virginia, where she trained when not in school. Once a young lady finishes dancing in college, there are a limited number of avenues left to continue performing. One of those avenues is in professional cheerleading and in 2009, Ana joined up with the First Ladies of Football, the Washington Redskins Cheerleaders. After a season with them, she turned her focus to the Big Apple and got a job with the Broadway Dance Center. However, her role with the BDC was as more than a dancer but as a director as well.

It was in her childhood that she started on her path to becoming an entrepreneur. The Gotham City Cheerleaders isn’t the first group she created as she started groups as early as 4th grade. She even formed a company while in middle school called the “We Can Do That” Club to raise money to bring a friend with her on a trip to Miami for the summer. Her company did various odd jobs around the neighborhood and in addition to raising money, gained a fan base as well. All her success during her childhood creating successful ventures showed her some of what it takes to get something started. Seeing that the Giants had no cheerleading squad, she did the same thing as she did with groups and her childhood company all her life: she created one.

Like in many new projects, the biggest challenge in forming the GCC was listening to the doubters and naysayers. As Ana herself puts it, “There are 2 types of people in the world, those that believe and those that don’t. There is hope that most people are believers. There is the creative kid in all of us that still believes in dreams and in making the impossible possible. It’s really what keeps life fun and innovative.” Ana’s dream was to create a cheerleading squad that fans of the New York Giants could support while creating an outlet for ladies to perform as well as give back to the community. Based on how they’ve been received, she’s achieving her dream.

Ana goes on to say “While we are not sanctioned by the Giants, it’s a hope that we carry with pride, as we continue to be ambassadors for fans who are truly the ones that make this game come alive. Whether it’s a charity event, a special performance or our wonderful tailgate appearances at MetLife, I believe that people are inspired and moved by our team. When I come across people who say “don’t you think you should just give it up and be a director of an established team?” I can’t help but chuckle. This is the most official group of dancers you could meet. Not many people have the guts, the passion and the dedication that these girls do. They have the talent to go to any team, some have even come to us from other pro teams. Yet, they are here, making a difference and have left a mark in history. Not many people can say that. We have performed overseas, appeared in music videos and completed countless hours of community service and fundraising for charitable causes. It’s a beautiful, commendable thing that we do, why would we stop? Clearly, I can’t explain this in an “elevator pitch”, so it remains the biggest challenge to get those who question, to believe. Dressed in their red, white and blue uniforms, this team is to me America’s Dream Team.”

Away from the Gotham City Cheerleaders, Ana keeps herself busy in a variety of areas of dance. Before starting up the GCC, she landed a spot as a NJ Devils Cheerleader and midway through the squad’s first season, she joined up with Going Pro Entertainment, an organization that, among other things, helps aspiring pro cheerleaders make it onto the big stage. Finally, in 2012, after Christie Artinger joined her with the GCC, she took on the extra role as the coach of Pace University’s Dance Team. You can read more about Ana at Going Pro Entertainment.

Following in her (dance) steps: Hastings dancers both cheer for the Vikings

Andrea and Kayla back in the day

By Katrina Styx
Hastings Star Gazette
November 26, 2013

It was the early 1980s when Jan’s School of Dance first opened in Hastings. Andrea (Schappa) First was one of the first students there, and she quickly became an assistant instructor as a sophomore in high school.

“It was the next step,” she said.

She loved teaching the kids and loved the challenge of making a transition from student to teacher, she said. She kept working with the studio even after college and still teaches there today.

Her next step in her dancing career came in college. The Mankato State dancers were invited to the Vikings stadium to perform during halftime, and there Andrea got to see the Vikings cheerleaders perform live. At that moment, she knew becoming one of the Vikings cheerleaders would be her next challenge.

She heard an ad on the radio that the Vikings would audition for new cheerleaders, and Andrea took the opportunity. About 600 people tried out, she said, and only 32 got to be on the squad.

Being a Vikings cheerleader was amazing, First said. Now she’s an alumni cheerleader, and still performs for certain events.

Andrea today

Inspiring the next generation

One of Andrea’s students was a girl named Kayla. Kayla started dancing at Jan’s when she was 2 years old, and she did her first dance recital with Andrea as her teacher.

Andrea had a big influence on Kayla.

“(Andrea is) somebody I always looked up to,” Kayla said.

Andrea has a heart of gold, Kayla said, and was always positive and friendly. And since Andrea was a Vikings cheerleader, Kayla figured that the whole squad had to be just like her teacher, and that made her want to be part of the squad as well.

“The reason I wanted to be a Vikings cheerleader is because Andrea was a Vikings cheerleader,” Kayla said.

After graduating high school, Kayla went on to college at Gustavus. A couple years ago she had an opportunity to try out for the Vikings and, although she didn’t make the team, she did get a spot in the training program, where she learned the squad’s cheers and its philosophy.

In April, auditions opened up again. There were about 100 people trying out, and Kayla was one of them. After making the first cut, she and about 50 to 60 other dancers attended a three-week training camp that prepared them for a show and their final audition.

The day after her final audition, Kayla got the call. She had made the team.

Kayla today

There’s a lot to being a Vikings cheerleader. The dancers practice three times a week for three hours at a time during the football season, and they make several publicity and charity appearances as well. They like to call it a part time job with a full time commitment, Kayla said, but “it’s definitely worth it.”

Mentor and mentee

Getting to experience the Vikings cheerleader squad together has been special for both Andrea and Kayla.

Andrea knew right away that Kayla had what it takes to make it as a dancer. Kayla always had a sparkle about her, Andrea recalled, and worked hard to improve. Dance is a passion in Andrea’s life, and she could see the same passion in Kayla.

Still, it was great to see her student follow so closely in her footsteps.

“It’s a neat feeling that you can impact someone’s life,” Andrea said.

As Kayla’s solo teacher, Andrea developed a bond with Kayla. And that only grew once Kayla made the Vikings training team. Andrea said she could just look across the field and see Kayla’s progression, almost just like she had 20 years ago as her dance teacher.

For Kayla, having her dance teacher around to help her through the audition process was invaluable. She emailed Andrea every day during the audition process, getting some critical support as she worked toward her dream.

“She’s definitely still a mentor for me,” Kayla said.

Performers and teachers

Being professional performers has made an impact on Andrea’s and Kayla’s teaching. For Andrea, being a Vikings cheerleader broadened her horizons, she said. It showed her new choreography, new techniques and new ways of teaching.

“It ups your level of performance,” she said.

Now, when she teaches at Jan’s, she’s better able to translate those skills to her own students.

For Kayla, being a Vikings cheerleader is an opportunity to inspire kids in the same way she was inspired.

“Them seeing me reach for my dreams… helps them do the same,” she said.

And since she didn’t make it on the team at her first audition, she’s a living role model for not giving up, she said.

Kayla is hoping she can be the mentor to her students that Andrea was to her.

“Everyone should have that person they can go to for anything,” she said.

Of course, none of this would have happened if not for the woman who taught both of them.

Jan Tripp, owner of Jan’s School of Dance, has been a pillar of support for both Andrea and Kayla, and her affection for both women is plain to see.

“They’re really positive role models,” Jan said. “They’re like my daughters.”

They are enthusiastic, upbeat, energetic and great with all the kids, she said, and they both have a huge passion for dance. And she’s grateful, she said, that they both take time out of their busy schedules to come back to Hastings to help her at the studio. The fact that they’re both professional Dancers as well as excellent teachers is just a bonus, she said.

And while Kayla credits Andrea for inspiring her to be a Vikings cheerleader, she credits Jan with all the rest.

“I wouldn’t be dancing if not for her and her studio,” she said.

“(Jan’s) just always been like a second mom to me,” Kayla said, and she’s honored to represent Jan and the school.

She’s in the Army Air Force Now.

Sweethearts for Soldiers? This was an organization created by two former NFL Cheerleaders, Bari Yonkers (Arizona Cardinals) and Tonya Helman (Washington Redskins, San Diego Chargers.)

SFS recruited NFL Cheerleader alumni from all across the country to visit American military bases in the US and abroad, doing handshake tours, performances, and meet and greets. They did a lot of good for many years before the organization was dissolved last Spring. I haven’t spoken with Tonya and Bari, but I imagine, it was just one of those things where it had served its purpose and life was taking both women in new directions. I know Tonya had remarried, but I wasn’t sure what Bari was up to. When I found out, you could’ve knocked me over with a feather. Bari joined the Air Force Reserves.

Bari's days and as an ACC

Sweethearts in action

It’s more than a sideline, featuring Raiderette Tori

Tori is one of Football's Fabulous Females

Today, photos of Tori of the Oakland Raiderettes, with a few fun facts, to boot:

1) Tori is in her fourth season with the Raiderettes
2) Tori is 100% NFL approved Fabulous!
3) Tori describes herself as a tomboy
4) According to the Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology, the noun “tomboy” (formed by joining the male name Tom and the word “boy”) was coined sometime before 1553, and meant a boy who was rude or boisterous. By 1592 it was applied to girls, and that’s been its meaning ever since.
5) Tom Flores coached the Raiders to two Super Bowl wins, and he and Mike Ditka are the only two people in the NFL to win championships as a player, assistant coach, and head coach
6) Tommy Boy is a 1995 American road comedy film directed by Peter Segal
7) The Raiders moved back to Oakland in 1995 (can it be almost 20 years?!)
8 ) Tori loves to laugh
9) Researchers at Vanderbilt University found adults burn an average of 1.3 calories per minute while laughing with their friends. That’s about the same number of calories you burn while taking notes in a classroom or standing and talking on the phone. But laughter has other benefits besides burning calories, including relief of emotional stress and a workout for the muscles of the diaphragm, abdomen, back, and shoulders.
10) The Tory political faction emerged within the Parliament of England to uphold the legitimist rights of James, Duke of York to succeed his brother Charles II to the throne in the 1600’s
11) Tori is co-owner of a day care/preschool for kids up to age five
12) On average, a 4-year-old child asks 437 questions a day
13) Why? Why? But why?

More photos of lovely and fun Tori if you click on the “Continue” link, plus more at this link

Continue reading It’s more than a sideline, featuring Raiderette Tori

NFL Cheerleaders, Week 12

All the action from around the league

Yahoo Sports
Santa Rosa Press Democrat
New York Daily News
Sports Illustrated
NFL.com

NFL Cheerleaders, Week 11

Pics! Pics! Pics!

Arizona Star

NY Daily News

Sports Illustrated

Sports Illustrated – Cheerleader of the Week

NFL.com

Photo of the Day – November 29


A Philadelphia Sixers Dancers Finalist

Photo of the Day – November 28


Allen Americans Ice Angel (and former Tampa Bay Lightning Girl) Brooklyn assists with last Friday’s ‘turkey curling’

Amy and Biscuit

Courtesy of Photographer James Higgins here is Allen Americans Ice Angel Amy (just 5 feet tall) on the ice with the American’s mascot Biscuit.

[Allen Americans Ice Angels]

New Orleans VooDoo Doll Tryouts Set for Saturday, January 4th

The New Orleans VooDoo Dolls will hold auditions for the 2014 VooDoo Doll Dance Team on Saturday, January 4 at The CDA Dance Center, Suite 702, in The Esplanade Mall. Registration will begin at 11 a.m.

Prior to the auditions, the VooDoo Dolls will hold two optional clinics to prepare hopefuls for prelims. Clinics will be held on December 17th and 19th from 7- 9p.m. at The CDA Dance Center, Suite 702, in The Esplanade Mall.

“I’m very excited and eager for the upcoming 2014 season to start,” said VooDoo Doll Director Jasmine Martijn. “I can’t wait to see the New Orleans area and surrounding cities’ best dancers come out and showcase their talents.”

Candidates must be at least 18 years of age by January 4, 2014 with a valid government ID, recent 5×7 (or larger) photo, dance/talent resume and completed audition packet.

All performers must wear a two- piece audition outfit (no dance pants), flesh colored tights and dance/cheer shoes. All participants will be evaluated on dance technique and their ability to perform a dance routine taught that day.

Fees: $40 for both Clinics and Auditions. $30 for Auditions ONLY.

For more information, download the flyer HERE or contact jasmine@aflvoodoo.com.

2013-14 Baltimore Blast Cheerleaders

The Baltimore Blast Cheerleaders after last Saturday’s home opener. Follow the team on Facebook.

Photo of the Day – November 27


Casey and the Houston Texans Cheerleaders hosted a big mega-terrific cheer-full halftime show last Sunday

Chiefs Cheerleaders Alumni Weekend

Former Chiefs Cheerleaders reunite for Alumni Weekend at Arrowhead

Rachel Santschi
KCChiefs.com

Each year, the Chiefs host an alumni weekend, celebrating those who have worn the skirt, waved the poms, and sported the white boots on the sidelines at Arrowhead Stadium as Chiefs Cheerleaders.

Former, as well as current, Chiefs Cheerleaders talk about a bond that they share, describing it as a strong and unbreakable bond between each of the women on the squad. During alumni weekend, it was evident that this bond truly is never broken but can last through the years.

“Once a Chiefs Cheerleader, always a Chiefs Cheerleader,” Jennifer Green, Chiefs Cheerleader from 1993-2000 noted. “To be able to come back and see these women again and reminisce on the memories is amazing. This sisterhood lasts forever and being reunited with them is incredible.”

To begin the alumni weekend, on Friday, the former cheerleaders were invited to the current cheerleaders’ practice, which was a trip down memory lane for all.

“Walking into the practice facility all those memories came flooding back of how hard you worked, how much fun you had and the friendships that you created,” Shearon Nowak, Chiefs Cheerleader from 1993-1996 explained. “We watched the girls practice and then had the chance to talk about what it was like when we cheered, gave them some words of wisdom and we also brought a photo of us from our cheerleading days and shared a funny story or a special moment.”

The group took a tour of the stadium on Saturday and then gathered again on Sunday, before the game, to tailgate outside of Arrowhead Stadium, the place they still call their home.

“So much of our time was spent at Arrowhead, so it’s a special place to all of us,” Green said. “Every time I go through the gate, I get the goose bumps and feel like I’m transported back to 1993. Coming back for this weekend, it feels like I’m home again.”

Prior to kickoff, the group headed inside and stood on the field, where they recalled the memories of performing on that sideline, encouraging the crowd to get loud and cheering for the Chiefs.

“Being on that field brought back so many memories,” Raquel Thomas, Chiefs Cheerleader from 1998 to 2004 noted. “Cheering on those sidelines is something that you will always remember. Stepping onto that field again, brought back a wealth of memories. It was incredible to be down there again and see the current Cheerleaders perform.”

From those who cheered in the 1960’s to those who just recently hung up their uniform and retired their poms, all agreed that the memories formed are unforgettable and the friendships made are unmatched.

“You can’t help but feel this sense of pride and belonging to this organization, and I will never lose that feeling,” Green commented. “When Lamar was here, he instilled a real family atmosphere and being part of the Chiefs family is amazing. Arrowhead will always be called home for us and we will always share that bond of sisterhood. Like I said, once a Chiefs Cheerleader, always a Chiefs Cheerleader.”

[KC Chiefs Cheerleaders]

Ladies of Ontario Fury

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A day in the life of the Ladies of Ontario Fury, compressed into a five minute video.

Work B**ch – choreographed by Laura Lach (Clippers Spirit and ChivaGirls coach)

Drop It Low – choreographed by Nicole Cohen (Boston Celtics Dancer, Clippers Spirit and UCLA Dance Team coach)

Meet and Greet with the Ladies of Ontario Fury

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Even More Respect for the Seattle Sea Gals

By Stephanie Klein
MyNorthWest.com

It’s not just the Seahawks themselves the 12th Man misses during a bye week, but all things Hawk related: Blitz, Taima ‘the hawk,’ and of course, the Sea Gals.

Sherri Thompson, Sea Gals director, granted the ladies the week off. Well, most of them for most of the week. The show group is practicing for a big performance they have coming up at Joint Base Lewis-McChord on Dec. 7.

“We do costume changes, singing, a full-on hour-and-half variety show.”

And then there’s a Monday night game to get ready for, with practices on Saturday and Sunday after Thanksgiving.

So what’s it like for these 33 women who brave the conditions to cheer on the team and warm up the 12th Man every Sunday?

Thompson says the Sea Gals, most of whom have day jobs, arrive at CenturyLink Field early for a 1 p.m. game. They’re out on the field between 9 and 9:30 a.m. for a regular season game. They spend an hour practicing, 90 minutes if it’s a preseason game.

“We always do different dances, so it’s not like you’re going out there doing the same thing game after game, but with the different formation, a different dance, a different starting point,” says Thompson.

Between pregame, two minute warning dances, features, sideline dances, and fillers, Thompson says there are probably about 35 different dances the SeaGals learn before the end of the season.

But the hardest part isn’t the schedule or performances, it’s the cold weather.

“It’s hard to dance in a hat and coat and to perform kicks.”

But, like any other seasoned Northwesterner, they do a lot of layering. Thompson says the uniform also includes long plants and long-sleeve tops, not to mention vests.

After that, the signature white glamor uniform Thompson says has been called the best in NFL, sees little changes throughout the year.

“I love to accent to acknowledge and celebrate whatever we’re recognizing for that particular game.”

That may include pins or ribbons, but not much else changes once the uniform is decided.

After game day practice, Thompson says the Sea Gals get about an hour to polish their hair and makeup with the help of two makeup artists and two hairstylists available in the locker room.

“By the first game, they’ve been through makeup classes and calendar shoots […] and lots of practice for doing their own makeup.”

After getting glammed up, Thompson sends them out, with police escorts, to seven different locations in the stadium to sell calendars. Two groups go to Touchdown City at noon to perform before the game.

“Everyone is back in the locker room at about 12:30,” says Thompson.

They freshen up, do a final stretch, line up, and off they go.

“It’s just fun. Game day is fun, fun, fun, even if it’s raining.”

Thompson credits the 12th Man for motivating the Sea Gals and says she always feels a little sad for cheerleaders at stadiums with a lot of empty seats.

“By the end of the game, everyone is so excited and thankful to get those darn boots off their feet, but other than that, it’s really fun.”

Following the game, the gals head off in their own direction. They’ll go over notes and video on Tuesday.

Thompson, who was a Sea Gal from 81-83, says a lot has changed since she was in that uniform in the rain.

“You think back 30 years ago and people would go, ‘What’s a seagull?'”

[Seattle Sea Gals]