Legends of the Fall: The 2016 P-R-O Convention – Part One

Autumn is my favorite time of the year.  The hot temperatures of summer give way to the cool, crisp air of fall.  My favorite non-Christmas holiday, Halloween, occurs during this time.  Fall also marks the return of football and basketball and, correspondingly, the return of NFL and NBA cheerleaders, those lovely ladies who provide a bit of beauty and glamour at these mostly masculine  sporting events.

And if fall is “showtime” for these beautiful and talented performers, it is summertime that dance routines are learned, teams bond and performances are refined. Individuals mesh together for a common purpose to form those perfectly synchronized, beautifully presented professional dance teams that we have come to love.  They will entertain us, captivate us, and mesmerize us.  And they will become Legends of the Fall.

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The P-R-O Convention is the premier professional cheerleading convention and over 250 dancers from all over the country gathered in Atlanta, Georgia for two days of intensive dance training and team building.  This year, we celebrate the 13th year anniversary of the P-R-O Convention. And if you weren’t in Atlanta, keep on reading to see what it is like to be a part of this wonderful event.

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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:

Jakene Ashford – NFL Atlanta Falcons Cheerleaders
Tara Battiato – NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders
Coach Alto Gary – NFL Houston Texans Cheerleaders, WCW Nitrogirls, Former NBA Atlanta Hawks & Charlotte Hornets Choreographer
Kristina Ferdig -NFL Arizona Cardinals Cheerleaders
Denise Garvey – NFL New York Jets Flight Crew
Katie Gibbons – NBA San Antonio-Spurs Silver Dancers and AHL Rampage
Stephanie Jojokian – NFL Washington Redskins Cheerleaders
Stacie Kinder – NFL Nashville Tennessee Titans Cheerleaders
Tami Krause – NFL Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders
Brandii McCoy – NBA Charlotte Hornets Honeybees and AHL Charlotte Checkers CheckMates
Courtney Moore – NFL Seattle Seahawks Sea Gals
Tracy Rutledge – Former NBA Atlanta Hawks, AFL2 Georgia Wildcats
Derric Whitfield – NBA Washington Wizards, Wizard Girls

UltimateCheerleaders.com was given exclusive access by the organizers of the event, All-Pro3. For our readers who have never attended a dance convention, the following report will give an idea of what goes on during a weekend of nonstop dance action.

SATURDAY

With the registration set to begin at 9:00 a.m., I got up early and went on down to the Collage cafe to grab a hot breakfast to start off my day.  In years past, this was the time that I would meet with my publisher, James Blakey, to go over the schedule and discuss the ground rules for covering the convention.  For us this is a fun event to shoot, but it is work and we have deliverables and expectations that have to be met.  But alas, my partner in crime for these past six years was not in attendance and I was going it solo this time.

Around 8:30 am, the first dancers started showing up.  The vendors were still setting up their displays and there was some time for all to check out what they had to offer.

First up for the savvy convention goer is the P-R-O Convention table, where a variety of convention wear items were available for sale.

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Those girls in the know, got into the queue early because popular items sold out quickly and as every cheerleader knows, you don’t want to miss out on this year’s hottest convention styles.

Convention Sponsors

The Line Up is a provider of custom dance costumes and creative performance apparel.  Their uniforms and performance apparel are worn by the most notable professional dance teams, such as the Minnesota Vikings, Washington Redskins, Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans, Baltimore Ravens, and the Wizard Girls.

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Satin Stitches, another major player in the custom uniform business, was in attendance and showing off some of their uniform designs.  Satin Stitches provides uniforms to several professional dance teams as well as serving the high school, college and skating markets.

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LipSense cosmetics, a new sponsor, was in attendance and providing make overs and demonstrating their lipstick, skin care and body care lines to the girls.  As you can imagine, LipSense was a popular stop along vendor’s row.

Love Pastry shoes was showing off their line of dance sneakers that have become popular with many dancers.  Pastry’s distinct quality features and passion for innovation have established the brand as America’s # Dance Sneaker for professional and university dance teams.

The Edge Salon, the official hair stylists for the Tennessee Titans Cheerleaders, was here for the first time, dispensing hair care tips and discussing their line of custom hair extensions.

Diva Hosiery, the official hosiery of the Dallas Mavericks Dancers and the Chicago Bulls Luvabulls, was giving out free pairs of pantyhose to the cheerleaders in attendance.  Diva Hosiery products are low rise and sheer to the waist, perfect for the most revealing dance uniforms.

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At 10:00 am, the doors to the main ballroom were opened and the attendees were allowed to enter. Girls rushed in to claim their spot on the dance floor and I kid you not, there is a pecking order of sorts to get the premium locations in the front.  Yes…they are indeed competitive dancers!

So facing the floor, left to right, this year’s line up was: the Minnesota Vikings, Washington Redskins, Washington Wizard Girls, Tennessee Titans, Houston Texans, Charlotte Honey Bees, New York Jets, and the Atlanta Falcons.  The less aggressive teams found themselves in the middle or the rear of the ballroom.

And I would like to mention a few new teams that were here this year: the San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets, Atlanta Blaze, Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta Dream, Georgia State University, and the Charlotte Foxes.  This year marked the return of the Seattle SeaGals and the Arizona Cardinals Cheerleaders after a one year absence.  And I was pleasantly surprised to see a few newly minted Los Angeles Rams Cheerleaders.

Shortly after 10:00 am, the instructors were announced to their usual fanfare.  This year, thirteen instructors were listed on the program and they represent the very best choreographers in professional dance, from NFL teams to NBA teams and all sports teams in between.

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Tara Battiato of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders started off things by leading the group in a vigorous warm up and stretching session, a necessity for a full day’s worth of dance classes.

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The first official dance routine taught at P-R-O is the group dance and Brandii McCoy of the Charlotte Honey Bees taught the routine by breaking it down into a series of 8 count segments.

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Once the group dance routine was taught, it was time to recognize this year’s Sideline Distractions magazine honorees.  The names of the girls who made it through the selection process were announced and they were called up to the front of the stage to stand and be recognized for their achievement.  Over thirty five girls names called and the final one was this year’s cover girl…Becky from the Washington Wizards.

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Upon conclusion of the ceremony, the Sideline Distraction magazine was distributed to all the girls in attendance.  This was important because not only did the publication features some of the most talented cheerleaders and dancers in professional sports, it also included the schedule of instruction.

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This year, there would be 30 sessions featuring a variety of dance styles, routines (jazz, hip hop, country, holiday), and fitness/meditation classes.

It was noon and for the first breakout session of the day, Jakene Ashford choreographed a old school funk dance in the main ballroom.  In room 2, Denise Garvey demonstrated a prop novelty dance.  In room 3, Kristina Ferdig showed off a sassy, jazzy pom routine.  And in room 4, Tracy Rutledge taught a straight up country routine.

Each session lasted approximately an hour and fifteen minutes and nearly took that entire time to teach essentially a one and half minute dance.

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At the conclusion of the session, the girls reconvened in the grand ballroom to showcase what they had learned.

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At 1:30 pm, we broke for lunch.  I grabbed a quick bite to eat and during the break, I snagged a few cheerleaders to pose for some photos for my P-R-O Convention All Star series.  I knew that Sunday would be a jam packed day and would not provide me with the time to photograph these girls, so I tried to maximize my opportunities and be able to showcase as many beautiful and talented dancers for our readers.  Anyway, that’s how I spent my lunch break…yes, it was non stop action on Saturday.

After the brief respite, it was back to the dance sessions.  It was 2:45 pm and the girls had already learned five routines.  In the ballroom, Alto Gary choreographed a sassy jazz dance.  In room 2, Tara Battiato taught a edgy rock theme routine.  In room 3, Derric Whitfield treated his girls to a jazz dance routine.  And in room 4, Denise Garvey led a technique class.

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Once again, the girls reconvened in the grand ballroom to showcase what they had learned.

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At the conclusion of the showcase, the girls were quickly ushered on to their final sessions of the day.  In the main ballroom, Tami Krause taught a spirited kick routine.  In room 2, Katie Gibbons choreographed a little jazzy number.  In room 3, Courtney Moore demonstrated a classic rock routine for her girls.  And in room 4, Brandii McCoy showcased a funky step sequence dance.

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As was usual, the girls reconvened at the end of the session to showcase what they had learned.

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It was 5:30 pm and the last showcase of the day had concluded.  The girls were still buzzing as it is usually after the showcase and the organizers had one more session scheduled…a cooling off, meditation class that included deep relaxation and some yoga instruction.  I must say that it was very effective at bringing the frenetic energy of the day down to a calm and peaceful conclusion.

So as the day ended for these dancers, some lingered in the ballroom and I made some arrangements with a few of them to pose for my All Star series.  I finished up around 6:40 pm and went upstairs to download my photos and recharge my camera batteries.

It was only 12 more hours before I had to get up and start this process all over again.  A man’s work…is never done.

Up next: Day Two from P-R-O. Please check back soon.

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I want to take this opportunity to thank Brandii McCoy, Alto Gary, Tracy Rutledge and the staff of AllPro3 for allowing me the opportunity to cover the 2016 P-R-O Convention. I had a wonderful time  and hope to be back next year.

For more cheerleader articles and photos, please visit my personal blog: thehottestdanceteam.wordpress.com.

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