Auditions for the Baltimore Blast Cheerleaders began last Saturday. Training camp and interviews took place this week. Look for the new squad on the field in November.
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“Get right, or get all the way left.” That’s the mantra of Traci Young-Byron, former Miami Heat dancer/team captain, and current dance studio owner and star of the new eight-part Lifetime docu-series Step It Up. Based on the preview, it looks like Traci’s students better step it up – or step outta there. This outrageous dance studio owner makes Dance Moms’ Abby Lee Miller look like a wuss. For realz.
Lifetime’s latest fierce, fabulous (and feared) dance diva has a rival: Bring It’s Miss D and those Dancing Dolls, so she resorts to some unconventional methods to train her co-ed troupe at the Young Contemporary Dance Theatre in Miami. This dancing drill sergeant wields a purple baseball bat and pits her students against one another to earn a spot in weekly performances, which means students can get can get cut at any time. If you can’t take the heat…
Step It Up premieres Friday, Sept. 25 at 10 p.m. on Lifetime.
In the all-new Lifetime docu-series “Step It Up,” Traci Young-Byron, a former Miami Heat Dancer and longtime team captain, is the owner of the elite dance company, the Young Contemporary Dance Theatre (YCDT). Traci’s competitiveness, especially her fierce rivalry with “Bring It!’s” Miss D and her Dancing Dolls, leads her to use unconventional methods to motivate her co-ed dance team. For this company, the biggest competition isn’t other teams; it’s each other, as they must dance their hearts out to earn a coveted spot in a high-stakes performance each week. “Step It Up” (#StepItUp), premieres Friday, September 25, at 10pm ET/PT following the “Bring It!” season finale.
The following week, the series moves to its regular time period airing on Friday, October 2 at 9pm ET/PT. Over the course of eight hour-long episodes, the YCDT dancers push themselves to the limit to perform at high-profile events. Traci’s tough, no-nonsense attitude prepares her meticulously trained and always-on-point dancers, who vary in age, for the myriad dance genres they face, including ballet, modern, contemporary, jazz, West African and hip-hop.
“Step It Up” is produced by Pilgrim Studios. Executive producers for Pilgrim are Craig Piligian and Derek W. Wan. Eli Lehrer, Mary Donahue and Colleen Conway Grogan executive produce the series for Lifetime.
By Thomas Liljedahl Staff Writer
While the New England Patriots fought all last season to reclaim the Vince Lombardi trophy, Terryville native Karen Link has been fighting since she was 16, and is now living out her dream as a cheerleader for the Super Bowl champions.
“I’ve always been really motivated,” the 24-year old Link said. “When someone tells me I can’t do something, it just makes me want to do it more.”
Link had a lot of people telling her what she could not do after a near fatal car accident changed her life forever.
The date was Oct. 27, 2007, and Link had barely begun her senior year at Holy Cross High School in Waterbury.
“My friend and I were actually on our way to take our SATs,” Link said. “It was a rainy day and the roads were wet. The driver hydroplaned and lost control of their car around a corner, crashing head on into another vehicle.”
As the passenger, Link sustained the only serious injury, a fracture in her spine. Following the accident, she was presented with two options.
“I was told that I could either go on bed rest for months, or get a spinal fusion,” Link said. “I chose to go with the surgery because I was never one for staying still.”
Link had been dancing since the age of 3, and started running cross country in middle school. By her senior year, she dropped running competitively to focus exclusively on dance. Several times a week, she and several friends would practice at Dance Arts Centre in Bristol. They often attended competitions on weekends.
“I danced with the same core group of people since fifth grade, they are like family we spent so much time together,” Link said. “They were some of the first people to visit me in the hospital.”
According to Link, the support was overwhelming when she emerged from the eight-hour procedure the day after the accident. She was showered with cards, flowers, candy, and close to always had a family member or friend at her side.
On the following Monday, Holy Cross made a school-wide announcement, informing the student body of Link’s condition. From there, the influx of support increased and Link could not have been more grateful.
“There was so much uncertainty at the time for me,” she said. “All the love that was being shown definitely helped.”
If she ever hoped to regain the athleticism she once knew, Link had to get to work. With two rods in each side of her spine and screws throughout, she began the arduous recovery process.
First came aquatic therapy at a rehabilitation center in Waterbury. Aqua therapy consists of a series of movements in water, designed to make a recovering body feel weightless and relaxed. After a few months of regaining her strength in the pool, Link was walking, and eventually jogging, on a treadmill.
When she began attending Endicott College in 2008, the school had just created their first ever dance program.
“I was nervous, but interested in getting back into dance,” Link said. “I made them aware of my injury and limitations and we were able to work around it.”
During her freshman year, she focused on modified movements, but felt nearly 100 percent as a sophomore. It was during her sophomore year that she first attended a New England Patriots game at Gillette Stadium.
“As soon as I saw the dancers out there I had my mind set,” Link said. “I wanted to be on that platform. I wanted Gillette Stadium to be my stage.”
So in 2012, the same year she graduated from Endicott, Link tried out for the Patriots’ cheerleading squad in March. Out of over 300 entrants, she was one of the final 40, but was not selected to the team.
With Gillette Stadium still on her mind, Link moved to New York for a year, where she worked at a fashion and beauty public relations firm.
“I always envisioned myself doing something with dance,” Link said. “I hadn’t given up on being a Patriots cheerleader, so I tried again.”
In preparation for the 2014 tryouts, Link ate healthy, worked out, and danced incessantly. This time around, she was selected to the final squad. She was taken on quite the ride when the Patriots went on to become Super Bowl champions for the first time since 2004.
“It was an amazing season for the team and for us,” Link said. “These girls have become like my sisters.”
After a short offseason, there was no guarantee Link would earn a spot on the team this season. Just like the last open tryouts were held, over 300 prospective dancers showed up. Once again, Link proved to be one of the best, and was selected to the squad for a second consecutive year.
All year round, Patriots cheerleaders attend everything from charity promotions to parades to events with sponsors. Their real season begins Thursday, Sept. 10, when the Patriots play host to the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium for their home opener.
“I knew it would be a lot of hard work and I went through it, I’m here,” Link said. “A lot of the doctors and experts and people around me told me that I would never be the same again. They were right. I’m better.”
Jodi is a third-year veteran and team captain. She is originally from Miami but currently resides in Pembroke Pines. Jodi also is of Caribbean descent. Jodi is currently studying broadcast media, and last year was Miss March 2015. She has had the privilege of going on military tours to Afghanistan, Kuwait, Djibouti, UAE, Ethiopia and Bahrain. Jodi is featured here in DESPI Swimwear.
The Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders will host their annual Swimsuit Calendar Unveiling and Fashion Show on Friday September 18th. Get your tickets here.
Walk before you run and the pre-season victory by the Buccaneers over the Bengals is a small but important first step toward a successful 2015.
Hot, Hotter, and Hottest. On a hot Florida humid night, the buccaneers played hotter, but the hottest title goes to the 2015 TBBC squad in their debut on Monday Night Football. I’ll let the photos tell the story. Use the slide-show mode in Flickr to view the attached album full screen. Enjoy.
TBBC—End Zone Dance
I have met a lot of great people through this blog. One of my favorites is Audrea Harris. I met Audrea through the Los Angeles Clippers years ago. She immediately struck me as such a class act and she became a wonderful friend. I was so incredibly jazzed a year or so after we met, when she took over direction of the Clippers entertainment teams and really put her stamp on the organization.
Last month Audrea decided it was time to move on to new challenges and part ways with the Clippers.
I will admit to being totally gutted by the news at first. It was bittersweet. You know how it is when you know your friend is making an important and right decision for herself, but your inner 7 year old is all “But whyyyyyyyy?????”
It is the end of an era, that’s for sure. Audrea had been with the Clippers organization for 16 years, including four as a member of the Spirit Dance Team. (Cue the vintage awesomeness.) It is difficult to imagine the Clippers in general, and the Spirit in particular, without her.
Well, c’est la vie! Off with the old and on with the new! I am pleased and proud to announce that the Clippers’ loss is the Phoenix Suns’ gain. Audrea is packing her bags and next month, will start her new job as Game Entertainment Coordinator for the Suns! It’s a big promotion, a big step up, and a very exciting new opportunity. I cannot wait to see the creativity, professionalism, and fun she will bring that that new role.
Game on, Suns fans! Please join me in saying congratulations!
BTW, I already checked Google Flights and I can get from Burbank to Phoenix in 90 minutes. Don’t think I won’t do it. Mwahahahahahaha….
The Cincinnati Bengals website has been updated with individual headshots and profiles for this year’s team of Ben-Gals. (Fingers crossed that uniform shots will follow, although it’s been 2 or 3 years since they’ve done those.) Click here for more!
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