I am a major NBA follower. I appreciate the players on the court, coaches on the sidelines, the fans, and the cheerleaders!
Even though most of the cheerleading performances last a couple of minutes or so, there is a lot behind each one of those. To give OSN’s readers an inside look, I sat down with BlazerDancer Lisa.
Lisa has been with the Portland Trail Blazers for four years. A dancer and gymnast since the age of four, Lisa has an extensive resume as a cheerleader, dancer and instructor. Born and raised in Portland, Lisa has been a Blazers fan all of her life. Having been exposed to the team’s dynamics through her older sister being a former BlazerDancer is no accident.
After hard work and preparation, not only did Lisa join the team when the time was right, she also got to experience dancing side by side with her sister for two years. To tell us about this journey, Lisa in her own words describes it all from day one in an audition to game night.
OSN: Where does one start to become a BlazerDancer?
Lisa: You have to audition.
OSN: What is an audition like?
Lisa: It’s intense. It’s usually in July. It’s a three-day event. The first day usually falls on a Saturday. You go and dance all day. From there the judges make their cuts. The second day the veterans join you and you get to learn three dances. On the final day the Blazers rent out the Newark Performing arts where friends and family join in to support you. Hundreds try out. They have you dance in groups of three and you also do a free style solo that you choreograph. After those they narrow it down to 35 for the finals and the final reveal takes place two days later.
OSN: How do you find out if you made the cut?
Lisa: We all meet at the Moda Center as a big event. You know you made it if your picture comes up on the screen. It’s a very emotional moment for all of us. We all cheer in support to those that made it.
OSN: Ok, your picture is up on the screen, you’ve made it. What happens next?
Lisa: It’s a major commitment for anyone selected. It’s a busy and fast pace job. We practice twice a week for three to four hours. In addition to practices if there is a game we attend and perform that night as well.
OSN: That does sound like a major commitment. Who are these women taking such a commitment on?
Lisa: We come from all backgrounds. We have dental school students, dance teachers anyone that loves to cheer and dance. Most work full time but some are still attending school. They have families, friends, etc.
OSN: What drives someone to become a BlazerDancer?
Lisa: Most of us have a busy and fast pace lifestyle and we enjoy being a BlazerDancer because is a way for us to break away from everyday stuff and get to do something that we enjoy that happens to be completely different than what we do in our every day life.
OSN: What do you do in your daily life?
Lisa: I am in the health insurance industry. It’s a stressful field! For me it’s nice to leave work and be part of the game when we arrive.
OSN: Do you guys dance at all games?
Lisa: Only the home games. But we do a lot of promotional activities on game night. They are very fun. Specially the ones that are for a good cause. Is nice to do something that is community oriented. We work with a lot of charities and support them in their efforts. We have raffles, take pictures, pass out posters, etc.
OSN: What is the time expectancy of a BlazerDancer? Is there an age limit?
Lisa: There isn’t an age limit, however as with any sport and athletic activity there is the risk of injuries that can make a dancer retire early. It’s a very demanding job on the body.
OSN: I imagine so. Do dancers get monetary compensation?
Lisa: Yes we do. It’s a commitment and the team takes care of us. But this really isn’t about the money. We all truly enjoy what we do. The compensation of course is good and a bonus. Getting it is important especially because you are getting paid to do something you love.
OSN: You’ve been a BlazerDancer for four years. What does the future hold for you?
Lisa: My family is local and I will probably be in Portland for a while. I do want to see other places but for now I will continue being a BlazerDancer for as long as I can, but I have to admit it is starting to catch up.
OSN: What do you mean? How so?
Lisa: I used to dance every day of the week for hours and hours. I now dance 2-3 hours and it’s not the same as it was years ago. My technique has improved with time, but is no longer the same.
OSN: Sounds like a major physical and time commitment.
Lisa: Yes it is. It’s a bigger commitment than what people think. Is tough because you have to train really hard as with any other sport. It takes a lot of practice to get better. Time management is key. You need to be organized and prepared. One thing I wasn’t used to was interviews. But I’ve gained the experience and enjoy being part of it all. It’s fun!
OSN: What are the rewards of being a BlazerDancer?
Lisa: That you get to be part of the game. We all have different backgrounds but at game night we all share the same passion, to be able to see our team win.
OSN: What is a game night like for a BlazerDancer?
Lisa: We perform twice during the game. It’s an amazing experience to be able to connect with people who are fans and with those who work with the organization as well. We get to greet those attending and also interact with the Blazers’ operations guest services and security team.
OSN: What drives a BlazerDancer?
Lisa: I think a big part is that you can be a different person. For example: I’m an introvert. Not a super outgoing person. But when I’m on the court dancing I’m someone else. I put it all out there and become a different person. But it really is part of my identity.
OSN: Do you fear not dancing anymore?
Lisa: I don’t fear it. But it would be weird to stop.
OSN: Having been a Blazer’s dancer is a major accomplishment. With that said. What is next for you and other dancers like yourself?
Lisa: To continue dancing. Get better. Now that I am older I am more comfortable with myself. It’s important to know your body. You know how it moves and as you get older you improve in technique. There are many things we learn not only to perform but that can be applied to other areas of your life as well.
OSN: Where do you see yourself in the future?
Lisa: Coaching or teaching. One day I would like to make the transition from athlete to business owner. One of the great things of being a BlazerDancer is that you learn a lot of choreography and you learn it fast. Is not always easy because everyone’s brain is different but I am so used to dancing and learning in a fast pace that I am thankful I have acquired that skill.
OSN: What would you tell all those young athletes/dancers who would like to become a NBA Dancer?
Lisa: To work hard, have discipline and to prepare yourself. There are great ways to learn and get better. And if you can’t make it to look at other options. There are great teams to be part of like the Portland Thunder. The Winterhawks etc.
Personally I found Lisa’s insight to be one of the most amazing learning experiences when it comes to sports.
There is no doubt that NBA cheerleaders/dancers (and in other sports as well) are often seen as just a pretty face. It is my hope that after having read this, our readers will be able to see that these are amazing athletes who have been working for this from a very early age.
The commitment and dedication from each one of them is an example for all of us who have a dream and want to follow it. Persistence, hard work, discipline and commitment are all keys to becoming part of the grand NBA dancing teams.
Lisa recommends that anyone interested on becoming one should check out their local public announcement sources for information.
Auditions are open to anyone over 18 and as per their website their requirements are as follow:
BlazerDancers must attend all practices, games, training camps and mandatory Portland Trail Blazers events. BlazerDancer duties include community service events, appearances and photo shoots.
Must be able to attend practices every Thursday and Sunday evening (beginning in mid-August; times TBD). Additional practices may be added throughout the season.
Must have reliable transportation to practices, games, appearances, etc.
Must meet and maintain personal appearance, fitness level, and dancing skill requirements throughout the season.
Must abide by the other Terms and Conditions included with application materials.
If you are a NBA follower, especially a Blazers one, don’t forget to cheer along with Lisa on the next game night!