The first clue that the Brooklynettes aren’t your average dance team is what they’re wearing. They’re more likely to strut onto the Barclays Center court in wedge sneakers than heels; their graphic black-and-white uniforms are urban chic, not girly-girl cute (though, to be fair, they’re known to sport a sequin or two).
But then the dancers start to move. And as they blaze through high-octane, hard-edged choreography by an industry A-lister, you realize that this isn’t just the best-dressed dance team you’ve ever seen. It’s the best dance team you’ve ever seen, period.
In fact, the Brooklynettes—who’ve been entertaining Brooklyn Nets fans since the team’s move from New Jersey to Brooklyn, NY, in 2012—are changing what it means to dance for the NBA. Their top-notch dancers are attracting big-name choreographers, artists who aren’t otherwise associated with the dance team world. And their every move reflects the diversity, creativity and grit of the borough they call home.
(Photo by Erin Baiano)
That Brooklyn Feel
When it was first announced that the New Jersey Nets would become the Brooklyn Nets, Adar Wellington—coach of the team then known as the New Jersey Nets Dancers—knew some major changes were in order. “We wanted to reimagine the dance team so it truly represented the city,” says Wellington, whose own impressive dance career includes
several seasons with the NJ Nets Dancers and tours with Rihanna and Ashanti. “Brooklyn is so cool and effortless, and it has this edgy, rough feel to it.”
To Brooklyn-ify the renamed Brooklynettes, the artistic crew made hip hop the team’s new foundation. “When you think Brooklyn, you automatically think hip hop,” says current Brooklynettes captain Amanda Robinson. “In keeping with that, our choreography is very street, very gritty.” But the team also wanted to incorporate the borough’s myriad other musical influences. “Around here, there’s everything as far as
music goes,” Wellington says. “We’ve got jazz, we’ve got Latin, we’ve got swing. And it was important to us to recognize that diversity in our routines.”
The resulting melting-pot-with-an-edge style not only separates the Brooklynettes from other pro dance teams—it actually puts them right in line with commercial industry trends. “What the Brooklynettes are giving you is what people are seeing in television, film and music videos right now,” says frequent Brooklynettes choreographer Tanisha Scott, who’s worked with Rihanna and Beyoncé.
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Entertaining U.S. military personnel in Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Afghanistan.
By Sharon Allen Gilder Connection Newspapers
Potomac resident and Washington Redskins cheerleader Christa Aiken took her talents to far away fields when she traveled out of the country on Jan. 21 with four fellow “First Ladies of Football” to participate in the 49th Armed Forces Entertainment Southwest Asia Redskins Tour. Their mission was to entertain the troops, join them to catch a glimpse of the Super Bowl game, and experience the routines of daily life on several military bases.
#Aiken, who just finished her third season on the Redskins’ cheerleading squad said, “It’s just a huge honor to be chosen because they don’t send just anyone overseas, so veteran status on our team really matters. I’ve cheered for three years, and I never had the right opportunity, the right timing, to go on a tour before, so this was a huge honor, and I was so excited to be picked … I’ve always wanted to go.”
#The 28-year-old Aiken is a graduate of Connelly School of the Holy Child in Potomac and Roanoke College in Virginia with a degree in exercise science. When she is not performing with the Redskins cheerleaders, she is an assistant fitness manager at Vida Fitness in Washington, D.C.
#HER INTERNATIONAL journey began in Qatar with sojourns to Kuwait, Oman, and Afghanistan. “People always ask me what the cheerleaders do in the off season. This is what they do … they go fly on Black Hawk helicopters in dangerous areas to bring a little hometown happiness to the troops,” said Aiken’s mother, Nancy. She said she was very comfortable with the group her daughter was traveling with, but she counted every day she was away. “Christa will tell you she was away for two weeks, but it was 17 days with travel.”
#“The NFL cheerleaders are primarily dance teams because you can’t really cheer to 90,000 people because they can’t hear you. So, that’s what we did abroad … we did some of our field routines from the past season, and we have a special military performance where we all wear a different military branch and have a song representing them. I was representing the Navy,” said Christa Aiken.
#Two alumni NFL players, Matthew Hatchette, a former wide receiver with the Minnesota Vikings and New York Jets, and Isaac Keys, a former linebacker with the Arizona Cardinals, Vikings and Green Bay Packers, accompanied the cheerleaders. “They were like our big brothers, and they were kind of like the hosts of the show, and would introduce us and answer questions in between our dances,” said Aiken. At the conclusion of performances, in addition to photo opportunities, the squad members had a signing table with team photos. They also signed t-shirts, footballs, and “all the random stuff all over the place.”
#She said she felt secure and more excited than nervous during the trip. Air travel was with commercial airlines except for the flight into Afghanistan on a cargo plane. “That’s when the safety precautions really went up more than the other countries. In Afghanistan we flew right into the base and it was just a little more intense than the other three areas.”
#IN QATAR, Oman, and Afghanistan, she said they mingled during breakfast, lunch, and dinner with the soldiers and service members in the DFAC, the dining facility, to talk, “hang out” and take pictures. “If they were Redskins fans, they were so excited, and even if they weren’t, they still were really happy to see us and give us a hard time if they were Dallas fans, of course … but you could tell it was making their deployment a little bit brighter.”
#She said the food was “kind of like cafeteria food like you would find at college … they had like cereal and Pop-Tarts everywhere, fried chicken or whatever … it wasn’t cuisine from the area.”
#Lodging provided a variety of experiences. She said when they stayed in Kuwait, they were in Kuwait City at the Radisson Blu hotel and dined at The Cheesecake Factory. In Qatar and Afghanistan they slept in “kind of like dorm rooms.” In Oman, because a large group of deployed troops had just arrived, space was limited requiring the girls to sleep in tents. “Oh, it was really hot in the tents … it felt like a beach town in Oman because there was a volleyball court and we performed outside … it just felt like summer.”
#Aiken said it snowed in Afghanistan while they were there, but elsewhere temperatures were in the 80s. “They were saying that in the summer it gets up to like 130 degrees.” Though each base had its differences, she said the base at Qatar had fewer people walking around and was very quiet because work was being conducted underground.
#SHE OBSERVED the differences in the landscapes of the four regions, “The other three countries were like the desert. When we got to Afghanistan, it was so crazy because there were these huge mountains — bigger than the Rockies, and also it has the desert sort of terrain, so it was an interesting kind of geographical experience … I like Afghanistan a lot.”
#Aiken boarded flights on Black Hawk helicopters to travel to four different bases in Afghanistan. The day before one flight, she said she was honored to meet a two-star general. “I’m sitting in the Black Hawk, we’re kind of waiting to go, and then he comes in and sits right across from me, so it was like, oh my gosh, what is going on right now. So … it was really cool to feel like I was on a mission or something.”
#She said at first, she was a little nervous because she had never been in a helicopter, but once she was buckled in, it felt natural. “Oh, man, there’s nothing like it. It’s kind of like riding a rollercoaster for the first time … you’re riding up to that drop, that little hill … it’s incredible that first lift off because it’s not like an airplane … it’s more encompassing and kind of a weird feeling to describe … you know you’re being lifted off the ground … helicopters dip a little more, so every movement is really noticeable.”
#On the last day in Afghanistan, where the cheerleaders watched the Super Bowl game with the troops, they were invited to the shooting range with some of the service members. Aiken said, “There are these crazy guns like AK-47’s, and handguns, and machine guns … I was a little nervous at first, but once I got into it, and I saw how comfortable they are with shooting, it became really fun. At first, I thought, oh, I’m definitely not shooting those big guns, and then, by the end, I’m on the ground shooting a machine gun. They paired us with a service member to help us kind of balance ourselves.”
#“It was a lot of fun performing and seeing people and, you know, hanging out, and making their day. It’s definitely a great experience, very professional, and I would do it again,” said Aiken.
Here is an update from cheerleader Cristina in Haiti:
Hello, Colts Fans. Cristina Here. I was blessed to go to Haiti after receiving much support from my family and friends, and wanted to share with you my experience. Today I woke up at 7:15am after spending our first night in Haiti. It was quite a shock to the system leaving the frigid cold Indiana weather to come and sleep in 90 degree weather, but one I won’t complain about. Our first stop was the i’mMe after school program where we worked on English skills with the kids. When we first arrived the kids ran to greet us with open arms and excitement. It was heart-warming to see how happy they were to have visitors. We taught the kids colors, numbers, the alphabet, the chicken dance, and the “Jesus Loves Me” song. Our next stop was the I’mMe kid’s home. There we learned a Haitian dance, colored, and played “Head Shoulders Knees & Toes.” A special moment was when one of the shy kids gave me a kiss goodbye. This melted my heart. To end the day we came back to the home we are staying, had dinner and sat on the roof top for Devotion. It was a wonderful day and I couldn’t have been happier to have shared it with my Colt’s Cheer sisters.
Hello, Blue Nation. Cristina here. Today we started by visiting the Apparent Project where we visited with the owner, Shelly Clay. She gave us a tour and introduced us to some of the workers. Her story is truly inspiring. Not only has she adopted Haitian children, but she has provided hundreds of jobs for Haitians. After the Apparent Project we went to the I’mMe after school program to lead a dance class. It was beautiful to see how universal dance is. I loved seeing how dance lit up the eyes of the little girls. It meant a lot that I was able to be a part of the first dance class for the program. After dancing we went out in the community. I was able to learn more about the Haitian’s daily lifestyle. I was able to experience where they get water, how they transport food or materials on top of their heads, and how small their living quarters are. My favorite moment was with a little boy from the community. In my eyes he was the most beautiful, loving and animated little boy I’ve ever seen. He stole my heart. We closed out the evening with beautiful music and devotion.
Hello, Colts Nation. Cristina here. Today was the last full day here and we visited Fort Jacques. We were able to tour the fort with a guide and learned some great Haitian history. Our guide showed us the miles of tunnel and took us to the top of the fort which overlooked all of Port Au Prince. The view was gorgeous. Later we went to the Mission of Hope orphanage where we watched the kids play, worship and helped pass out meals. We celebrated our last day by going to a lovely Haitian restaurant. The food was delicious! I am so grateful for this opportunity as I have learned so much from the beautiful children of Haiti. I am truly changed and reminded how to value the little things in life. Thank you Haiti! get this past week. I have been blessed by Haiti!