by Elio Gugliotti
As the confetti rained down at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., following the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl XLIX victory Feb. 1, Prospect native Melanie Sanches celebrated the win with a squad of friends.
Sanches didn’t celebrate in her living room watching the big game on TV. Rather, she rejoiced the dramatic victory on the field at University of Phoenix Stadium, and those friends were her fellow Patriots Cheerleaders.
“It was a celebration for us, too,” said the 25-year-old Sanches, adding the cheerleading squad lives and dies with the team through every game.
The thrilling ending to the game — Malcolm Butler’s interception at the 1-yard line with less than 30 seconds to play — only fueled the excitement.
“It was just exciting, everyone was so excited,” Sanches said.
Sanches spent the 2014-15 NFL season as a rookie on the Patriots’ 28-member cheerleading squad.
“I was a Patriots fan, and I would say I’m a bigger Patriots fan now,” she said.
While the season marked her first as an NFL cheerleader, Sanches is no stranger to dance and performing on a big stage.
Sanches has danced since she was young, including with the Connecticut Dance Theatre and the Arts in Prospect, and continued through high school as a member of the dance team at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls.
Aside from dance, Sanches also competed in pageants growing up and was crowned Miss Teen Connecticut in 2006.
After graduating from Woodland in 2007, Sanches attended the University of Connecticut and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology in 2011.
Although dance took a backseat to her studies at UConn, it was here where Sanches’ interest in cheering for the Patriots was piqued. She said one of her friends at UConn was a cheerleader for the team. After talking with her about it, Sanches researched what it took to be a Patriots Cheerleader.
Sanches said she thought being a cheerleader would be a great opportunity to meet new friends, get back into dancing and be a part of a team again — something she hadn’t experienced since high school.
She wouldn’t be disappointed, but trying out would wait.
Sanches currently attends Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in Boston, where she lives, and will graduate in May with a Doctorate in Dental Medicine. She first planned to try out for the squad in 2013. However, her class’ White Coat Ceremony was the same day as tryouts. The ceremony — an annual tradition during which students at Tufts receive their white coats — was too important to miss, she said.
When tryouts came around again last spring, Sanches was there. She made it through several rounds of cuts, auditions and a boot camp to earn a place on the squad.
Finding out that she had made the squad was exciting, Sanches said, but also nerve-racking. She wasn’t sure how she would balance her time between clinics five days a week for school and practice. Practices were two nights a week from 7 to 10 p.m. and on Saturdays before the season, and then on early Sunday mornings during the season.
Despite being nervous at first, Sanches said she found solace in the structure her busy schedule provided. Her debut on the sidelines came when the Patriots opened their home slate versus the Oakland Raiders Sept. 21.
“It was just incredible,” said Sanches about walking out onto the field at Gillette Stadium for her first game. “It was more than I anticipated.”
Sanches cheered for the Patriots for eight home games and two playoff games before heading to Arizona for the Super Bowl.
The cheerleaders flew out the Thursday before the Super Bowl. The days leading up to the big game were full of appearances for the squad, including appearances on The Today Show, Fox & Friends and Good Morning America.
But, the trip wasn’t all about football.
Sanches was among of number of cheerleaders who took part in an event hosted by Science Cheerleader, an organization of current and former professional NFL and NBA cheerleaders pursuing science and engineering careers. The organization works to challenge stereotypes in a playful way.
Sanches and other cheerleaders spent a day with young cheerleaders in hopes of sparking an interest in them to pursue a career in the science and technology fields. She said the event also showed parents their daughters can have careers in such fields and be cheerleaders.
Sanches wasn’t chosen for the event by coincidence. Once she earns her Doctorate in Dental Medicine in the spring, Sanches will begin her career in dentistry and fulfill a lifelong dream.
“It’s a combination of science and art, which are two things I really enjoy,” said Sanches about being a dentist.
Following her dream will mean that her career as a New England Patriots Cheerleader will only last one year. Once she’s finished at Tufts, Sanches is moving to south Florida to begin working at a general dentist practice.
The idea that Sanches could try out to be a cheerleader for the Miami Dolphins — an AFC East rival of the Patriots — has come up in conversations with friends, she said. However, Sanches doesn’t see that in the cards.
“I don’t see that in my future,” Sanches said. “I have to keep my loyalties with the Patriots.”
As a former cheerleader with one NFL team (Buffalo Bills) and two CFL squads (Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats), dance instructor Elizabeth Morgan works hard to inspire her pupils of any age to follow their dreams.
Morgan has created a recreational dance program in Grand Bend in an 8-week introduction to movement for children ages 4-teens. Classes will focus on the basics of ballet, jazz and acrobatic dance. Some hip hop may be incorporated into the older class.
Morgan has danced since she was three as well as studied classical music, fitness and drama-in-education. She is a graduate of Western University, a certified teacher with the Canadian Dance Teachers’ Association and a member of the International Dance Council which is an official UNESCO world dance organization.
“Last November I lectured, as the sole Canadian delegate, at their world congress held in Russia, as well as voted on behalf of Canada on IDC world dance events for 2015,” she told the Lakeshore Advance.
She was a professional cheerleader with the NFL Buffalo Bills, CFL Toronto Argonauts and CFL Hamilton Tiger Cats for many years. She was selected as a Captain on each of those teams and was a Pro Bowl Finalist one year. “I still do guest choreography for the CFL and other pro and university teams, as well as coordinate my fellow alumni for the “Argos Alumni Cheerleaders’ Annual Halftime Show for Women’s Cancers” in Toronto every October. I am a competition judge and also teach guest workshops across North America.”
Currently, Morgan owns and operates Expressions Dance Arts Inc. This is their 22nd season in business.
She dropped into the Grand Bend Fitness Centre one day in December to check out their space. “They have a lovely expansive studio room with mirrors that is perfect for all sizes of dancers young or adult. I met a very friendly front desk staffer who recommended that I contact the Fitness Centre owners about getting a new dance program going at their facility. A few months later, voila! We are planning our first session,” she said adding this will be a trial session, “which means there is added benefit in that I can develop of the dance programs to meet the interests and skill levels of the children and youth in the community. This is a partnership between Expressions Dance Arts and the Grand Bend Fitness Centre. Our shared goal is to provide an inspiring new arts and fitness outlet for the community.”
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
Students will learn basic terminology, steps and combinations in these forms. The emphasis will be on fitness, fun, creative expression and building self-confidence and teamwork skills. Boys and girls, beginners as well as those with prior movement experience are all welcome.
Following the completion of this spring session, we plan to host summer classes. We will then begin a fall session. We are open to adding additional levels and genres as needed, as time goes on, to meet the growing demand for classes in Grand Bend.
Fitness and Personal Artistic Expression are extremely important to the development of healthy young minds, bodies and therefore to the future development of communities. Dance and cheer in particular teach not only physical fitness, but these disciplines also utilize math, memory work, teamwork, problem solving, socialization and creative skills. These are elements that will benefit any young person well beyond their lesson years and far outside the boundaries of the studio classroom.
By Sydney Greene
The State Press
Boasting over 250 team members, the Science Cheerleaders have been dominating the world of professional cheerleaders all across the nation. The team is composed of girls who are pursuing science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers.
Darlene Cavalier, ASU professor and Science Cheerleaders founder, started the team after her blog, the “Science Cheerleader,” received attention for her efforts promoting public engagement in science.
It wasn’t long after that when she formed the actual Science Cheerleader team, recruiting STEM cheerleaders across the NFL and NBA teams.
“Each Science Cheerleader brings something unique to the team, and each has her own personal story of how she came to connect with science,” said Cavalier. “It’s always inspiring to hear their stories and watch them combine their passions to empower others.”
ASU alumna and Science Cheerleader Samantha Sanders said she enjoys how she gets to combine her passion for cheerleading and science into her everyday life.
“I really enjoy being able to playfully challenge the different stereotypes,” Sanders said. “I love our (Science Cheerleaders) message.”
While at ASU, Sanders cheered for the Arizona Cardinals while juggling her work as a student at Barrett, The Honors College and her engineering management coursework. Williams now works as an engineering project manager and oversees complex engineering projects.
“As a woman, you’re a minority in this field, which is why I like being involved with the Science Cheerleaders,” Sanders said. “It’s important to show the kids that you can still pursue a STEM career and do sports at the same time.”
Recently, the Science Cheerleaders participated in a Super Bowl event at the Arizona Science Center that included scientists working on cutting-edge helmet technology along with mouth guard concussion sensors. The cheerleaders spent the day at the event sharing their experience in the STEM and cheerleading fields, giving tours of the Arizona Science Center and speaking at a health and fitness talk.
Sanders said she enjoyed participating in the Arizona Science Center events and spreading the Science Cheerleader message.
“Seeing the reaction of over 100 kids when we showed up was just really rewarding,” Sanders said.
Science Cheerleader Summer Wagner, a former Houston Texans cheerleader, currently works as an engineer at NASA – Johnson Space Center in Houston. Wagner said the events she gets to participate in are fun, but it’s the connections she makes with the people at the events that make it all worthwhile.
“There are many youth cheerleaders who may not feel that they can have a STEM-related career one day,” Wagner said. “So we use our pompoms and cheers to bridge the gap and give them a connection to girls just like them — cheerleaders — who are also scientists and engineers.”
The Science Cheerleaders have had much success with getting their message out to youth all across America. The Science Cheerleaders have been featured in many publications, which laud their efforts.
Despite all of their recognition, appearances and awards, Cavalier said she finds the most joy when others see the Science Cheerleaders and hear their important message.
“Watching the youth cheerleaders connect with the Science Cheerleaders and helping to get the Science Cheerleaders involved, as researchers, is great,” Cavalier said.
[The Science Cheerleader]
Must be 18 years old by July 1, 2015. There is no maximum age limit
Must be a high school graduate or a G.E.D. recipient by July 1, 2015.
Must be able to attend rehearsals, games, appearances and cheerleader-related events during and prior to the season.
Must have reliable means of transportation.
Pre-Audition Prep Classes (Optional)
USF Sun Dome – The Corral – Enter through Gate D (Directions)
February 26th, March 3rd, March 5th, March 9th, March 11th, March 16th, March 19th
6:30pm – 8:30pm (Registration 6:00pm – 6:30pm)
$25.00 per class
The dance/technique classes are non-mandatory sessions that will help prepare you to look and feel your best on the day of the preliminary audition. Different choreography will be taught at each session and you may attend as many classes as you would like. Class space is limited and is on a first-come, first-serve basis. Pre-registering is advised, but walk ups are also accepted.
Audition Workshop (Optional)
USF Sun Dome – The Corral – Enter through Gate D (Directions)
9:00am – Noon (Registration 8:30am – 9:00am)
The Audition Workshop is a non-mandatory session that will prepare you for the audition process. The workshop will cover audition tips including: audition attire, dance technique, flexibility, performance skills, interview skills, & TBBC Choreography.
Auditions – Open Call & Semi-finals
USF Sun Dome – The Corral – Enter through Gate D (Directions)
9:00am – Registration
10:00am – Auditions Begin
What you will need:
1) Photography (any size, b/w or color, head shot or full length).The photo will not be returned and is strictly for identification.
2) Completed application
3) Two piece aerobic/dance attire and comfortable dance shoes – No hard-soled shoes.
4) Everything will be taught on Sunday, March 22nd – You do not need to prepare your own choreography
10:00am–Noon – Open-Call
Consists of a short combination (4 eight counts) of basic dance technique.
A turn, a leap, right and left kicks and choreography will be taught & participants will perform that combination for the judges in groups of three.
12:30pm – 2:30pm – Semi-Finals
Select participants from Open Call will be selected to move on to the Semi-Finals.
Participants will be taught choreography similar to the routines performed on game day.
Participants will then perform for the judges in groups of three.
[Complete Audition Information]
I mentioned a few times how I feel that the Jeff Vinik Lightning organization does a nice job in creating a great fan environment for the Storm and Lightning games. My last trip to Amalie Arena was during the kid friendly weekend where the game times on the Saturday and Sunday were pushed up to 5pm. I knew the youngsters would be at the free popcorn stands but to see them cheering all the action with enthusiasm was fun to observe. The Lightning are nurturing another generation of hockey fanatical’s.
I posted an additional batch of Lightning Girl photos—they took the juniors out on the ice for a performance.
Oh yeah, Lightning 5 to 3 over the Anaheim Ducks.
Heather, squad captain
Alexis and Megan
Isabella and Cher
Erica and Kori
Allison, squad captain
[Lightning Girls Gallery]
[TB Lightning Girls]
A Laker Girl
Just a reminder that the audition dates page has been updated with the latest audition information for NFL cheerleading squads. There are several teams that have yet to announce their audition information, but rest assured that UltimateCheerleaders.com will be updating this page on a regular basis going forward.
Please note that some squads, notably the 2015 Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots, have audition dates in the next few weeks.
Check the audition dates page regularly for updated information and for those individuals trying out for 2015 squads, good luck!
Hey Bucs Fans,
Wow! I cannot believe how fast the last four years has flown by. It feels like yesterday that I checked the final team list as a rookie back in 2011, hoping to see name. I wanted so much to make this team after not making it two years prior. I gave it one more shot and finally my dreams came true.
Moving to Tampa at a young age, my mom enrolled me and my little brother into the Big Brothers/ Big Sisters organization. During that time, I was able to attend several Buccaneers games. It was life changing. I fell in love with not only the cheerleaders, but also the support that the Buccaneers organization showed to our community.
As a cheerleader, I never lost sight of that feeling. This experience gave me endless opportunities to reach out to our local charities, schools and various athletic events. Over the years, many people have said that I’ve changed their lives, but the truth is that they’ve changed mine.
One of my favorite memories was interacting with the junior cheerleaders. Every year the Buccaneers organization gives hundreds of girls the opportunity to practice with us, work alongside us one-on-one and then cheer at the first halftime show with us! I had the pleasure of meeting some incredible young ladies who will forever be a part of my life.
I had the privilege of being “Cheerleader of the Game” my second year at the Military Appreciation Game. The Buccaneers honored and recognized my older brother, Bryan, for his 14 years of commitment to the Navy. This was the highlight of my cheerleading career. It meant so much to my family and me that this organization cared so much. We will be forever grateful.
Thank you to my loving family and friends who never stopped believing in me. I wouldn’t have been able to get through the past four years without them. It meant the world to me knowing I had their support as they attended each and every one of my games to cheer me on. Through tryouts, intense practices and emotional times, I have always had my teammates to lean on. Each year I gained not only friends but also true sisters for life. I will always cherish the bonds that were made and for that I have my coaches to thank.
And, of course, this organization wouldn’t be anything without our Bucs Fans! You, the fans, truly inspired me to continue to follow my dream. As I have decided to hang up my boots, I will never forget this incredible journey. I’m so thankful and truly blessed.
Leaving as a Captain, I sincerely hope that I have left my mark somehow, someway to someone. I always tried to give it my best and show God’s love. No matter how tough your dreams seem, with patience and hard work you can achieve anything you put your mind to.
Thank you for changing my life! Never forget… It’s a Bucs Life For Me!
[Darla Faye Photo Gallery]
Patriots Cheerleaders participate in Science Cheerleader Pep Rally to encourage young girls to pursue their passions in both education and sports.
The Patriots Cheerleaders weren’t only performing on the sidelines during their trip to Arizona for Super Bowl XLIX. On Friday, January 31, Kelly, Melanie and Brittany B. visited the Arizona Science Center in Phoenix to participate in the Science Cheerleader Pep Rally. The pep rally included performances from local youth cheerleading squads as well as science cheers and chants and photo opportunities with the Patriots Cheerleaders. Current and former cheerleaders from several other NFL squads participated as well.
Science Cheerleader is an organization consisting of professional cheerleaders who have pursued careers in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM). The organization aims to inspire young girls to defy stereotypes and pursue a STEM career. Kelly, Melanie and Brittany B. love encouraging young girls to explore their interests. Having a career and dancing is both possible and manageable. While in Arizona, Kelly, Melanie and Brittany interviewed with NBC Nightly News to discuss their careers in science and dance.
Come be part of the team!
Date: Sunday, Mar. 1
Time: Check-in: 12:30-1 p.m., Preliminaries: 1-3:30 p.m., Semifinal: 3:30-5 p.m.
Location: Red & White Club, located at the north end of McMahon Stadium (1833 Crowchild Trail NW)
Registration: Register for auditions by filling out the online form
Cost: $10 online registration fee, $20 walk-in registation fee
Attire: Dance or athletic bra top, fitted dance shorts, dance shoes or runners. Wear hair and make-up as you envision wearing it on game day. Hair must be worn down.
Criteria: You must be 19 years of age by July 1, 2015. You must be able to attend all rehearsals and other related activities. The auditions are also closed to the public for viewing.
Additional information: Please arrive with enough time to warm up on your own before the audition. We will start with some across the floor exercises, including but not limited to: walks, high kicks, jete and pirouettes.
You will have one hour to learn a one-minute routine similar to what we do on the field during home games. You will perform this routine for the judges in small groups, after which the first cut will be made.
If you are invited to stay for the semifinals, you will be performing the routine in smaller groups for the judges. Those being invited to our 2015 training camp will be notified by noon the following day.
Training Camp (by invite only)
Dates: Wednesday, Mar. 4, Sunday, Mar. 8 and Wednesday, Mar. 11
Interviews (by invite only)
[Outrider Audition Information]
By Sean Keeler
If you want your shot, ladies, Rachel Wray is ready. Or pretty darn close, at the least.
“Now that I’ve achieved the one goal I have been focusing so hard on for so long, I feel like I can finally turn my attention back to MMA,” Wray, the former NFL-cheerleader-turned-mixed-martial-arts fighter, tells FOXSportsKansasCity.com.
“I may compete in one more tournament in March, but I told my coach I’m ready to fight. He said he may have a fight readily available.”
That “goal” above is a blue belt in Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu, granted to Wray after she won gold Jan. 31 at the 2015 Arkansas Open tourney in Conway, Arkansas.
“This (was) literally the moment I (had) been waiting for the entire time I have been training for MMA,” says Wray, a Kansas City Chiefs cheerleader from 2010-11.
“I think the reason he decided to promote me at the tournament was because of one of the matches I won. One of the girls there who is a purple belt, a pro and an MMA fighter with a 5-1 record, her opponent was a no-show. So they asked me to fight her. I figured I would probably lose but I wanted to get the experience of rolling with such a high-level grappler. So I said, ‘Yes.’
“She dominated me from top position for the entire first four minutes of the match, but then she decided to expose her back for a split second, so I got up and jumped on her back like a little monkey and sank in a rear naked choke. As I squeezed with all my might, I started to get tears in my eyes because I couldn’t believe it was happening. I was going to not only beat this pro, but I was going to submit her.”
Wray says she has taken home at least 10 golds in BJJ tournaments over the past 18 months, having fought competition ranging from 130 through 180 pounds.
Chiefs-cheerleader-turned-MMA-fighter Rachel Wray.
Now that the blue belt — the second adult rank (after white) in BJJ — is in hand, her focus now is dropping 10 to 15 pounds and “sharpening my boxing.”
The former Chiefs cheer squad member, who sports a 2-2 MMA record as an amateur, hasn’t fought since last July 12, when she fell by submission to Jamie “The Pretty Assassin” Clinton after 44 seconds at Attitude MMA Fights II in Lakeland, Tennessee. Wray says she took the date while still battling the effects of a recent concussion, and that Clinton’s choke hold caused her to black out — a sensation she described later as “the same feeling as dying.”
“Once I can lose lots of weight and my hands are back to where they were two years ago, I will definitely be ready to fight again,” Wray says. “I’m also praying I don’t reinjure my ankle or get any more concussions, because those are always major setbacks.”
Sister, Sister in Tampa. Lightning Girls– Rachael and Kelly
By MVC Rhea
Hi Vikings Fans! Can you believe we have wrapped up yet another MVC season? Time sure does fly when you are having fun! With the end of the season begins the season of tryouts for the MVC. We are always so excited during this time of preparation and are always looking forward to seeing the amazing talent that comes to auditions beginning in April. If you are an interested candidate for the MVC, take a look below for important dates and information.
How can I learn more about auditions and the MVC in general?
Come join us for audition prep classes! These classes are held every Thursday beginning in March and end the Thursday before open auditions in April.
What to expect at a prep class?
Prep classes are once a week and are held at Winter Park in Eden Prairie. They are led by MVC alum and encompass various aspects of what life is like as an MVC. Each night you stretch, learn a short routine and have a question and answer session with alum, returning MVC and Training Program members. The atmosphere is fun and inviting! We encourage anyone that is interested in auditioning to check a prep class out. One night is also dedicated to health and fitness in which you can experience what an MVC workout is like, with our wonderful Life Time Fitness trainers. And of course, the main goal is to have fun and meet amazing woman that are also interested in the tryout process!
Where can I go to learn more information?
Like us on Facebook and Tweet us on Twitter. The dates for the prep classes are now posted on the Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders Facebook page.
Audition prep class dates:
3/12, 3/19, 3/26, 4/2, 4/9
Come on out for a great night of fun and dancing! As well as learn about the MVC and what the audition process is like.
Skol Vikes and Best of Wishes!