Seems like it was a long time, but just three weeks ago I had the great pleasure of visiting Jacksonville and seeing the Sharks Attack Dance Team. That was the last game of the regular season. And tonight the Sharks are playing the Arizona Rattlers. Some technical difficulties prevented me from getting this post online until now. But I just wanted to say what a great time I had in Jacksonville. Kimberly Newbern and her dance team were absolutely wonderful: great team, hot uniforms, and genuinely nice people.
Rachel - The new gray uniforms - designed by Director Kimberly Newbern, just might be my new favorite uniform.
Emily signs the Adrenaline Rush Dansers poster for a young fan after the last regular season home game
“Emily loves applause.”
That was the first line in a newspaper story about Emily of the Adrenaline Rush Dancers back when she was in elementary school. Her local paper did a piece about Emily’s fourth/fifth grade holiday season program back home in the Bay Area of northern California, and Emily was quoted in the article saying, “Hearing the applause makes me feel like I’ve done a good job. (Our teacher) cries when we do a good job, and she cried at this one, which means we did a really, really good job.” Emily was quoted about one of the holiday dances that she performed, “The dance had lots of steps and kicks.”
Well, I hope Emily still loves applause, because she hears a lot of it as she performs with her ARD sisters at Chicago Rush AFL games. The Rush made it to the final four of the AFL, but Arizona sidelined their ArenaBowl plans for this year. But around the time of the season’s final regular season home game, Emily graciously participated in an interview with UltimateCheerleaders. We will learn about Emily’s path from Cali to Chicago, her love of both dance and chemistry, including Emily’s favorite element. And not her favorite dance element, but the elements in that big periodic table of chemical fun.
Emily was born and raised in Sunnyvale, California, not too far from where the AFL’s Saberkittens perform now for games in San Jose. Family time was a precious time for Emily growing up, as she explains, “My favorite childhood memories definitely involve family gatherings. Every summer we would go down to Carmel Valley and spend the month with my Dad’s whole side of the family. Holidays were also some of my favorite times because we would get to spend time with the entire extended family, including relatives that lived across the country. I love my family and they are a big part of who I am so most of my favorite memories involve them.”
Emily and Amber after the game
During these formative years, Emily developed two keen interests, dance and chemistry. Emily says, “I have been dancing ever since I can remember. When I was little I used to put on Disney movies and act them out in my living room, including dancing and singing during all the songs. I didn’t start formal classes until I was older, but the passion has always been there. My parents were always supportive of me in whatever I wanted to do, so dance was no exception. My dad always said I didn’t seem complete unless I was dancing, and he was right!”
The other side of Emily’s brain was also finding a source of interest in other topics. “I have always enjoyed the math and science subjects,” Emily explains, “But my high school chemistry teacher was the first person to spark my passion for chemistry. He taught it in such an engaging way and I took to it right away. I just find the subject so interesting and exciting, and there is always something more to learn.”
Emily soon would be on the move to SoCal, to become a student at USC. “After high school, I went to the University of Southern California for school where I met the best friends anyone could ever have, and had probably four of the best years of my life,” Emily recalls. “I double majored in Chemistry and Psychology and was involved in a myriad of clubs and leadership activities.”
Emily’s next steps would soon send her to the Midwest, and she explains, “After graduation, I spent another year in Los Angeles working as a pharmaceutical sales representative, but I always knew I wanted to go back to school. I moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan to attend the University of Michigan to get my Ph.D. in Chemistry, so I could one day teach at a university. During my time there, I fell even more in love with teaching, but realized the research aspect of the program just wasn’t for me. I left the program with my Master’s Degree and moved to Chicago to start the next chapter of my life. And here I am!”
When asked about her ‘dream job,’ Emily responds, “My dream job would be to teach organic chemistry at a University. I really enjoy working with college students, and I would want to share my passion of the subject with others and potentially influence them to think of the subject differently.”
But in all those years of chemistry, did any experiments ever not go as planned? Did any ever go ‘ker-blew-y’? Not all experiments go ‘swimmingly,’ as Emily explains, “Chemistry experiments go wrong all the time, so I have had plenty that have not worked. I have never had an experiment blow up or anything, but I have flooded the lab with water before!”
So, in that big periodic chart that hangs in chemistry classroom walls, full of noble gases, metals, no-metals, and halogens, what is Emily’s most favorite element? “I have never really thought about having a favorite element, but since I like organic chemistry I would say Carbon,” answers Emily. “It is such an important element that is involved in making up so many things in this world, which is just incredible. The same element makes up the human body, charcoal, and diamonds!”
The Sharks Attack Dance Team are under the Direction of Kimberly Newbern. Kimberly is just finishing up her second season running the squad.
Her background in cheering and dance includes over thirty individual National Championships. Kimberly cheered for three seasons with the Jacksonville ROAR and even traveled to Greenland to perform for the troops.
In 2007 she was asked to audition for the movie Bring It On-In It to Win It, where she coincidentally played a Shark and Shet dancer.
Director/Choreographer Kimberly Newbern
Today Kimberly has her own gym, (First Class Athletics) where she coaches the Sharks stunt team. She’s also been a member of Sweethearts for Soldiers since 2008, traveling to the Middle East to perform for the troops. As she continues to grow her team, she’s looking forward to getting the squad involved with supporting the military.
Assistant Director Dr. Jill, PharmD
This season Jill hung up her boots and took over as Assistant Director.
Another member of Sweethearts for Soldiers, Jill’s also a full-time pharmacist with a national retailer. (I won’t mention any names, but their logo is a big red bulls-eye). She’s having a wonderful (and busy) time running her own pharmacy again. But there’s till time for some R&R. She recently celebrated her 1st anniversary with a trip to Central America.
Ashley F. is one of three “Ashleys” on the Adrenaline Rush Dancers (wonder if they lead the league in Ashleys?), and the “F” must stand for fashion. After all, how many people have kept a “fashion journal” so they don’t repeat outfits within a few months (listed by Ashley as her “Worst Habit” on her on-line bio at the Chicago Rush website)?
For Ashley, fashion has been a lifelong love, as she says, “I was always into fashion! I was the little girl that dressed up for any and every occasion! Although, I must say I went thru many trends and fads.” Ashley continued, when asked when she recalled first insisting on dressing herself, “I can recall being in 4th grade when my mom told me she had picked out an outfit for me, but I insisted that I could put something together myself. I clearly thought it was a ‘cooler’ outfit of course, too.”
When asked if she remembered any outfits that she thought particularly “rocked,” Ashley recalls, “As far as an outfit I thought rocked, it just depended on the grade and style I was going thru. If you asked my mom she would take it back to 3rd grade when I had my striped Unionbay t-shirt with my tan corduroy shorts that I wouldn’t want to take off. I had a pleather black skirt and a red Minnie sweater that I thought was adorable when I was four! In 6th grade I went thru an Adidas stage, 8th grade consisted of poncho sweaters, and high school I went thru a creative unique stage and slowly transitioned into business attire consisting of dress pants and skirts. Usually whatever I was wearing, I felt I rocked because I was so in love with keeping up with fashion.”
So, Ashley, if you were on “Project Runway,” would you prefer to be a designer, model, or judge? “If I were on ‘Project Runway,’” responds Ashley, “I would want to be a part of every aspect of the show; designer, model, and judge! I’ve taken sewing classes in high school and I loved it so much I retook the class! Being creative and brainstorming on how you could influence others by designing something a customer could essentially fall in love with is just amazing to me so designing would be such an honor. Modeling would be just as fun; being involved with fashion shows, walking the runway, being involved with designers, et cetera, how could it get any better? Lastly, is the power you would have as a judge. You’re able to give your feedback and explain why you may or may not see that outfit or product sell or be beneficial to a designer’s collection. Every part of that show is full of excitement!”
Ashley’s love of both fashion and dance are reflected in her college studies, “I went to Purdue University Calumet and graduated this past May with a major in Business Retail and a minor in fitness.”
“My love of dance started when I was three,” Ashley, who was born and raised in the Northwest Indiana section of the Chicago Metro area, recalls. “My mom put me in a dance class at our local community center for a session or two. I quickly moved into a studio in which I like to say I ‘grew up’ in and took tap, ballet, and jazz until I was 18. I also belonged to a singing and dance troupe where we performed at various places around the community, Sea World, Universal Studios Orlando, and ended at Disney World for the 4th of July. I also was on my middle and high school team, and then also on my college team.”
Born and raised in Chicago, it should be no surprise where Brittanie would like the AFL’s ArenaBowl to be held. See, Brittanie is the Adrenaline Rush Dancers’ (who entertain during Chicago Rush games at Allstate Arena) representative on the Dream Team of 18 dancers that will perform at the ArenaBowl this year. When asked, if not Chicago, what AFL cities would Brittanie like to visit for the ArenaBowl, she responded, “Hands down, I want it in Chicago. There really is nowhere else I would rather be than my hometown. I’d love for my team and family there to support me out there, and best of all, Chicago’s fans are the best; they would definitely be on their feet cheering the entire game. With that all in mind, I can’t even think of a better place to have the Arena Bowl!”
Well, the Rush still have a chance, one of four teams left in the AFL playoffs, so maybe Brittanie will be able to be a “stay at home” dancer, although Phoenix, Jacksonville, and Atlanta would all be nice places for her all-star appearance.
The Dream Team was selected by on-line voting, with two members of each cheer squad on the ballot. Brittanie found out she was a candidate when, “My coach had pulled me aside one practice and told me about the great news, and honestly I was at a loss for words. I know that sounds corny but in a dancer’s eyes this is a huge accomplishment. It was rough going against my fellow teammate since we all are so close, like sisters. However to just be nominated for something like this is amazing, so even if I wasn’t picked I’d still feel honored!“
Brittanie (left) during the July 23rd home game
As we also learned from about her ARD coach, Gloria Esposito, Brittanie was a bit shy when she was young, but dancing helped her show her true spirit. “I was actually very quiet and shy growing up, but when I was on the dance floor it was a whole different world,” explains Brittany. “I could take center stage without being shy at all, and I loved all eyes upon me. Thank you to my parents for starting me off in dance, if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Brittanie is studying to be a teacher, and in the meantime works as a bartender, which can be quite an interesting study of human behavior. “Being a bartender has its ups and downs, as do all jobs,” says Brittanie. “I love it very much because I get to talk with people all day long, and meet new people every day! Bartending definitely helped me come out of my shell and really learn more about myself and others.”
Through work, Brittanie was encouraged to try out for the Adrenaline Rush Dancers. “It was my manager, Heather,” Brittanie recalls, now in her second season with the Rush. “She is the one who told me about Rush and encouraged me to tryout! Once I got there I was extremely intimidated by all of the talented girls.”
But now Brittanie is amongst the elite of those talented girls. There are some interesting notes about Brittanie in her biography Q & A on the Rush web site. One interesting on-line answer was,
Q: Five years ago I was? A: Learning how to drive…unsuccessfully
Hmm, please explain Brittanie. “Well, needless to say I am not the greatest driver; I hit curbs a lot and I am the WORST at parking,” Brittanie smiles. “My motto: ‘On the line is in the line.’”
Pro cheerleading can launch someone on a path from extremely shy child, refusing to dance on stage, to shooting off machine guns with the troops in Kosovo. This has been part of the journey of Gloria Esposito, now the Coach/Choreographer of the AFL’s Adrenaline Rush Dancers, and a former NBA Luvabull and Adrenaline Rush Dancer herself. Cheer and dance have been so impactful, as Gloria says, “No one thought I would make (the squads) because they said I was shy, but I honestly think that because of the Luvabulls and the situations I had to deal with, I came out of my shell and am the person I am today.” Recently, the Adrenaline Rush Dancers took time to reflect on their own history with a ten year reunion during the last regular season game of the Chicago Rush, and Gloria also took time out to share with UltimateCheerleaders her story of going from reluctant dancer to leading an entire squad.
Born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, Gloria shares her last name with some notable Chicagoans, from news anchors to athletes, most noteworthy, the Chicago Blackhawks’ legendary goalie Tony Esposito. “No, I am not related to anyone famous, although I could use it to my advantage if I was that type of person,” Gloria shares, “Because everyone’s first question is ‘Are you related to Tony Esposito?’ Nope, I am not, but my dad does have a signed hockey stick!”
Gloria (right) as the ten-year reunion performance gets ready to hit it
Gloria’s dance career started with, well, not really a start at all. “Well, believe it or not, I was EXTREMELY shy growing up,” Gloria recalls. “I mean, we would visit family and I would hide behind my mom. She put me in dance class when I was six because my friend was doing it, and they thought it would help me. Well, it came to my first recital and everyone paid to come see me. I took one step out on stage, and turned around and would not go out there. So my mom said I could never do it again. Then in Junior High, I wanted to be on the pom squad for our junior football team in town, and she said no, the only way would be if my sister would do it with me. So I convinced her to do it and we did it for a few years. When I got into high school, I wanted to try out gymnastics did that for two years and found myself back on the pom squad my junior and senior year. I went to college and continued.”
With the goal of making the NBA’s Luvabulls one day, Gloria’s first venture into pro dance was trying out for Chicago Condors dance team of the ABA basketball league. “Well, I tried out for the Condors because I wasn’t 21 yet, and I knew the girls running it used to be on the Luvabulls so I thought I could use it as a networking experience,” says Gloria. “One of the girls who made the Condors had tried out for the Luvabulls numerous times and didn’t make it, so that made me double-think it, but I thought, nope, this is what I want. I am going to do it.” The Condors ended up folding less than a year later, so the dancing for the Bulls was the obvious next step.
“I tried out for the Luvabulls because it was something I always wanted, and seeing them when the Bulls were winning made me want to do it even more,” recalls Gloria. “So when tryouts came around, I signed up, and on the first day I was nervous, and I am not someone who gets nervous. I do remember being one of the first girls there that day, and meeting four of my future best friends that morning! None of us knew each other, or knew if we would make it, but we clicked. We went through the audition process, and on that last day, we saw the five of us standing there together, looking shocked that we all just made the new team! To this day we are all still friends!” Continue reading Take a Glimpse Within the “Open Book” of the Adrenaline Rush Dancers Coach, Gloria Esposito
Neither searing heat nor flood producing rains could prevent the ten-year reunion of over fifty Adrenaline Rush Dancers. The ARD have been part of the entertainment at AFL Chicago Rush games since 2001, and their current Director Gloria Esposito celebrated the event with a ten-year reunion featuring a halftime performance and the participation of the alumni in the game break entertainment. The July 23rd game against Milwaukee was also Adrenaline Rush Dancer poster night.
Outside the Allstate Arena, the combination of heat and sudden rains left some roads impassable and about 70% of the traffic lights were not functioning. The Chicago Tribune’s front page headline read, “Sweltering heat, then rain. Repeat.” But inside the Arena, the current and former ARD were focused on performance and reuniting. When asked if the returning alumni would be more or less nervous than during their days on the squad, Gloria speculated that they might be more nervous performing for the reunion, since some had not danced in this type of setting since 2001.
Gloria performs at halftime
But prior to halftime, alumni Wynne (in the red ball) and Dee (in the blue ball) participated in the “Hamster Ball” race. Wynne was also an NBA dancer and captain in both Chicago (four years) and Milwaukee (one year), and now is the director of the NHL Chicago Blackhawks Ice Crew and the IFL Chicago Slaughter Dancers, and Dee also danced for the Luvabulls. Wynne jumped out to a big lead, and in Tortoise and Hare fashion, became a little cocky, running backwards in the hamster ball. But with mascots and event staff around, Wynne was blocked in her tracks and Dee caught up. Mascot Grabowski then gave Dee a little hold back, which gave Wynne a small lead to plunge to victory at the goal line.
On July 9th, bright sun shone on the message board at the entrance to the complex that contains the Gwinnett Arena, in Duluth, Georgia, just northeast of Atlanta. The message board reported something that had been posted on the Georgia Force website in the days prior, that the Arena Football League game against the Chicago Rush that night was sold out.
This added some extra excitement as the Georgia Force Cheerleaders prepared for the game, but also some unexpected changes to their normal game routine. For one thing, extra seating was added to the area behind the end zone, where the GFC normally perform throughout the game. But the reduction in floor space of this area created issues for the squad. Before they proceeded to greet the fans when gates were opened, GFC Director Joie Ashworth and the squad took a look at the reduction in space. Eventually, it was decided to mostly feature half of the squad on the field rather than the entire squad. Also the squad needed to be extra alert of the game action getting a little too close due to the confined space.
Before the gates open, Director Joie (left) and the squad discuss the impact of less space
As the ushers waited to open the doors an hour before kickoff, the Cheerleaders lined up at each door, but on this night, it was the length of the lines of fans waiting to enter was uniquely long. Britney could not believe how many people were there so early, and she felt, “A little nervous,” Britney smiles, “But I am excited.” Britney thought the opportunity to be in front of the noise and enthusiasm of the big crowd would bring out the best in the Cheerleaders performances.
As the Cheerleaders greeted guests, and throughout the game, dedicated GFC photographer Art Morrison captured images (his game by game photos are featured on www.gfcheerleaders.com). The GFC have developed their portrait posing skills working with Art, and love to take a look at his photos on his camera’s LCD.
The amazing thing about the GFC is that they are ALL such exceptional, achievement oriented women, in addition to Kiley, Kim, and Britney, who have been highlighted in recent interviews. Check out the captions in the following photos to learn about their off the field endeavors:
Bridget (left) loves sports, blogging, and fiction, and is studying to be an English teacher
Chelsea (left) is studying to be a math and science teacher
Dana (right) has a Master's degree in accountancy, and is an accountant/auditor