SI.com: Cheerleaders of the CFL

Sports Illustrated: With the 2015 Canadian Football League in full stride in early August, here are some photos of the league’s cheerleaders, both past and present. [Click here] to check out the gallery.

SI 2015 BC Lion

B.C. FeLions Hold Auditions

The BC Lions Felions Dance Team host an audition for about 100 dancers Sunday at the Scotia Dance Centre in Vancouver. About 55 will be selected by the end of the audition, with follow up interviews Monday, whittling the total to 40 finals for the Felions Dance Team 2015.

felionds

[FeLions Audition Gallery]

2014 Felions

The CFL’s British Columbia Lions have posted BIG individual uniform shots for this year’s Felions dance team. Bios are still in progress, but all the photos are up. Click here to learn more about the ladies on the team!

Felions Pounce on Practice Time in South Surrey

Cheer team preps for CFL football season in weekly rehearsals at fitness club at Morgan Crossing

By Jacob Zinn
Surrey Now

What does it take to become a Felion? Just ask Alexandra Severyn, the cheer team’s dance co-ordinator for the last 10 years. A former Felion herself, she knows the B.C. Lions’ dancers needs more than flashy moves and bright smiles to excite a sold-out B.C. Place.

“You have to have some kind of enthusiasm that we see,” said Severyn during the team’s weekly rehearsal at the Steve Nash Sports Club in Morgan Crossing. “There are hundreds of girls who audition, and you need to separate yourself from the girl next to you.

“It’s kind of silly to say, but it is that sparkle.”

This year’s crop of 40 dancers was picked from more than 120 auditions in March. Most are new but some are repeats, like Madison Grist of Surrey, who’s on her second year with the orange-clad team.

“I wanted to continue my dance training once my degree was done,” said Grist, who was previously the president of the UBC Dance Team.

“I saw an outlet with the Felions and I’ve been here ever since.

“It’s been nice stepping into it with a little more confidence. We’re learning routines faster, getting them down stronger and quicker, and I think that will translate when you see the final product at the games.”

Of course, the routines are new to Nicole Fabbi, one of the fresh faces of the Felions. She assisted in running the auditions this year, then tried out and made the cut.

“It can be a little overwhelming – there’s a lot of choreography,” she said. “But it’s been a lot of fun so far.”

They’ve spent the last nine weeks honing their techniques in time for the Lions’ first pre-season game. The Felions pride themselves on their high-calibre dance abilities that set them apart from other cheer teams in the CFL.

“Some of the other cheer teams across Canada are just that, cheer teams,” said Severyn. “They do stunting, verbal cheers – we don’t do any of that. When someone goes to a Lions game and they watch our girls, they can tell that they’re technically trained.”

They perform four routines on the field at each game, plus 20 to 40 “adlibs” on the sidelines. Every week is a new routine in rehearsals and they only have a few hours to get it down before the next one.

“It’s a lot of pressure, but they know that coming into it,” said Severyn.

The Felions aren’t your stereotypical ditzy cheerleaders: Grist has an Honours Bachelor of Science in Biology and studies endocrinology in a behavioural neuroscience lab while also working for Lululemon, and Fabbi graduated university, went through SFU’s Professional Development Program, and is now a school teacher by day and a dance teacher in the afternoons and on weekends.

“A lot of girls are university-educated or are in university or have career jobs – they’re doing this as an outlet to make new friends, to meet new people, to keep up their physical activity,” Severyn said.

“I think we all, generally, are either in school or working two or three jobs and doing Felions on top of it, and fitting in our dance training on the side,” added Grist.

And that hard work pays off when the Felions enter the stadium to the roar of the crowd, about to blow the retractable roof off the building.

“It’s impossible not to smile,” Grist said. “You step on the field and you can feel the energy from the fans.”

Even with the Grey Cup in Vancouver this year, Grist said she’s really looking forward to the Lions facing one particular team.

“I always look forward to the Roughriders game – the energy in the stadium at that game is so exciting,” she said.

“I’m just looking forward to the first game,” said Fabbi, “because I’m not quite sure what to expect.”

[BC FeLions]

Felions hopefuls strut their stuff on Day 1 of tryouts for B.C. Lions dance team

By Frank Luba
The Province
March 9, 2014

There are always more hopefuls for the Felions than there are spots on the B.C. Lions’ dance team, even this year when the squad will probably be larger because the Grey Cup CFL championship is in Vancouver.

Tryouts for the squad began Sunday at the Scotiabank Dance Centre, with Lions dance team co-ordinator Alexandra Severyn overseeing the process of cutting down a group of more than 100 dancers to a maximum number of 42 Felions.

PHOTOS: SEE THE GIRLS GIVE IT THEIR ALL AT THE 2014 FELIONS TRYOUTS

Severyn, 36, is a former ballet instructor and looks like she could rejoin the squad she was a member of in 1998.

But the mother of three is looking for the next generation of dancers.

There were 34 dancers last year and 25 have come back but everybody still has to audition and be willing to do an awful lot more than just shake some pompoms.

“It’s a commitment from March until December 1,” said Severyn.

Dancers are required to attend three-hour practises every Sunday and then put in seven-hour shifts on game days.

There’s also up to 250 promotional appearances dancers from the team make, so anyone selected has to be available for a share of those events.

The qualifications to be a Felion, according to Severyn, are “excellent dance ability, outgoing personality, physically fit and a B.C. Lions fan.”

Marissa Culpin, 25, of Abbotsford has fit that bill before, winning a spot on the Felions the previous four seasons.

“I love to dance, I love being on a team, I love all the girls on the team and I love football,” she said.

Being a Felion fits into Culpin’s career as a dance teacher.

“I have been dancing since I was four or five years old and I still do it today,” she said.

Culpin is committed to dancing.

“I will dance until my body will not allow me to anymore,” she said.

At the other end of the Felion aspirational scale from Culpin was Sharmaine Duell, who just turned 19.

The Australian native, who also holds Canadian citizenship, actually tried out for the squad last year but didn’t know dancers have be at least 19.

She also has extensive training.

“I’ve been dancing for about eight years,” said Duell, who has a diploma in commercial dance and musical theatre.

Sports teams in Australia have more cheerleader-style squads instead of dancers, said Duell.

But what the Felions do interests her.

“I really love sports,” she said. “I love the atmosphere of a live game and I love dance. So this has both.”

And there’s more.

“They [Felions] always seem to have fun when I’ve seen them,” said Duell.

There’s more fun, of course, if the Lions win — but that’s up to coaches and players, not their dance team.

Felion gives fans reason to roar

By Matthew Hoekstra
Richmond Review
July 11, 2013

Kara Gerlach is known to turn a few heads on game day. The Richmond woman is a member of the Felions, the dance team for the B.C. Lions tasked with cheering for the Canadian Football League team—and meeting fans.

“Interacting with fans is one of my favourite parts of being a Felion,” said Gerlach, 25. “It’s great to interact with them and feel all the love that they show for us.”

The Felions prowl outside B.C. Place before games, selling calendars, signing autographs and, of course, posing with fans for lots of smartphone photos.

This is Gerlach’s second season with the Felions, who cheered the home team to its first win of the season July 4. She’s among 35 dancers in the group, many who balance full-time jobs, university schedules and dance training with their Felions commitments.

Gerlach grew up in Richmond and has been involved with dance throughout her life. She trained at Richmond Academy of Dance and Vancouver Academy of Dance, and was a cheerleader at H.J. Cambie Secondary. As a recent BCIT graduate, she’s now interning at a public relations firm.

“The Felions combined my love for cheerleading and dance, so I was naturally drawn to it.”

The squad rehearses weekly and don orange uniforms every home game to cheer on the Lions from the sidelines. Felions also make regular appearances in the community, representing the team at numerous charity and corporate events—about the only time they interact with players.

“The players are there to play football and we’re there to cheer them on,” she said.

As for how the Lions—now 1-1 on the season—will follow up last year’s Western Final finish, Gerlach is hoping to cheer the team on in Saskatchewan for the championship game.

Said Gerlach: “I’m hoping that they’ll make it to the Grey Cup and we’ll get a chance to cheer them on in Regina.”

B.C. visits the Edmonton Eskimos this Saturday before returning home to B.C. Place to host the Eskimos on July 20.

Felions Cheerleader Pumped

B.C. girl Alexandria MacFarlane has chance to become Much VJ

By Dana Gee
The Province

Alexandria MacFarlane says her job as a professional cheerleader is not that different than the job of music channel VJ.

The 20-year-old is a member of the B.C. Felions cheerleading squad and currently competing against 13 other young Canadians in the Fructis Fruit Sensation Presents: Much VJ Search.

“Being a cheerleader and this have a lot in common,” said MacFarlane who grew up in Abbotsford but calls Coquitlam home these days.

“You have to pump up the crowd, be a public figure, be a good role model, set a good example – it connects so greatly.

“I want to entertain people and I know I am good at it.”

MuchMusic, which has held VJ search contests (last in 2009, when Liz Trinnear won), has mixed things up this year and sent the VJ wannabes on a bus tour. The tour began in Vancouver and will pull to a stop in Toronto for a live show on April 26 when the new VJ will be revealed.

The VJ Search program, which airs nightly at 6 p.m. with Post Show following at 6: 30, shows the contestants competing in their daily challenges, including interviewing each other to facing off in pop-culture quizzes.

Along the route (they are in Ottawa for Wednesday’s episode) contestants are eliminated. The decision of who stays and who goes is made based on a combination of fan support, the mentors (current MuchMusic VJs) and, of course, production staff. The winner will get a three-month contract with MuchMusic. “We wanted to really focus that this isn’t Toronto centric, that this is all about all of Canada, so we came up with the idea of the bus, with contestants from all across Canada” said Much’s executive producer Kristine Luciw.

According to Luciw, more than 1,000 people from every corner of the country applied for the contest which has turned into a reality show.

“It is working out really well but it certainly isn’t easy to put together,” Luciw said. “The toughest part is having to eliminate someone.”

That point resonates loudly with MacFarlane who was one of 20 chosen for the bus tour.

“It is stressful, but really fun,” MacFarlane said. “It’s the best experience of my life. But everybody gets really emotional so it is stressful.

“I think, coming here, I honestly didn’t think I would make the relationships that I have. We have become close like a family. I know it is weird to say that. It’s reality TV everybody says that ‘we’re so close,’ and you’re like whatever. But it’s crazy I feel like I have known these people my whole life. It’s insane. So when you have to see people go home, it is heartbreaking. It’s stressful.” So while social media popularity goes a long way in this contest, the network types have certain boxes they want to check on the road to picking a new TV star.

“We are definitely looking for someone who is a fresh face,” Luciw said. “Someone we don’t have already on air. Looking for someone who is really different to what we have already.”

Of course, that person has to have some understanding of the world that MuchMusic operates in.

“We are looking for someone who is very passionate about music and pop culture,” Luciw said. “Someone who lives and breathes it. We are looking for someone who is unique, who stands out on camera, who is confident, very relatable and likable to our audience.”

And don’t forget enthusiastic.

“I want this job so badly because it is everything I love to do,” MacFarlane said. “Meeting new people, entertaining people, pumping up the crowd, social media – this is everything I am really good at and everything I love to do all in this job. Actually, it wouldn’t really be like a job: It would be me just being me for the rest of my life. So it would be perfect.”

Note: MacFarlane is the last B.C. contestant standing but there might be a chance that her fellow Top20 bus rider, Vancouver’s Desiree Mark, could be brought back (she was eliminated last Friday) due to a fan voting option. You can vote to help bring Mark back by going to muchmusic.com/vjsearch. The most popular castoff will be brought back for the final week of competition.

[Alexandria VJ Search on MuchMusic.com]

[Alexandria on Twitter]

[Alexandria at BCLions.com]

Felion Hopefuls Strut Their Stuff

The Province

They promise to have some of the best moves in the CFL.

But before the 2013 version of the B.C. Lions Felions Dance Team gets their spot on the sidelines, the squad has to be picked.

About 80 young women spent Sunday at the annual tryouts for the dance team.

According to dance team co-ordinator Alexandra Severyn, the tryouts are designed to help them identify those best suited for the 34 spots available.

Severyn said Sunday was the big day for the talent to show their stuff. They will make a short list from the day’s auditions, and then make the final selection after a series of interviews Wednesday evening. By Thursday she said the dance team will be finalized.

Severyn said they are looking for women who are great dancers, in great physical shape and have a lot of enthusiasm.

With Sunday’s first cuts from the list of 80, Severyn said emotions ran high.

“Some girls have already left because they can’t dance under pressure,” she said.

Once the team is picked, they will be on the sidelines for all the Lions’ home games, go to charity events and model for the annual swimsuit calendar.

Many of those trying out have a background in high school cheerleading, with others a background from dance school.

Many members of last year’s squad plan on returning to the Felions. “We have 25 returning but it doesn’t mean they automatically make the team,” Severyn said.

For 21-year-old Mariah, who was on the team last year, the hard work to make the squad was well worth it. “It was the best experience I have ever had,” she said.

“There are so many great girls here. There is so much competition but it is a friendly competition.”

[BC Felions]

[Felion Auditions Gallery]

[Video from Auditions]

Quick – Someone Get Roger Godell on the Phone

That’s a photo from last Sunday’s Grey Cup, the championship game for the Canadian Football League. Every Grey Cup features cheerleaders from all the CFL teams. They perform at events leading up to the game and the game itself. How awesome would it be if the NFL brought in all their cheerleading squads for the Super Bowl?

  • BC FeLions
  • Calgary Stampeders Outriders
  • Edmonton Eskimos Cheer Team
  • Hamilton Ti-Cats Cheerleaders
  • Montreal Alouttes Cheerleaders
  • Saskatchewan Rider Cheer Team
  • Toronto Argos Cheerleaders
  • Winnipeg Blue Bomber Cheer Team
  • Photo of the Weekend – September 22 & 23

    British Colombia Lions “Felions” dance team (August 2012)

    Video: Felions Calendar Shoot

    The Felions are the dance team of the British Colombia Lions (Canadian Football League.) This team has been working hard to put together their annual calendar for Lions fans. This year’s calendar is going to be a little different. Instead of making a swimsuit calendar, they’re mixing it up. Some of the dancers will be in swimwear, while others will be in lingerie, other costumes, and even body paint. Click here to watch!

    Felions Calendar Shoot

    The BC Felions of the Canadian Football League are already hard at work on their 2012 Calendar.

    [BC Felions]

    Former WWE Diva Savannah Trained to Wrestle

    By Scott Fishman
    The Miami Herald

    Angela Fong cheered in the Canadian Football League as a member of the BC FeLions.

    Angela Fong cheered in the Canadian Football League as a member of the BC FeLions.

    Angela Fong didn’t advance in the 2007 World Wrestling Entertainment Diva Search competition, but the Vancouver native wouldn’t let that stop her from breaking into the business.

    Fong, known to WWE fans as Savannah, was signed to a WWE developmental contract in 2008 and honed her skills at Florida Championship Wrestling, WWE’s feeder group in Tampa.

    The model turned wrestler worked alongside other divas in training including Alicia Fox and the Bella Twins. Fong was called to the main roster in 2009 to work for WWE’s version of Extreme Championship Wrestling, which aired on SyFy. It was good and bad news.

    “I wanted to be a wrestler,” Fong said.

    “I trained five days a week for two years straight at FCW. When they brought me up, they told me I was going to be backstage interviewing. I thought, ‘OK. This is my chance to get my foot in the door.’

    “Then they told me I would be ring announcing. I accepted it and took whatever they gave me, but I wanted to wrestle. It is what it is.”

    The former diva was placed in that role as Lilian Garcia was on her way out of the company. As a fellow female ring announcer, Fong was under a lot of pressure.

    “It was huge shoes to fill,” Fong said.

    “She was with the company for 10 years. She was always giving me advice, saying things like, ‘Maybe you will take my spot. Maybe you will start announcing.’ She was really helpful.”

    Most of Fong’s opportunities to mix it up in the ring were at house shows. After WWE’s ECW folded, Fong became the ring announcer for the inaugural season of NXT. A few months later, she was released from her contract.

    Fong decided to pursue other ventures. She appeared as a dancer for Xtreme Fighting Championship, a mixed martial arts company. A few months ago, Tara (former WWE diva Victoria) put in a good word at Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. Fong isn’t sure if she wants to fully return to wrestling.

    “She was so sweet to do that,” Fong said. “She called me about it. At the time when she asked me about maybe going for a tryout, I was really busy and couldn’t fully commit at the time. You never know.

    “I still love it, and I still wrestle every chance I get, different shows here and there. I’m not sure right now.”

    Fong continues to audition and send her resume for work. She also schedules appearances to meet fans at events, most recently at Wizard World Miami. The convention fit in with her last project.

    “I just did a short film in LA,” Fong said.

    “It is a comic book they made into a film. It’s called ‘Black Tiger.’ I play the main character. She is a lawyer by day and a superhero by night. We did some really awesome choreographed martial arts fighting scenes.”

    Her wrestling background helped her land the job.

    “They asked if I could do some of these wrestling moves,” Fong said.

    “We had these choreographers come in, and they taught us these great fight scenes. The girl I worked with had never done anything like that before; so it was cool to help her out.”

    [Follow Angela on Twitter]

    A Look Back at the Felions Season

    By Jessica J.
    BCLions.com

    jessicalionsYou always know the CFL season is just around the corner when advertisements for season tickets and cheerleading auditions flood the airwaves. Last season, we had auditions at the Scotiabank Dance Centre in downtown Vancouver which will also be the site of the 2011 auditions this March.

    Being new to Vancouver, I didn’t know anyone except for Candice, who had also just moved from Toronto. As we entered the room, we saw numerous hopefuls, all with the dream and drive to own a pair of those orange boots! The auditions took place over one very, very long day, followed by interviews a couple of days later. I knew when I got that phone call inviting me to the team that it was time to get our butts in gear!

    We started off the season with a bang! New routines, sidelines, Football 101 and photo shoots – everything felt like it was flying at us all at once! It was extremely challenging at first, but with our great support system of girls we pulled together and never let a Felion fall behind.

    The 2010 season was a very special and memorable year for the BC Lions as we called Empire Field our home for the season. After being vacant for more than 25 years, the stadium was rebuilt and the Lions brought back the magic. With 27,500 seats to fill, hearing the first home game sold out was something that blew everyone away! I remember that first home game and how intimate and close the fans were. I felt as if we were singing Roar Your Lions Roar all together, standing right next to one another. You could feel the passion and pride of our fans!

    We had a rough start to the season as the team struggled to win at home, but we turned it around mid season! The excitement of winning filled the stadium and put even more hope in the hearts of Lions fans. We can do it! The season ended too soon for the guys just missing the chance to go to Grey Cup. However, our season kept going! The Felions traveled to chilly Edmonton where the Eskimos hosted the 2010 Grey Cup. The girls kept busy doing events at hospitality suites, dancing our amazing Grey Cup routine, participating in the cheer extravaganza, being part of promos around the city and dancing at the Grey Cup Championship!

    Just like that, the season came to and end. The pom-poms were returned and we said our goodbyes. It was an exceptional year for the Felions and we would like to give a special thanks to our amazing coordinator Alex Severyn for keeping it all together and our talented choreographer Aura Benwick who was a very patient, amazing teacher! Also, thanks to the BC Lions staff who worked so hard to make the season such a success! I also want to thank the fans for the continual support we received, whether purchasing one of our fantastic 2010-11 Felions calendars or coming to the games all decked out in Lions gear. We thank you! You are what takes our game day experience to another level!

    The 2011 season is right around the corner, with our auditions coming up on Sunday, March 6th! If there are any Felions hopefuls out there wanting to try out, be sure to check out the auditions page at BCLions.com for more information. I strongly recommend it to anyone! As a Felion, you’ll get a chance to cheer on the best team in the CFL, dance and make long-lasting friendships.

    Cross your fingers for me BC Lions fans and (hopefully) I’ll see you on the field next season!

    Go Lions Go!

    Jessica J.

    [Jessica at BC Felions]

    This Dynamic Duo is Ready to Roar

    Mouat grads will suit up with B.C. Lions dance team

    By Cam Tucker
    The Abbbotsford Times

    They have been best friends since Grade 8, and now the Dynamic Duo of Karessa Van Aert and Jessica MacMillan will be front and centre when the B.C. Lions kick off the 2010 CFL season.

    No, they won’t be manning the offensive line or throwing darts for receivers Geroy Simon or Paris Jackson.

    Instead, the Abbotsford tandem will be dancing up a storm for the B.C. Lions Felions dance team.

    The difference is Van Aert will begin her second season with the Felions, while MacMillan enters as the rookie.

    bc
    Karessa Van Aert, above, and Jessica MacMillan, best friends and graduates of W.J. Mouat, will represent Abbotsford as members of the B.C. Lions Felions dance team when the 2010 Canadian Football League season kicks off in June.

    “We’ve danced together for seven years over at Danceworx Studio and she went in last year to the Felions and she said ‘you have to come when you turn 19,'” said MacMillan, a 2008 W.J. Mouat grad along with Van Aert.

    “So I decided to try out this year.”

    It certainly wasn’t an easy process for both girls, especially with more than 100 applicants trying to impress the panel of judges at auditions on April 3.

    “What’s more nerve racking than the judges was the 100 girls behind them staring at us,” said Van Aert, who attends University of the Fraser Valley with hopes of getting into the nursing program there.

    “But the judges won’t put up with girls who aren’t respectful towards teammates. Attitude is definitely important.”

    MacMillan added: “It’s definitely intimidating, but everyone was super nice when we were there.”

    And now that MacMillan is officially on the squad, she hopes it will bring about new opportunities for her career.

    “It opens so many doors,” she said.

    “I’m just really excited to see what we experience in this next year.”

    MacMillan also has the benefit of her closest friend having a year’s experience with the Felions under her belt.

    bc1With everything from commitment to dealing with unruly fans, Van Aert said there is definitely a lot to take in over the course of the season.

    “Commitment is definitely something [coaches] have trouble with. They’ve had girls fall through because of that,” Van Aert said.

    “The season goes by really fast and it’s a once in a life time experience.”

    And when you’re under the spotlight throughout the course of a CFL season, you’re going to have good and bad moments.

    “The best moment was probably running on the field for the first time and hearing 34,000 people scream when they called the dance team out,” said Van Aert.

    “It’s a surreal feeling.”

    And the worst memory?

    “We had to do a Halloween game and my group had to wear pumpkin costumes. I have no idea why, it wasn’t enough of a cute costume,” she laughed.

    Despite the start of the CFL regular season still two months away, both girls have been inundated with information since they were notified of their selections last week.

    There is a swimsuit calendar photo shoot this week followed by weeks of training and choreography before the season begins at the revamped outdoor facility of Empire Stadium.

    The fact the Lions will play this season outdoors doesn’t phase the newbie.

    “I think it will be really fun actually,” added MacMillan.

    But the fact the duo is dancing together again is even better, said Van Aert.

    “It’s definitely going to be more fun dancing with a best friend,” she said.