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!
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.”
An army of attractive young women in sports bras and yoga pants has taken over an east Mountain gym, each hoping for a spot on the 2014 Tiger-Cats cheer team.
Fifty are vying for the 20 spots on the team — reserved for “perfectly well-rounded, awesome girls,” explains their coach, Lesley Stewart, at Sunday’s tryout session.
The bar is set high, and Stewart is looking for a lot more than cute smiles and perky moves. These girls are their ambassadors in the community, after all.
“We are looking for intelligent, educated women … with a strong dance background, first and foremost,” she says.
After spending 22 years working in the CFL, Stewart is well aware of the cheerleader stereotypes that exist. With auditions sharing the weekend with International Women’s Day, she stresses that community engagement is a huge part of the gig.
“It’s always something we’ve had to work against,” she says. “It’s a lot more than just the dancing.”
But there is lots of dancing here, with girls breaking off into groups of three to perform a 40-second routine (the choreography was taught that morning) for the judging panel.
Next step is the interview process, later this week.
Cheerleaders must be at least 19 years of age — by November of this year.
Christina Del Sordo is all smiles despite the sweat — it’s her second time trying out. The 19-year-old Hamilton native has been with the Junior Ticats cheerleaders for nine years — a position she balances with her studies at McMaster University’s De Groote School of Business.
Cheerleading offers an outlet — albeit a challenging one. Last week, she squeezed in her workouts around studying for her accounting midterm.
“It’s about empowering women … a lot of the fans are men, so it’s nice to get more women involved,” she says.
The petite blond is also a diehard football fan, with a room decked out in Ticats paraphernalia. Her dad is a longtime season ticket holder.
“I know every player, their weights, where they went to school, everything,” she laughs.
But after looking up to the Ticats cheerleaders throughout her youth, she’s excited at having a chance to become a role model herself.
“This has been my ultimate goal,” she says, taking a break from practice before the big audition.
Taryn Switenky is also vying for a spot, for what would be her fourth year on the team.
For her, it’s a family affair — following in her older sister’s footsteps.
Switenky, 21, grew up dancing at the Pure Energy studio on the Mountain, and says cheerleading has allowed her to continue with the dancing.
“Nobody thinks that we all have careers and education on the side … and you have to be very physically fit,” she says of their cheer training.
Her experience on the team has been “really rewarding,” and the best part, by far, has been meeting fans face-to-face — especially the kids.
They’re also given travel opportunities, such as a stint at this year’s Grey Cup in Regina, performing onstage with Hedley.
“There’s tons of stuff behind the scenes,” she says.
The 2014 Ticats cheerleading team roster will be announced Friday afternoon on the team’s website, ticats.ca.
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.
Kyla Findlay, Head Coach of the CFL Calgary Stampeder Outriders, tells us that Sunday’s open auditions were a big success. They are starting training camp later today and will have the final team picked by March 12.
Date: Sunday, Mar. 2 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)
Cost: $10 online pre-registration fee or $20 walk-in registation fee
Attire: Dance or athletic bra top, short dance shorts (hot pants), 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, 2014. 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 2014 training camp will be notified by noon the following day.
Dance for a professional sports team
Perform in front of tens of thousands of fans during nationally televised games
Perform on-field at the 102nd Grey Cup in B.C.
Be a Ticats ambassador in the community at a number of charitable and corporate events
Featured on the Ticats.ca Cheerleader page
Create lifelong friendships and memories
All women wishing to audition for the 2014 Hamilton Tiger-Cats Cheerleading team must meet the following requirements:
You must have a dance, cheer and/or gymnastics background.
You must be 19 years of age by November 1, 2014.
You must be available for two rehearsals per week from April to December. Rehearsals will take place every Monday and Thursday nights. Time and location TBA.
You must be available for Cheer Camp Day on Sunday, April 27.
You must be available for all Hamilton Tiger-Cats home games at Tim Hortons Field during the 2014 season. Schedule will be announced in late-February.
You must be available for the 102nd Grey Cup Weekend in Vancouver – Friday, November 28 to Monday, December 1.
You must have graduated secondary school.
You must be physically fit and healthy.
Cheer Tryout Agenda – Sunday, March 9, 2014 at 5 Star Fitness – 1215 Stone Church E., Hamilton, Ontario
* interviews will be held on Wednesday, March 12 at the Ticats Head Office – sign-up sheet provided at the auditions.
** team will be announced on Ticats.ca on Friday, March 14.
*** first team meeting will be on Thursday, April 17.
What to Wear
All women auditioning for the 2014 Hamilton Tiger-Cats Cheerleading Team should come dressed in proper attire:
All black dance wear – half top and leggings or shorts (no baggy tops or pants)
Dance or sports shoes
Camera ready hair and make-up (hair down)
What to Bring
Please bring the following items with you to the audition:
Current full-length photo of yourself (if you haven’t submitted one with your registration form)
Lunch or snacks
$20 registration fee
What We Are Looking For
There are a number of qualities in a Hamilton Tiger-Cats Cheerleader that we will be looking for at the audition:
Fit, talented, enthusiastic women
Eagerness to work hard and have fun