The three-year veteran strikes a pose in New Orleans. Photo from the Nuggets Dancers Facebook page.
[Nuggets Dancers on Facebook]
[Kalia at the Nuggets Dancers Website]
(I can’t find a comprehensive list of members of the All-Star Team. If you know who made the squad, please let us know.)
The Denver Nuggets website has been updated with lots of new dance team content, including bios, videos, and photo galleries. Click here to check it out!
LOVE the new outfits.
(Ignore the levitation)
My favorite is the fun gallery
Auditions are over and the Nuggets have selected 18 dancers to this year’s squad. Congratulations, ladies!
Click here to see who made the team, and click here for audition pics, and individividual photos of the finalists in this wicked-cute little yellow number. Werk!
Over 100 Nuggets Dancers hopefuls were whittled down to 27 remaining finalists over the past three days at Pepsi Center. The grueling weekend included learning two sets of choreography, a day of interviews, a photo shoot and a Choreography Showcase.
[Nugget Dancers Open Call Gallery]
[DND Finalists Gallery]
By Mike Martinez
She wanted them prepared. If George Karl’s boys were going to bring the playoffs back to the Pepsi Center, her girls were going to give a damn good show. By now the wound from the Nuggets early postseason exit has scabbed over, but when Denver Nuggets dance manager Amy Jo Wagner welcomed 303 Magazine to her team’s (then unknown) final practice, she had her girls rehearsing as if their performance was imminent.
The wood floor in the studio room at Forza Fitness rumbled with steps completely in-sync. Blonde, brown and black locks of hair whooshed through the air in the same direction, hands slapped thighs simultaneously and all to the perfect synchronization of Amy Jo’s counting. Well, perfect at least to a novice.
“I have a feeling we should do this on more time. So turn your brain on girls,I want to get home and watch the game” Amy Jo said as her team finished a routine that fell short of her approval.
I couldn’t spot a single flaw–perhaps because I was slightly mesmerized by the array of powder blue and yellow– but Amy Jo demands a great deal from her girls and knows exactly what she wants.
From the top- She turns the music on to cue game speed- her team snaps into formation and begins the routine. Crouched down with calculated concentration, her hands folded in front of her and somehow watching every move of every dancer, Amy Jo reminds me of a coach I had who terrified me. He saw everything. Nothing slips past Amy Jo either. After a routine she was finally happy with, Amy stepped away from practice for a moment to sit down with 303.
Dance wasn’t always in the cards. Amy Jo didn’t even start until she was 15 years old, and from her own recollection, had a bad attitude. At first she wouldn’t let coaches tell her anything without some sass. But she kept on dancing and soon fell in love with the performance aspect and dance and discipline became second nature.
She is everything you might come to expect from a dance manager in the NBA- precise, punctual and yes, very pretty. Though one thing that might catch you by surprise is her love for math. Algebra, trigonometry and calculus; nauseating terms for a writer, comforting words for Amy Jo Wagner.
“I have two passions in life. Music and math,” she said. “ I’ve just always liked having one right answer.”
Before moving to Denver to start this dream job with the Nuggets, Amy Jo was living out another fantasy as a high school math teacher in Arizona. I know, I know, I wish she was my math teacher too. She was in a comfy spot in life, albeit hectic. Dancing simultaneously for three different Arizona teams, (Phoenix Suns, Phoenix Mercury and the Arizona Rattlers) teaching high school math and having just bought a new home, Amy Jo thought her fairy-tale would play out in the desert. A job opening with the Denver Nuggets would change all that.
In 2008, on her birthday, Amy Jo quit her job as a math teacher and swapped it for dance life in the NBA. After a heartfelt goodbye from her school, she still gets emotional reminiscing about her time as a teacher. She received nothing but support from her staff and students, yet at times can’t help but feel that she ‘let them down.’ After turningdown the job initially, Amy Jo wasn’t going to let the Nuggets down.
With Denver as her adoptive home, this Kerkhoven, Minn. native has settled in quite nicely. Amy Jo has a 1 year old daughter with a loving boyfriend. Though coming from a small town, she admits there is some pressure from home to get married, which she says is not in the works any time soon. ”All that matters is we have a happy household,” she said with a smile.
Balancing out her busy schedule, Amy Jo spends her leisure practicing yoga and being with her daughter. And though free-time is not something in great abundance, she tries to make as much time as she can for each of her dancers and get to know them on a more personal level.
“I consider them a family, and building a personal relationship with them makes the season that much easier,” she said.
She makes it a point to sit down over coffee and just talk with each of her girls, and from an onlookers perspective her team is a very cohesive unit–her coffee dates must be working. Amy Jo is far from that terrifying coach I knew, her standards are high, but she is only there to help her team reach them. She leaves her ego at the door and explains that her job is not a “look at me” position. She is not there to run a tyrannical campaign either, she just wants to be a part of the team and earn the girls’ respect by being a good role model.
[Denver Nuggets Dancers]
Sports Illustrated has posted a collection of NBA dance team photos from the last week. The gallery includes teams from the Phoenix Suns, Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics, Memphis Grizzlies, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Philadelphia 76ers, Golden State Warriors, Orlando Magic, and Dallas Mavericks. Click here to check it out!
Nuggets Dancers Audition Requirements:
be at least 18 years of age or 17 years of age with a parent or guardian present to sign a waiver on the participant’s behalf
hold a high school diploma or equivalent education
wear a cropped top, fitted shorts or dance skirt, and shoes with non-marking soles
submit non-returnable headshot (at least 5×7; does not need to be professional but must be clear and contain only the audition participant)
submit a dance resume including any previous dance teams, classes or workshops, current employment and training, educational background, and 3 references
complete and submit the 2012 DND Audition Registration Form and the 2012 Liability Waiver & Release.
professional looking hair and makeup are encouraged
live in the Denver area and have reliable transportation to and from all Nuggets home games and practices
2012 Audition Schedule*
Friday, August 3: Preliminary Auditions
Semi-Finalists Announced: 10:30pm
Saturday, August 4:Semi-Finalists Interviews & Photo Shoot
Individual Interview/Photo Shoot Times: 10am – 4pm (assigned at the conclusion of the Preliminary Auditions)
Sunday, August 5: Choreography Showcase / Semi-Finals
Finalists Announced: 3:30pm
Training Camp: August 7-16, 2012
Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 7-10:30pm
* Audition schedule subject to change.
Chelsea Denver Nuggets Dancer – Ellwood
All participants are required to submit a headshot and resume and wear a half top and fitted shorts or skirt at the preliminary audition. The preliminary round will consist of multiple sets of choreography; including jazz, pom, and hip hop styles. Dancers will audition in small groups in front of a panel of judges before each around of cuts are made. Dancers making it through the preliminary auditions will be asked to return the next day for an individual interview and photo shoot in a DND uniform, and, on Sunday, for the Choreography Showcase / Semi-finals.
Individual Interviews & Photo Shoot:
Semi-finalists will be asked to attend an individual interview with a panel of judges on the second day of the audition process. Dancers are encouraged to wear business attire with professional hair and make-up to their 10-minute interview, which will be held at the Pepsi Center (location subject to change). Dancers are responsible for their own parking and should arrive 10 minutes prior to their interview time for check-in.
Immediately following the interview, each semi-finalist will have the opportunity to pose for photos in a Nuggets Dancers uniform with team photographer Garrett Ellwood. Uniform and boots will be provided at the photo shoot, but dancers are responsible for all personal articles including pantyhose.
Choreography Showcase & Semi-Finals:
On the third day of auditions, each dancer will each present their own 45-60 second piece of choreography in front of each other and a panel of judges. The music and style of choreography is left to the dancer’s discretion. Any costumes or props used in the choreography must have non-marking pads to protect the floor. The semi-final dance audition will consist of each dancer performing the material learned on the first day of auditions. The dancers who will be asked to attend training camp will be announced at the end of the day.
Training camp will be held August 7-16, 2012 on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 7-10:30pm. Details of the training camp will be made available after the finalists are announced on Day 3 of the auditions. All dates of the training camp are mandatory.
Prep Classes: Attire left to dancer’s discretion (half tops and fitted bottoms are recommended). All dancers must wear non-marking soles.
Prelims: Cropped dance top / sports bra and fitted shorts or skirt. You will not be allowed to audition in jeans or dance pants. Dance sneakers or jazz shoes are recommended, but not required.
Semi-Finalist Interviews: Professional business attire.
Choreography Showcase: Any dance wear or costume appropriate for the choreography presented.
Semi-Finals: Same guidelines as prelims.
Training Camp: Black dance shorts and black sports bra. Dance sneakers or jazz shoes are recommended, but not required.
[Nuggets Dancers Auditions]
By Aaron J. Lopez
NBA dancers spend countless hours in the gym and perform difficult physical routines with impeccable timing.
The demands are more pronounced at Pepsi Center, where the Denver Nuggets Dancers must execute their routines at 5,280 feet and then return to the court a few minutes later looking as though they just took a leisurely stroll along the beach.
It raises the question: Are dancers athletes?
In the case of rookie Denver Nuggets Dancer Ashlee, the answer is an unequivocal yes.
Her dad ran track and cross-country at New Mexico State University, her brother played football at the University of New Mexico and her sister ran cross-country for the Lobos.
As for the 22-year-old Ashlee, she has spent about half her life on the basketball court, the softball field, the volleyball court and the ski slopes. In her youth, she also dabbled in golf, gymnastics, swimming and racquetball.
“It’s a long list,” she said. “My parents were both very athletic, so they put us in sports at an early age.”
Despite standing just 5-foot-1, Ashlee has a vertical leap that enabled her to play the front row for her high school volleyball team, and she takes pride in the fact that she once dunked a basketball on an 8-foot rim. The skills transfer to her craft as a dancer.
“Being so athletic has helped with dance a lot,” she said. “My legs are superstrong from playing all those sports. In dance, that really helps me a lot.”
Ashlee grew up in Albuquerque but always wanted to live in Denver after visiting the city when she was about 11 years old. After spending three years dancing for the New Mexico Thunderbirds of the NBA Development League, she joined the Colorado Mammoth dance team – the Wild Bunch – for the 2011 National Lacrosse League season.
When the Nuggets held dance auditions in the summer, Ashlee made a smooth transition from the artificial turf back to the hardwood.
“Ashlee’s extensive dance and performance background were apparent throughout her season with the Wild Bunch and at the Nuggets Dancers auditions this summer,” Denver Nuggets Dancers coordinator and choreographer Amy Jo Wagner said. “She is very comfortable in front of a crowd and handling the rigorous schedule of the DND, which made her an excellent rookie candidate for the team.”
Ashlee’s professional success as a dancer was hardly foreshadowed when she joined the Duke City Stars studio in Albuquerque. As a gangly 10-year-old, she started later than most accomplished dancers and her own instructor was skeptical about her prospects.
“I was horrible,” Ashlee said. “My coach tells everyone, ‘If Ashlee can dance, anyone can,’ because I was so bad.”
Ashlee eventually found her rhythm and juggled a full schedule of school, sports and dance all the way through her high school graduation. She enrolled at the University of New Mexico and is currently taking on-line classes as she works toward a degree in communications.
Ashlee would like to attend nursing school, which is fitting considering the aches and pains she has endured as a result of her active lifestyle.
The injuries include multiple sprained ankles, a hyperextended, dislocated and broken right elbow, a separated left shoulder, sprained AC joints in both shoulders, wrist surgery and a torn calf muscle.
Talented and athletic, Ashlee has persevered through it all to reach her goal of becoming a Denver Nuggets Dancer.
The hardest part might be staying healthy enough to prove to everyone that dancers are indeed athletes.
By Aaron J. Lopez
The misperceptions of an NBA dancer are incalculable.
Few people know this better than Denver Nuggets Dancer Jessica. After all, when it comes to crunching numbers, she can calculate just about anything.
While talk of amortization, balance sheets and zero-based budgeting would make the average person’s head spin, it is a way of life for Jessica in her job as an accountant for Vail Resorts.
“I love accounting, which is so odd,” she said. “Ever since I was little, my dad and I have been doing math problems. All the numbers just always made sense to me.”
Jessica, 24, joined Vail Resorts almost immediately after graduating from the Metro State School of Business last spring. Working out of the company’s Broomfield office, she has found a nice balance with her practice schedule with the Nuggets dancers.
“I know how lucky I am to have two awesome jobs,” she said. “They are both things I love and they balance each other out.”
Jessica first joined the Nuggets dance team in 2008-09 but spent the following season focusing on earning her accounting degree. The year away from the team gave her a better appreciation for the thrill and excitement of being part of an NBA game.
“When the lights go down and we’re standing under the basket, I still get chills,” she said. “My eyes tear up. There are thousands of girls all over the country who want to do this, and I get to do it. That is still so unreal to me. I’m very blessed.”
There can be a fine line between blessed and embarrassed.
During her first season with team, Jessica felt like hiding when she looked into the Pepsi Center crowd and noticed four oversized cardboard signs spelling out J-E-S-S. Her teammates were puzzled, thinking the Nuggets had signed a new player. It turned out to be a proud father paying tribute to his daughter.
“My parents have never missed a game,” Jessica said. “It’s awesome.”
Though born in Colorado, Jessica grew up in the three-stoplight town of Newton, Kan. Her only experience on the basketball court was brief and forgettable. While playing on a YMCA girls basketball team in third grade, she walked off the court when the referee mistook her for a boy because of her short haircut.
“I never played basketball again,” she said. “I literally set the ball down and said, ‘I’m done.’ I was scarred forever.”
Jessica found comfort through dance, and there’s never a case of mistaken identity when she and her teammates make dozens of community appearances every season.
“It’s amazing to see how excited people get – kids and adults,” she said. “If I was to go in regular street clothes, nobody would care. To see the impact that the uniform has, it’s incredible. To have that power, it would be silly not to use it, so we do as many community events as we can. It’s so rewarding.”
The impact, you might say, is incalculable. Even for an accountant.
[Jessica’s Gallery at Nuggets.com]
By Aaron J. Lopez
When your dad is a world champion steer wrestler and your knees are scarred from sliding into second base, it’s hard to envision a future on an NBA dance team.
Not only did a Longmont farm girl become a Denver Nuggets Dancer, but she enters her fourth season as the longest-tenured member of the team.
“I didn’t ever think I could be a cheerleader because they look almost untouchable in the public eye,” Krista said before a practice at Forza Fitness and Performance Club. “I was like, ‘I could never be one of those’ It never crossed my mind that was something I could do.”
Krista, who started dancing at a studio at age 3, became a Nuggets dancer in 2008-09 and fell in love with the job as the Nuggets advanced to the Western Conference finals for the first time in 24 years.
“For that to be my first year, it couldn’t have gotten any better,” she said. “I hadn’t really been to many Nuggets game before. Once you get to go to a game and sit on the court, I’m a huge basketball fan now.”
View Krista’s Photo Gallery
With her dad competing on the rodeo circuit in the 1980s, Krista was a self-described tomboy while growing up in rural Colorado. She was interested in competing herself, but her mom wouldn’t allow it because of the inherent dangers associated with roping, riding and interacting with various livestock.
Other sports helped fill the void, but dance was always Krista’s No. 1 passion.
She helped her studio, Dance Dimensions, win a national title in high school, but she wasn’t sure what the next step would be as she studied marketing at Colorado State University. Krista spent two years with the Eagle Chicks, the dance team for minor-league hockey’s Colorado Eagles, before making the move to the Nuggets.
“I planned on quitting dance after high school,” she said. “I didn’t want to go out to Los Angeles. I’m a family girl. I want to be around my family.”
Even staying close to home had its challenges. While going to school in Fort Collins, Krista spent the past three NBA seasons commuting to games and practices in Denver. Depending on the Nuggets’ schedule, she could make five or six trips along I-25 every week.
“People definitely don’t realize how hard we work,” she said. “They also think we do it to get somewhere else. They ask if I’m doing it to meet the players or become a model or get into show business. That’s not the case with the Nuggets. I’ve never done it to be on TV or hang out with the players. I already have my degree in marketing. I would love to go into marketing.”
In a difficult economy, Krista is content to dance for the Nuggets and provide leadership for a squad that features nine rookies among its 17 women.
“I definitely feel the most seasoned on the team,” she said. “I still think it’s fun to do this, but I take it a little more seriously because I’ve invested so much of my time. I’m very proud of it. A lot of the girls think it’s more for fun, but I remind them that it’s serious.”
From the first day of tryouts each summer, Krista goes out of her way to welcome perspective teammates. She gives them her e-mail address and phone number and encourages them to contact her if they need any advice that might help them succeed.
“Krista continues to be a solid team member and an excellent course of positive energy for the group,” said Denver Nuggets Dancers coordinator and choreographer Amy Jo Wagner. “Each season she takes on the responsibility of welcoming rookies onto the team and ensuring that all her teammates feel supported and appreciated throughout the year.”
Knowing that she can work in marketing at any age, Krista plans on dancing for the Nuggets as long as possible. In addition to the games, the 24-year-old enjoys the camaraderie of her teammates and the community work that helps make a difference in people’s lives.
During community appearances, some people are surprised to find out that the women in the Nuggets dance outfits are the same ones who perform entertaining routines during games at the Pepsi Center.
As a farm girl from Longmont, Krista sometimes can’t believe it herself.
Lockout or no, the team has already had their first photo shoot. Click here to see their individual full length photos on the DND Facebook page.
Click to view full size
By Aaron J. Lopez
The lights drop. The pulsating music begins. The adrenaline rush kicks in.
At that moment, the countless hours of repetition and rehearsal all become worthwhile.
“It almost gives you chills and brings tears to your eyes,” said Miranda, a Denver Nuggets Dancer. “You think, ‘This is so cool. This is what we’ve been practicing and working so hard for.’ ”
After two days of auditions and four training-camp sessions, Miranda was among the 17 women named Monday as 2011-12 Denver Nuggets Dancers. The team consists of eight veterans and nine rookies, including an 18-year-old two months removed from her high-school graduation.
“The girls worked extremely hard for two weeks,” said Denver Nuggets Dancers coordinator and choreographer Amy Jo Wagner. “Everyone did a phenomenal job. The 17 we chose showed they can dance in sync, pick up choreography very quickly and have the work ethic needed to make it through a long and strenuous NBA season.”
[VIEW PHOTO GALLERY]
Miranda, 21, proved her ability and endurance as a Denver Nuggets Dancer during the 2009-10 season. She left the team last season after being one of four people selected from 500 applicants to teach dance in Japan as part of the National Dance Alliance.
For more than a month, Miranda spent in excess or 12 hours a day training dancers for Japanese professional sports teams in cities such as Chiba, Tokyo and Yokohama.
“We had a translator, but the cool thing about dancing is you don’t really need to talk or learn a language. You just need your eyes to learn,” she said. “It was different whenever I went out and about. There was nothing in English. I had some freak-out moments and ended up in several different cities I wasn’t supposed to be in.”
Miranda got a reminder of home while conducting clinics for children at U.S. military bases in Tokyo. She also was able to be a tourist after her teaching was complete; climbing 12,389-foot Mount Fuji was one of her favorite highlights.
“The town up there looks like a Colorado mountain town,” she said. “You walk around five or six lakes and you gradually make your way up the mountain. It took a full day. It was amazing. That altitude was pretty brutal.”
Altitude is nothing new for Miranda, a marketing and communications major at Metro State. The Arvada West alumnus grew up in Colorado and started dancing competitively at age 6.
“No one in my family can dance,” she said. “My brother was a really good wrestler, but I couldn’t pick up any other sport. I tried soccer, and it was super-tragic. I can’t run, so I just stuck with dance.”
Miranda’s career goal is to become a police department spokesperson, but she hopes to stick around the Nuggets organization for a few more years. She enjoys representing the team in the community and is determined to prove that dancers have substance to complement their style.
“I always get asked, ‘So do you think you’re better than everybody else?’ It bothers me,” she said. “People assume that you think you’re better than everybody else when the majority of most of these women are so down to earth. Some of the friendships I’ve made will last forever.”
Wagner, entering her fifth season with the Nuggets, can attest to that. She was a member of the Phoenix Suns dance team and knows that team chemistry is an important ingredient for a successful dance team.
“I’m extremely happy to have Miranda back with us,” Wagner said. “She’s an excellent hip-hop dancer, an all-around friendly girl and a great overall representative of our organization.”
Now that training camp is over, Miranda can’t wait to get started again in the fall. She will juggle a class schedule with a dance schedule that includes 10 to 12 hours of practice every week.
She will exercise, follow a healthy diet and memorize dozens of new routines.
And when the lights go down at the Pepsi Center, she will enjoy the moment when that familiar adrenaline rush kicks in.
By Aaron J. Lopez
July 11, 2011
Over the next two weeks, 26 women will experience the dancing equivalent of boot camp.
The payoff will be one of 18 spots with the Denver Nuggets Dancers.
The 26 finalists were selected from a field of more than 100 candidates who took part in two days of audition at the Pepsi Center on July 9-10. Up next is four days of training camp at Forza Fitness and Performance Club on July 12, 14, 19 and 21.
“Everyone who came out for the auditions was amazing,” said Denver Nuggets Dancers coordinator and choreographer Amy Jo Wagner. “The judges had the difficult task of finding the top 26. We are very excited to see how they perform during training camp.”
Seven of the finalists were members of the 2010-11 Denver Nuggets Dancers, while four others were on the squad in previous seasons.
Wagner emphasized that previous experience with the Nuggets does not guarantee a final spot on the 2011-12 dance team.
“The biggest thing about being a returner is you know what to expect,” Wagner said. “That’s half the battle, being able to prepare yourself mentally for the two weeks ahead. I don’t think (first-time candidates) understand how difficult training camp is.”
Each training-camp session will include a one-hour workout with a personal trainer and two hours of dancing. The finalists learned two dance routines during auditions and will add two more during training camp.
“Four routines is a lot to learn in just two weeks,” Wagner said.
Wagner and a panel of judges will select the final 18 dancers, with the roster scheduled to be announced on July 25.
Here is a list of the 26 finalists, along with their professional dance experience.
Amber – Rookie Candidate
Angela – Rookie Candidate / Mammoth Wild Bunch 2005-11
Ashlee – Rookie Candidate / Mammoth Wild Bunch 2011
Brigitte – Rookie Candidate / Mammoth Wild Bunch 2011
Brooke – Rookie Candidate / Denver Outlaws Dancer 2010, 2011
Casey – Denver Nuggets Dancer 2010-11
Cassie – Rookie Candidate
Chelsea – Denver Nuggets Dancer 2009-11
Didi – Rookie Candidate / Mammoth Wild Bunch 2010
Dominique – Rookie Candidate
Emily – Rookie Candidate
Jacqlyn – Denver Nuggets Dancer 2008-10
Jana – Denver Nuggets Dancer 2009-10
Jessica – Denver Nuggets Dancer 2008-09, 2010-11
Kady – Rookie Candidate
Kali – Denver Nuggets Dancer 2009-11
Kate – Rookie Candidate / Mammoth Wild Bunch 2010, 2011
Katie – Denver Nuggets Dancer 2008-09
Kirsten – Rookie Candidate
Krista – Denver Nuggets Dancers 2008-11
Koko – Rookie Candidate
Miranda – Denver Nuggets Dancer 2009-10
Morgan – Denver Nuggets Dancer 2010-11
Peyton – Rookie Candidate
Ryann – Denver Nuggets Dancers 2010-11
Torrie – Rookie Candidate
Check out photos from last weekend opening round of the Denver Nuggets Dancers Audition here.