Joining Pistons’ dance team a dream come true for Windsor teen

Kelly Steele
The Windsor Star
August 6, 2014

When Nathalie Couvillion went to her first Detroit Pistons game in Auburn Hills, Mich. last season, it wasn’t for the basketball players.

“It was the first NBA game I’d been to and I loved it,” she said. “Everyone was watching the game but I couldn’t stop watching the Pistons dancers. The whole time I kept thinking how much I wanted to do that.”

After the game, Couvillion, 18, jumped on the Pistons website and much to her surprise discovered they were already holding auditions for the dance team’s next season.

“I was really excited,” she said. “I signed up right away. I didn’t really know what to expect, but knew it was something I really wanted to do.”

Nervous, the Windsor teen attended the first tryout in July along with 150 other women ranging from 18 years old and up. She was thrilled when she made the first cut, becoming one of only 24 left for the 19 coveted spots. A week later, she was called back for another audition and wasn’t sure what to expect.

“When I walked in I noticed right away there seemed to be less than 24 of us,” she said. “The organizer said, “stand in line,” and told us to look to our left and look to our right because we were the members of this year’s Detroit Pistons Dance team. I couldn’t believe it. I was so excited.”

The coaches had already made their decisions and made the final cuts through phone calls. Not only is Couvillion the only Canadian on the team, but she is also one of the youngest.

The former competitive gymnast and dancer said the auditions were challenging as the choreographer would quickly teach the routine and then have everyone perform it as a group.

“At the auditions, I knew I had to stand out so when I would see them looking at me I would do a crazy gymnastic or dance move that the other girls couldn’t do,” she said. “It was hard not to look at the other girls and compare yourself.”

Couvillion, who teaches dance at Edmund Towers School of Dance in Windsor, loves to perform and can’t wait to take the floor at the Palace of Auburn Hills during a Pistons’ game in October.

“I love to perform and I love to make people smile while they are watching me dance,” she said. “When people watch me dance they say it helps them to forget about things. I also love the dancers’ gear — it’s really cool and the colours are great.”

As important as dance skills were, the coaches also wanted their team members to have a strong personality, confidence and athleticsm. Dancers perform during games and at halftime as back-up dancers alongside some of the biggest names in the music industry. Dancers are also required to appear at various team events throughout Detroit.

“They were really big on your personality,” she said. “They really want you to be a good person and someone who will represent the team positively. In addition to the dance auditions, we also did a few interviews where they asked a bunch of questions. It was an important part since the dancers also do signings and take pictures with fans before the games.”

Couvillion has always known she wanted a future in dance, but besides coaching wasn’t sure where the path would lead.

“That night watching the dancers at the Palace, I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” she said. “I’ve watched them on TV before and always thought how much I would love to do it. Once I was there and could feel the atmosphere and the audience going crazy I knew I wanted to do it. I’ve always wanted to do something big and make a name for myself. This feels like that chance.”

Practices will start for Couvillion the end of August and she won’t take the floor at the Palace for the first time as a Pistons Dancer until October.

“I’m really excited, this really feels like a dream,” she said. “The whole experience is going to be amazing and I can’t believe I get to do this. I can’t wait to take the floor as a Pistons Dancer.”

2 NBA Dancers on Next Round of The Bachelor

When The Bachelor returns to ABC next month for its 18th incarnation. Keep an eye out for former Detroit Pistons Dancer Cassie and Phoenix Suns Dancer Kat.

Detroit Pistons dance trio from Flint area balance life with busting moves as NBA entertainers

Kylee Visser

Eric Woodyard
Mlive.com
October 30, 2013

[Photo Gallery]

AUBURN HILLS, MI – Professional basketball players aren’t the only athletes who arrive at the Palace of Auburn Hills on game nights to perform. A day in the life of a Detroit Pistons dancer can be just as stressful as those of the NBA guys.

It’s a career choice in which glamor matches talent, with the women constantly under scrutiny for their appearance and for their ability to rock a crowd by busting dope moves. It’s lights, camera, action when these 21 women arrive early for rehearsals to dance in front of up to 22,076 fans in one of the NBA’s largest arenas.

Sasha Cole, Kylee Visser and Nichole Josey are three Pistons dancers from the Flint area.

They balance the tough dancer lifestyle with normal, day-to-day activities such as going to school but most people don’t recognize that. A successful NBA dancer possesses more than good looks. The same regimen and execution that is required of the Pistons to compete on the hardwood is also expected of the dancers to entertain ticket holders at halftimes and through timeouts.

“It makes me mad when people say that we’re not athletes, because we have to stretch and I’ve been to the chiropractor because I have arthritis in my knee,” said Flint native Sasha Cole, captain of the Pistons Dance Team. “We have to work out, we train hard and we put in just as much practice and time as the basketball players. We’re good at what we’re good at and they’re good at what they’re good at. There’s some things that we do that they could never do and vice versa. I consider the dance team a sport, for sure.”

Cole, 22, lives in Flint and is heading into her third season with the Pistons, her fifth in the NBA.

She worked in California with the Sacramento Kings for two years before returning to Michigan to dance for the Pistons in 2011. As team captain, Cole is the leader who bears the bulk of responsibility, but likes to keep the mood light. She also keeps a flexible enough schedule to mentor any girls that may need advice, including Visser and Josey, both rookies this season.

“Sasha came from the Kings, so she already had that little flavor from Cali. Definitely since she’s came on our team we do have a lot of different ways of putting things,” said Detroit Pistons dance director Natalie Miramontes. “I know she’s advanced and she’s one of my best dancers, for sure. She gives 100 percent every single time she’s at practice and she’s my role model as a dancer to everybody. I kind of compare everybody to her, which is hard when she’s out there because she’s very powerful and that’s why her nickname’s ‘Fierce.'”

A typical work week for Cole, Visser, Josey and the other girls is different.

Visser and Josey are both senior college students, but Cole dedicates the majority of her time to dancing and chilling with her dog, when she’s not serving at a sports bar.

Visser, 22, graduated from Kearsley High School in 2009 and now attends Oakland University where she’s working toward a bachelor’s degree in communications with a minor in public relations. Josey, 21, is a 2010 Flint Powers grad who is expected to graduate from the University of Michigan-Flint in May with a communication degree and a focus in media. Although the NBA season is in its early stages, both rookies have been taken aback by the amount of time that this job requires. The job description didn’t do it any justice.

“The most surprising thing for me is just really how much work really goes into it,” said Josey. “A lot of the fans probably just see us on the court and see us making it look effortless but really we’re practicing a lot and they aren’t aware of all of the back work.”

The pay isn’t enormous but the girls don’t mind grinding it out in the long rehearsals at least three times per week to perfect dance routines for Pistons home games, with maximum exposure. On game days, the girls sit on the sidelines and never stop moving. They’re constantly smiling, tossing gifts, performing at least twice during timeouts and at halftime on some nights with the Palace’s celebrity guests.

Visser doesn’t mind sacrificing study time to fulfill her lifelong dream and makes the short commute from her spot in Rochester to Auburn Hills. She began learning a variety of different dance styles at a young age in the Academy Day La Danse studio in Davison and has always dreamed of working with the Pistons ever since.

“I actually was on the (Detroit) Shock’s dance team, the Shock Wave, back in the day when I was in high school in the year they won the WNBA championship,” Visser said. “(Flint native) Deanna Nolan was my favorite player. We used to practice with the Pistons dance team then and I’ve always came to their clinics as a child, so I’ve been dancing since I was 3 and after going to the clinics and practices it was always a dream for me to do this.”

With so much access to the NBA players on a regular basis, it’s hard to imagine that the girls are able to resist the opportunity to date some of the league’s top stars but Cole, Visser and Josey don’t get star-struck by the ballers. They never mix business with pleasure. In the dance world, that’s a complete no-no – plus it’s in their contracts to refrain from going out with the fellas.

“They’re like coworkers and almost like brothers because we know so much about them,” Cole explained. “We see them and we even know what shoes they wear. It’s just like any job. You don’t mingle with your work and it’s the same here. We’re so busy that we don’t even have regular boyfriends, period.”
The local Flint-area dancers are a piece of the big puzzle composed of 18- to 25-year old women that’s becoming one of the NBA’s most exciting young squads. The future looks bright.

“This team is a lot different style than any other NBA team,” Miramontes said. “We get away with a lot more. We get to do the hip-hop and the diversity of things and other teams aren’t as versatile. This team is free to do whatever we want and that’s why I love this team.”

SI.com: NBA

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!

2012-13 Detroit Pistons Dancers

Click here to learn more about this year’s squad!

Audition for the Detroit Pistons Dance Team

The Detroit Pistons are looking for dancers with the “total package.” We are looking for dancers who are positive, talented, energetic and have great personalities.

Location:
The Palace of Auburn Hills
6 Championship Drive
Auburn Hills, MI 48326

Registration begins at 8:00 AM
Auditions start at 9:00 AM
*All participants must be 18 years or older by October 1, 2012

Initial Audition Saturday July 28th
Semi Finals Sunday 29th
DPD Boot Camp July 31 & August 2nd

Judges will be looking for the following criteria for Detroit Pistons Dancers

Dance Ability
Physical Appearance
Personality
Self-confidence
Energy
Poise
Team Player
Knowledge of Pistons and basketball

Get paid to do what you love (rehearsals, games and appearances are paid) You will not only dance the Pistons basketball games you will a get a chance to perform with award winning artists during our incredible halftime shows. Last season’s halftime shows included: Taio Cruz, Tpain, Flo Rida, Travie McCoy,Jay Sean, Temptations, Gladys Night, Dougie Fresh, Rose Royce, Robyn S, Salt & Pepa, Mc Hammer, Black Sheep , Bell Biv Devo, 112 and many more.

[Complete Audition Information Including online Registration]

2011-12 Detroit Pistons Dancers

I was beginning to wonder if the Pistons were ever going to update their website with the 2011-12 dance team. At last, they finally have. Click here to check the Detroit Pistons Dancers.

Andrea McCurry: Scientist by day, Pistons dance team member by night

by Heather Zara
Pistons.com
August 2011

She’s a scientist by day and an NBA dancer by night.

Her name is Andrea McCurry and she is one of Automotion’s new faces for the 2011-2012 season.

Her dancing skills and energetic showmanship earned her the spot on the Pistons’ dance team, but her scholarly smarts and exciting career as a scientist make her a prime example of what the Automotion team strives to be: well-rounded women who are not only crowd-pleasing entertainers but educated and inspirational ambassadors in the community and off of the court, as well.

McCurry is an assistant scientist in the analytical development department of Emergent BioDefense Operations, a biopharmaceutical company in Lansing.

“We research and manufacture the anthrax vaccine,” said McCurry. “We’re the only FDA-approved vaccine.”

Before McCurry began developing and testing vaccines in a lab for a living, she attended Michigan State University where she earned a degree in human biology.

“All throughout high school, I had an interest in all of my science classes, so I checked out Lyman Briggs (residential college specializing in sciences) at MSU and I declared a major in human biology because I really enjoyed the work and I always wanted to be in lab.”

While McCurry might be the first scientist to represent Automotion, the team’s members already spanned the professional spectrum.

“We have had an interior designer, a fashion designer, many teachers, students, legal assistants, nurses. We’ve had a doctor, bankers, TV hosts, personal trainers, dance coaches and entrepreneurs, but never a scientist,” dance team director Rebecca Girard said. “Often, people think the women are just full-time dancers but that’s not the case. They are all so smart and so well-rounded.”

McCurry not only has a superhero day job creating vaccines that help protect people around the world, but she has also managed to beat out the competition to be a professional dancer in the NBA. That’s an opportunity few experience.

“My co-workers are extremely excited for me and they are really supportive,” said McCurry on her new adventure as an Automotion dancer. “They’re happy to see that I’m able to do something I’m passionate about in addition to having a career.”

McCurry has been dancing for over 20 years and started her training at a local dance studio in her hometown of Davison. She looks forward to growing as a professional dancer and bonding with her teammates.

“She just brings a level of poise that is so necessary for this job,” Girard said. “I was just drawn to her the first time I saw her. She’s just so radiant.”

Essexville Woman Lands Dream Job as Detroit Pistons Automotion Dancer

Andrew Dodson
Mlive.com

Former Garber High School pom-pom dancer and Michigan State Dance Team member Stephanie Estes is going pro.

Last week, Estes, who grew up in Essexville and graduated from Garber in 2004, was named to the Detroit Pistons Automotion Dance Team. The 25-year-old outlasted the competition and scored a position on the team that performs at all Pistons home games and team promotional events.

“I’ve always wanted to dance for a professional team,” said Estes, who found out she made the cut last week. “And it’s great that I can continue my dance career, here in Michigan.”

Estes’ mother Amy Estes said she knew her daughter had potential at the age of 2 to be a great dancer.

“She’s been entertaining us mostly on the stage, but even at home, since she was a little girl,” said Amy Estes. “I just looked at her when she was a little girl and said, ‘That girl needs to go to dance lessons because she has something special.’ ”

So Amy Estes sent her daughter to the Perry Woodard School of Dance in Bay City and later to Miss Lore’s School of Dance in Essexville, where Stephanie says her true potential blossomed.

“Miss Lore’s school was a big influence on my dancing, and I really owe everything to them,” Stephanie Estes said.

After performing as a member of Garber’s pom-pom squad, Estes went on to Michigan State University, where she was a member of the dance team performing at Spartan football games.

She wasn’t sure if she would continue dancing after graduating from MSU with a degree in communications in 2009, so she went on to a career in modeling for the next two years.

Now, as a member of Automotion, Estes says she’s been given another opportunity to pursue her passion.

“At this point, just to be able to dance again after two years off is such an honor and very exciting for me,” she said.

Being a member of Automotion is only a part-time job, but Estes will be plenty busy as she plans to return to school at Oakland University to follow in her sister Sarah Estes’ footsteps and become a nurse.

“She’s good with people, cares about people — she’ll make a great nurse,” said Amy Estes.

Plus, studying at Oakland is much closer to the Palace of Auburn Hills where rehearsals and games takes place, Stephanie Estes added.

For now, the dancer says she’s living her dream, but will never stop aspiring for more.

“I would love to be on Dancing with the Stars, either as a star, or a dancer,” she said. “Either would be good.”

Essexville woman lands dream job as Detroit Pistons Automotion dancer

ESSEXVILLE — Former Garber High School pom-pom dancer and Michigan State Dance Team member Stephanie Estes is going pro.
By Andrew Dodson
MLive.com
8/20/2011

Last week, Estes, who grew up in Essexville and graduated from Garber in 2004, was named to the Detroit Pistons Automotion Dance Team. The 25-year-old outlasted the competition and scored a position on the team that performs at all Pistons home games and team promotional events.

“I’ve always wanted to dance for a professional team,” said Estes, who found out she made the cut last week. “And it’s great that I can continue my dance career, here in Michigan.”

Estes’ mother Amy Estes said she knew her daughter had potential at the age of 2 to be a great dancer.

“She’s been entertaining us mostly on the stage, but even at home, since she was a little girl,” said Amy Estes. “I just looked at her when she was a little girl and said, ‘That girl needs to go to dance lessons because she has something special.’ ”

So Amy Estes sent her daughter to the Perry Woodard School of Dance in Bay City and later to Miss Lore’s School of Dance in Essexville, where Stephanie says her true potential blossomed.

“Miss Lore’s school was a big influence on my dancing, and I really owe everything to them,” Stephanie Estes said.

After performing as a member of Garber’s pom-pom squad, Estes went on to Michigan State University, where she was a member of the dance team performing at Spartan football games.

She wasn’t sure if she would continue dancing after graduating from MSU with a degree in communications in 2009, so she went on to a career in modeling for the next two years.

Now, as a member of Automotion, Estes says she’s been given another opportunity to pursue her passion.

“At this point, just to be able to dance again after two years off is such an honor and very exciting for me,” she said.

Being a member of Automotion is only a part-time job, but Estes will be plenty busy as she plans to return to school at Oakland University to follow in her sister Sarah Estes’ footsteps and become a nurse.

“She’s good with people, cares about people — she’ll make a great nurse,” said Amy Estes.

Plus, studying at Oakland is much closer to the Palace of Auburn Hills where rehearsals and games takes place, Stephanie Estes added.

For now, the dancer says she’s living her dream, but will never stop aspiring for more.

“I would love to be on Dancing with the Stars, either as a star, or a dancer,” she said. “Either would be good.”

Video: Day 1 of Automotion Auditions

Click here to watch videos from this year’s open call audition for the Detroit Pistons dance team.

Automotion Finals RSVP

The Detroit Pistons dance team Automotion will hold their final round of auditions in the Automotion Audition Finals event sponsored by WRIF-FM radio, on Thursday, August 4th at 7:30 p.m. at The Crofoot Ballroom in downtown Pontiac. Admission to the Automotion Audition Finals is FREE and open to the public (18 and older), with a cash bar available.

“The finals event gives fans an opportunity to witness the audition process first hand,” said Automotion dance team director Rebecca Girard. “Fans who attend are in for an evening of true Pistons entertainment, fun and excitement. For the finalists, performing in front of an audience will be a treat regardless of if they make the team or not.”

The event will feature up to 40 finalists who have survived the team’s audition process, narrowing down the approximate 150 candidates who began the week. All 40 finalists will perform a choreographed dance together to open the show, then candidates will perform again later in the show, in groups of six, where they will be critiqued by a panel of celebrity judges, which includes Pistons legends Rick Mahorn and James “Buddha” Edwards, CBS Detroit New Anchor Syma Chowdhry, and Meltdown from WRIF-FM. The announcement of the 15-member team will be made at the end of the show.

In addition to the finalist performances, special appearances will be made by the Detroit Pistons Drumline, Pistons Spare Tires and DJ Prevu will be entertaining guests after the team is announced. So, guests are welcome to stay and dance the night away.

Automotion members will serve as ambassadors of the Detroit Pistons and will represent the organization both on and off the court for the 2011-2012 season. Automotion team members are required to dance during every Pistons home game and to represent the organization throughout the year at various team and charity functions.

[RSVP here]

Detroit Pistons Dance Team To Host Automotion Tip-A-Thon

The Detroit Pistons Dance Team Automotion will provide a night of fun, food and drinks as guest servers as part of “Automotion Tip-A-Thon” fundraiser at Red Ox Tavern in Auburn Hills to raise funds for the 2011 Pistons Care Telethon benefiting Boys & Girls Clubs in Michigan on Tuesday, March 15 from 6 to 8 p.m.

Thanks to Red Ox Tavern, Pistons fans and patrons will have the opportunity to get up close and meet their favorite Automotion dance team members while enjoying an evening of great food and drinks. Automotion calendars will also be available for purchase and they will be raffling off Pistons tickets. All proceeds collected from tips, calendar sales and raffle will be presented during an on-court check presentation the night of the telethon at The Palace on Friday, March 18.

Red Ox Tavern is located at 3773 East Walton Boulevard, Auburn Hills, MI 48326. People can call to reserve seating by calling the restaurant Reservation Line at 248-340-7070. Be sure to mention ‘Automotion Tip-A-Thon’ when making your reservation.

The 2011 Pistons Care Telethon benefiting all Boys & Girls Clubs in Michigan will take place on Friday, March 18. The team is devoting the entire day leading up to the Pistons’ game against the New York Knicks, including their in-arena presentation and game broadcasts, to raise money for all Boys & Girls Clubs in Michigan. The telethon begins at 5 a.m. with live radio and television broadcasts at The Palace and runs throughout the day, culminating with Pistons-Knicks game at 7:30 p.m., broadcast on Fox Sports Detroit and 97.1 The Ticket.

This year’s Pistons Care Telethon will help fund memberships, programs and initiatives to help children enhance their lives in the areas of character and leadership; education and career development; the arts; sports, fitness and recreation; and health and life skills.

[Detroit Automotion]

2010-11 Pistons Automotion

Individual profiles for the members of the Detroit Pistons Dance Team have been posted on the Piston’s website. Click here to learn more about the ladies on the team.


I LOVE these dancing photos. I sure wish they posted bigger versions of them.

More Scenes from Last Month’s Automotion Finals

Detroit Pistons Automation Dance Finals
Metromix Detroit
July 1, 2010
Credit:Tracey Nawrot/Special to Metromix

Every year, hundreds of girls compete for the coveted spot on the Detroit Pistons Automotion Dance team. Thursday’s event at the Crofoot in Pontiac featured the 40 finalists who survived the team’s audition process. All 40 performed choreographed dance routines that were judged by a panel that included Miss USA Rima Fakih, WRIF’s ‘The Meltdown’ and former Piston’s player Rick Mahorn. At the end of the show, the 15-member team of the 2010-2011 Piston’s Automotion Dance Team was announced. [Click here for photos]

2010-pistons-finals_1