In Defense of Cheerleaders and Cheerleading

As a general rule, UltimateCheerleaders.com does not publish negative or controversial articles on professional cheerleading.  We know the lengths that these teams and their directors have gone to create a positive image and to become a source of pride and goodwill for the billion dollar organizations that they represent.  Recently, however, professional cheerleading has come under some scrutiny for some unflattering and negative publicity that threatens the existence of the endeavor, if some pundits get their wish.  In light of these recent events, Lara Travis, a former professional cheerleader for the Tennessee Titans and guest commentator for web site Outkick The Coverage, posted a thoughtful treatise on the topic, entitled In Defense of Cheerleaders and Cheerleading.

Here are a few excepts:

“In a former life, before three children and a husband who requires the care of a toddler, I was an NFL Cheerleader. That’s why recent attacks on cheerleading from many media outlets have struck me as particularly ill-suited; unlike the people writing the articles I’ve actually been on an NFL cheerleading squad and know exactly what the experience is like. And the truth is this, for the vast, vast majority of us, it’s a tremendous way to pursue our interests in competitive dance, team camaraderie and community involvement all while getting a front row seat to the best football in the country.”

“Over the past couple of weeks I have read several articles and watched the media cover stories about former NFL cheerleaders filing complaints against their former cheer organizations. I’ve thought a great deal about my own experiences, and talked with former teammates, both from college and the NFL…For whatever reason the mainstream media has decided to attack cheerleading and in so doing they are focusing on a small minority of girls who have had poor experiences and excluding the vast majority who loved every minute of being an NFL cheerleader.”

“One of these consistent story angles focuses on how cheerleaders are expected to maintain a certain weight or not allowed to change their hair. Really, this surprises you? This is professional performance. Maybe this does not seem crazy to me because I am familiar with the dance and performance world, but when someone tries out for a dance gig, and makes the cut, she or he is expected to look the same way throughout the performance season that they did when they tried out. No one forces extreme diets or eating disorders on the participants. This goes for hair, gaining or losing weight, piercings and tattoos, the entire make up of someone’s look goes in to a tryout selection – whether for dance, acting, modeling, singing, or any other type of performance role. This is not controversial, it is an integral part of the entertainment industry.”

“One of the consistent story angles also deals with the low pay. “But they are only paid $50 (or insert amount) a game!” these critiques typically argue. Yep, and all the women knew that when they tried out. In my own experience and those of everyone I’ve known or talked to, the actual pay is made very clear when you try out. When you read or hear how much money you will make for games and appearances, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to try out.”

“The attempt to compare cheerleader pay to the football player pay is ridiculous. There certainly is not a “gender pay gap” here. The two jobs are completely different and not even in the same stratosphere. One is a full time career, insanely dangerous and demanding, and drives the economics for a multi billion dollar industry. The other is football (ha ha. I couldn’t resist.)”

“When someone from USA Today says she thinks dance team, cheerleading, and especially NFL cheerleading should cease to exist because it is just fluff and eye candy for men, I know it’s an outdated and antiquated perspective rooted in dishonesty. First, because this seems to imply that the women who are part of these teams do not have the intelligence to think through their decision to be there. That they are being brainwashed by the wants and desires of men, and need to be saved from their own poor decision making to be cheerleaders, and the way to do this is to abolish the sport altogether. Furthermore that the revealing uniforms are demeaning to them, and there is no way a woman in her right mind would want to wear that. How insulting. And by the way, is there a problem with women looking good in skimpy clothes now? Is it 1950? If a woman feels good about how she looks can she not wear whatever she likes? Have you been to a beach lately? Women’s equality is about all women making the choices they deem the best, it isn’t about one woman telling another woman what she should be allowed to do.”

I applaud Ms. Travis for sharing with us her perspective and personal experience of being a former professional cheerleader.  To read the full article, please click here.  And check out the comments section in the article for some additional perspectives from some former professional cheerleaders.

On a personal note, in my experiences covering professional cheerleading, I am constantly in awe at all the impressive women trying out for these positions and the amazing directors and their assistants, who make professional cheerleading a positive experience for all sports fans.

Flashback Friday – Ladies of Ontario Fury

A few days ago, I learned that the Ontario Fury has decided not to field a dance team this year. With the passage of the cheerleader minimum wage law in California, the economics of offering a dance team did not work for the Ontario Fury and I would imagine several other minor league sports are also feeling the pinch. I know that the San Diego Sockers came to the same conclusion last year and the Socker Girls were eliminated.

Fact of the matter is that although professional cheerleaders were egregiously underpaid over the years, dance teams are a significant expense for most franchises and in an era of increasing costs, they have become, in many cases, expendable. And that is truly unfortunate because I know first hand the value of the Ladies of Ontario Fury and the goodwill that they fostered for the organization with their public appearances, community outreach efforts and junior cheerleader programs.

For me, this loss is devastating because I have covered the Ladies of Ontario Fury and their predecessor organization, the Anaheim Bolts Dance Team, for several years. And the most impressive thing is that under the direction of Lynae de Leon, these two programs have been a hot bed of dance talent and a breeding ground for major league cheerleaders. Lynae’s girls have gone on to perform with the Laker Girls, Charger Girls, Clippers Spirit, Sacramento Kings, 49ers Gold Rush, Denver Broncos and the Los Angeles Rams Cheerleaders.

In this Flashback Friday post, we recognize the Lynae’s efforts in developing dance talent to fulfill their potential and achieve higher level success. So here are a few of Lynae’s girls from the past few years that have made it to the next level. We present: McKenzie, Sativa-Skye, Kellie, Lizzie, Krista, Courtney, Diana, Alex, and Madison.

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I hope the Ontario Fury finds the resources to bring back the Ladies of Ontario Fury because they are an asset that cannot be described by mere dollars alone.

NY Times: Suzanne Mitchell, Who Made the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders a Global Brand, Dies at 73

“Obviously we don’t put the girls in those uniforms to hide anything,” Suzanne Mitchell told Sports Illustrated in 1978. Credit Dallas Morning News

Suzanne Mitchell, who replaced a squad of high school bobby-soxers with a scantily clad chorus line that became a choreographed global brand called the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, died on Tuesday at her home in Fredericksburg, Tex. She was 73.

The cause was complications of pancreatic cancer, her brother and only immediate survivor, W. W. Mitchell, said.

Ms. Mitchell was an administrative assistant to Tex Schramm, the Cowboys’ original president and general manager, when the team office was swamped with calls after one of its cheerleaders was captured winking suggestively — and uncharacteristically — into a television camera during the 1976 Super Bowl.

Maybe, Schramm figured, there was more to cheerleading than met the eye. He decided to capitalize on the emerging synergy between television and professional sports by enlisting performers on the sidelines to complement players on the field.

He designated Ms. Mitchell, a former public relations executive from New York, to transform the team’s fusty cheerleader squad. She proceeded to more than double its size, from 14; gave them skimpy new costumes; recruited a choreographer, Texie Waterman; and staged a photo session for a pinup poster.

She had created what would become a pop culture phenomenon. A new era in sports entertainment, branding and marketing had begun.

Declared the “most famous group of cheerleaders in the world” by Edward J. Rielly in his “Football: An Encyclopedia of Popular Culture” (2009), the Cowboys’ revamped cheerleading squad kicked off the 1978 season of “Monday Night Football” with a television special titled “The 36 Most Beautiful Girls in Texas.”

The Cowboys cheerleaders, along with their copycats, delivered what a commentator described as “a little sex with their violence.” Credit Associated Press

They went on to appear on the television series “The Love Boat” and in a commercial for Fabergé shampoo. They inspired two TV movies and a 1978 pornographic riff, “Debbie Does Dallas,” which prompted a lawsuit from team officials.

Ms. Mitchell’s original roster of cheerleaders was collectively included among Esquire magazine’s “75 Greatest Women of All Time,” along with Joan of Arc and Marilyn Monroe.

Distinguished by their white hot pants, short blue vests, exposed midriffs and white vinyl go-go boots, the Cowboys Cheerleaders (as well as the raft of copycats they inspired) delivered to football fans what one commentator described as “a little sex with their violence.”

“Obviously we don’t put the girls in those uniforms to hide anything,” Ms. Mitchell told Sports Illustrated in 1978. “Sports has always had a very clean, almost Puritanical aspect about it, but by the same token, sex is a very important part of our lives. What we’ve done is combine the two.”

What the Cowboys Cheerleaders started, Bruce Newman wrote in Sports Illustrated, “has spread through the rest of the N.F.L. like a social disease.”

“Which, of course,” he added, “is exactly what a lot of people think it is. But as Vince Lombardi almost said, ‘Sinning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.’”

Up to a point: After all, this was the South, and, Ms. Mitchell said, “Tex wanted sexy ladies out there, but he wanted them, above all, to be classy.”

To guard against a backlash in the Bible Belt, applicants had to be 18 to 26 years old and respectable: a full-time student, or a wife and mother, or someone holding a full-time job. They were put through boot-camp training and Dale Carnegie personal development courses, originally paid $15 per game (before taxes), and barred from being seen in costume with alcohol, gum or cigarettes.

In the dressing room before each game, she told Texas Monthly in 2015, “we’d lock pinkies and say the Lord’s Prayer.”

The cheerleaders would also double as good-will ambassadors. Ms. Mitchell would accompany them on morale-boosting visits to hospitals and nursing homes, and to entertain troops abroad.

They were not without their critics. John Madden, when he was the coach of the Oakland Raiders, complained that the emphasis in sports coverage had shifted to “choreographers instead of coaches.” One reader complained to the advice columnist Ann Landers about the “older, sexier and more naked cheerleaders” being enlisted to energize spectators.

But Ms. Mitchell had ready responses.

“I would call after I’d get a letter and ask what the letter writer had been doing on Christmas Eve,” she was quoted as saying in “The Dallas Cowboys: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America” (2012), by Joe Nick Patoski. “Then I would tell them there were 12 girls who were in the DMZ in Korea performing in minus-20-degree weather serving their country.”

She continued, “When we’d go into a radar site or to a mess hall, I would tell the girls, ‘Now I want you to go and find the pimpliest, ugliest boy in this place, because he’s the one who needs you the most.’”

Suzanne Mitchell was born on July 7, 1943, in Fort Worth, to Willis Wilson Mitchell, a commercial pilot, and the former Nell Mitcham, a nurse.

She graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in journalism. She married after college and moved with her husband (they divorced after several years) to New York, where she worked for the magazine publisher Ziff Davis and an ad agency and did public relations for the United States Olympic Ski Team.

When Schramm called her in the mid-1970s (she had been referred to him), she was a New York Jets fan and had never heard of him. But she agreed to a job interview.

“He asked me what I wanted to be in five years,” she recalled in the Texas Monthly interview. “I said, ‘Well, your chair looks pretty comfortable.’ He slammed his fist on the desk and he said, ‘You are hired.’”

Ms. Mitchell remained with the Cowboys as director of the cheerleaders from 1976 until the team was bought by Jerry Jones in 1989. After that, she held other jobs, far from football, but remained in touch with some of her former cheerleaders, who would remind her that she had succeeded in transforming the aspirations of many a young woman.

“I understand,” she once said, “that where little girls used to dream of being Miss America, now they dream about becoming a cheerleader for the Cowboys.”

Legends of the Fall: The 2016 P-R-O Convention – Part One

Autumn is my favorite time of the year.  The hot temperatures of summer give way to the cool, crisp air of fall.  My favorite non-Christmas holiday, Halloween, occurs during this time.  Fall also marks the return of football and basketball and, correspondingly, the return of NFL and NBA cheerleaders, those lovely ladies who provide a bit of beauty and glamour at these mostly masculine  sporting events.

And if fall is “showtime” for these beautiful and talented performers, it is summertime that dance routines are learned, teams bond and performances are refined. Individuals mesh together for a common purpose to form those perfectly synchronized, beautifully presented professional dance teams that we have come to love.  They will entertain us, captivate us, and mesmerize us.  And they will become Legends of the Fall.

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The P-R-O Convention is the premier professional cheerleading convention and over 250 dancers from all over the country gathered in Atlanta, Georgia for two days of intensive dance training and team building.  This year, we celebrate the 13th year anniversary of the P-R-O Convention. And if you weren’t in Atlanta, keep on reading to see what it is like to be a part of this wonderful event.

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The P-R-O Convention is the premier professional dance convention and the instructors represent the very best in professional cheerleading and dance.  This year’s instructors included:

Jakene Ashford – NFL Atlanta Falcons Cheerleaders
Tara Battiato – NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders
Coach Alto Gary – NFL Houston Texans Cheerleaders, WCW Nitrogirls, Former NBA Atlanta Hawks & Charlotte Hornets Choreographer
Kristina Ferdig -NFL Arizona Cardinals Cheerleaders
Denise Garvey – NFL New York Jets Flight Crew
Katie Gibbons – NBA San Antonio-Spurs Silver Dancers and AHL Rampage
Stephanie Jojokian – NFL Washington Redskins Cheerleaders
Stacie Kinder – NFL Nashville Tennessee Titans Cheerleaders
Tami Krause – NFL Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders
Brandii McCoy – NBA Charlotte Hornets Honeybees and AHL Charlotte Checkers CheckMates
Courtney Moore – NFL Seattle Seahawks Sea Gals
Tracy Rutledge – Former NBA Atlanta Hawks, AFL2 Georgia Wildcats
Derric Whitfield – NBA Washington Wizards, Wizard Girls

UltimateCheerleaders.com was given exclusive access by the organizers of the event, All-Pro3. For our readers who have never attended a dance convention, the following report will give an idea of what goes on during a weekend of nonstop dance action.

Continue reading Legends of the Fall: The 2016 P-R-O Convention – Part One

Vikings Tami Krause Named ‘Women in Business’ Honoree

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Vikings.com
April 14, 2016

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – The Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal announced on Tuesday that Tami Krause, Director of Women’s Initiatives and Head Coach of the Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders, has been selected as a “Women in Business” winner.

“I was so excited when I got the email,” Krause said. “It’s just a huge honor to be part of that group of elite women. I’m also excited to represent the Vikings [through this award].”

A total of 51 women, including one career achievement award honoree, were recognized for their professional achievements, leadership and contributions to the broader Twin Cities community. The winners include industry-leading executives and entrepreneurs.

All the honorees will participate in a photo shoot later this month as well as being recognized at an upcoming luncheon and featured in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal released in late May.

“On behalf of the entire Vikings organization we are thrilled that Tami has been recognized with the 2016 Women in Business Award,” Vikings Chief Operating Officer Kevin Warren said. “Tami has been a dedicated and energetic employee of our franchise, and it is exciting to see her hard work, passion and talent recognized by the Twin Cities community.”

As the Director of Women’s Initiatives, Krause hopes the honor and subsequent events will raise awareness for the ways the Vikings organization is making an impact.

“My hope is that it will continue to reach the community and show them all the things we’re working to accomplish and starting to activate,” Krause said.

Since the award highlights both career achievements and community involvement, Krause’s background lends itself heavily to the honor. Having held a position with the Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders for 19 years, Krause has participated in and organized community outreach, military events and numerous appearances in the Twin Cities community. Personally, Krause has played an active role with the American Heart Association for more than 10 years and was named the 2009 AHA Volunteer of the Year after participating in 100-plus events on the organization’s behalf.

“It’s great – I feel like it’s all kind of tied together,” Krause said. “The Vikings have also worked with some of those great organizations, the cheerleaders have done some of that community outreach, and I’ve been able to be a part of all of it. Now with the Women’s Initiatives, it’s just elevating in so many different ways.”

P-R-O Convention Now Open For Reservations

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Reservations are now open for the premiere professional cheerleading and dance convention, the P-R-O Convention in Atlanta.  This year, the convention will be held at the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel Downtown on June 18th & 19th.  Learn from professional sports leading dance instructors.  Guest instructors for this year include:

  • Tracy Rutledge – Former NBA Atlanta Hawks, AFL2 Georgia Wildcats
  • Tara Battiato – NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders
  • Coach Alto Gary – NFL Houston Texans Cheerleaders, WCW Nitrogirls, Former NBA Atlanta Hawks & Charlotte Hornets Choreographer
  • Jakene Ashford – NFL Atlanta Falcons Cheerleaders
  • Derric Whitfield – NBA Washington Wizards, Wizard Girls
  • Stephanie Jojokian – NFL Washington Redskins Cheerleaders
  • Katie Gibbons – NBA San Antonio-Spurs Silver Dancers and AHL Rampage
  • Tami Krause – NFL Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders
  • Stacie Kinder – NFL Nashville Tennessee Titans Cheerleaders
  • Brandii McCoy – NBA Charlotte Hornets Honeybees and AHL Charlotte Checkers CheckMates
  • Courtney Moore – NFL Seattle Seahawks Sea Gals
  • Denise Garvey – NFL New York Jets Flight Crew
  • Kristina Ferdig – NFL Arizona Cardinals Cheerleaders

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If you want to experience an exciting weekend of dance, team building and networking, click on the logo below to register for the 2016 P-R-O Convention.
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Titans Host NFL Cheerleading Meetings in Nashville

From TitansOnline.com

The Tennessee Titans recently hosted the NFL Cheerleading and Entertainment Directors meetings for their annual three-day League Conference.

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For the second time over their nearly two decade history, the Tennessee Titans hosted the NFL Cheerleading and Entertainment Directors for their annual three-day League Conference from February 22nd to February 24th.

“I was thrilled and proud to showcase our incredible town and our team to the rest of the league,” said Kinder. “It was an honor to be nominated as the 2016 host, and the city of Nashville proved again why we are the hottest place in the country right now!”

The conference began with the Vendors Showcase in the West Club at Nissan Stadium. The evening included presentations from 19 different companies, with products ranging from apparel to jewelry to photography. The night also included a surprise Writers in the Round with performances by multi-platinum recording artist Tracy Lawrence, ABC “Nashville’s” Charles Esten and Titans Cheerleader/country music artist Heidi West. Additional dance performances by the Tennessee Titans Cheerleaders and DC Dance Factory took place throughout the evening.

The second day of the conference was held at the Hilton Downtown Nashville. The day included a number of guest speakers discussing topics ranging from dermatology to the psychology of coaching. Additional breakout sessions included sponsorships, social media and junior cheerleading programs. The night concluded with a fantastic dinner in The Gulch at Sambuca and a visit to Broadway’s famous honky tonks.

After conference meetings concluded the morning of the 24th, attendees boarded the Big Pink Bus for an unforgettable tour of Nashville by the Jugg Sisters on their Original NashTrash Tour. The final day ended with Directors enjoying a memorable performance by songwriter Lance Carpenter at The Listening Room.

More photos here.

Kimberlee Garris Moving on From The Brooklyn Nets

 

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Good friend of UC, Kimberlee Garris is moving on after 10 seasons in the NBA, first as a Knicks City Dancer and then as Director of Entertainment for the New Jersey and then later Brooklyn Nets.


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Kim was approached with the exciting opportunity to consult on a show coming to Broadway next spring called “Gotta Dance” that is based on the Nets senior (over 60) dance team she created.


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She will be consulting on that Broadway project, in addition to offering her consulting services to dance teams in the U.S. and abroad.

Good Luck, Kim!

Mesquite Marshals Darling Deputies Auditions & New Director

 

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The Champions Indoor Football league has a new team, the Mesquite Marshals, and a cheerleading squad, the Mesquite Marshals Darling Deputies!

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The Darling Deputies Director is Maya Hayes. Maya is the owner of StarFire Productions, LLC and a former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader and Dallas Mavericks Dancer.

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Maya is understandably excited about the new squad. She promises this will be a great mentor driven team that can launch dancers to the top of the pro sports dance world.

[StarFireProdctionsPro.com]

Singing the praises of Richmond Lady Raiders Director Kelly Allen, an alumnus of ten years of pro cheer

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Kelly Allen embodies the term, “multi-talented.” Kelly spent ten years dancing for the NBA Wizards and NFL Redskins, and is also an accomplished singer, mathematics major, and now Director of the PIFL’s Richmond Lady Raiders Dance Team. A former captain for both the Wizard Dancers and Redskins Cheerleaders, Kelly choreographed many of their dance routines.

Kelly has donated her time to perform as a dancer, singer, actress and choreographer for musical productions presented by Cabaret for Life, Inc. for over fifteen years. Cabaret, as a non-profit organization, donates its show proceeds to organizations that provide support to groups or organizations whose mission is to ease the lives of those suffering from debilitating diseases. In addition, Kelly has been a member of the dance company The Capitol Movement Project. With this group, Kelly had the honor of dancing, singing, and choreographing in Capitol Movements Concerts at the Historic Lincoln Theater and the Kennedy Center, as well as the at the 25th Anniversary Radio One Gala. The organization’s mission is to build better lives through dance by partnering with community organizations to provide disadvantaged youth and underserved citizens the chance to participate in and patronize the arts in Washington, DC.

Kelly has been a singer with Kaleidoscope, a ten-piece band, based in Maryland, providing entertainment on a multi-state basis. She has been a feature singer with the band, and has performances ranging from NFL football games to the Inaugural Balls for Presidents George Bush and Barack Obama.

For seven years Kelly was the organizer, manager and producer of a major benefit event titled “Kelly and Friends” which featured a band, Kelly as the lead singer, along with other talented musicians. Proceeds from “Kelly and Friends,” which benefited Prince George’s County charities, exceeded $300,000 over the past seven years.

And now, Kelly is in her third season Director of the excellent Lady Raiders that support the PIFL’s Richmond Raiders. With the Raiders hosting a playoff game Monday night, it is a great time to learn more about, who shared with UltimateCheerleaders insights into her life. Kelly kindly was interviewed last before she added yet another facet to her life, being a mom of twins!

UC – Kelly, where you were born and raised, and what are your favorite childhood memories?

Kelly – I was born and raised in New Jersey, have six siblings. My favorite childhood memories are just being young and carefree without a worry in the world and being around my siblings.

UC – How old were you and how did you start dance? As a singer and dancer, were you always putting on shows when you were young?

Kelly – I started dancing at the age of five years old. Whatever activity my older sister was involved in, I always followed so at first my sister enrolled in gymnastics, so then I enrolled. Then my sister went into dance, and then I followed. I have never been nervous to perform in front of a crowd. I was always called a little “ham.” I always created little shows at home and whenever my parents came home from work, I would make them sit down to watch it. Of course the show would be extra-long, so my parents would set a time limit.

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UC – When did you start your singing training, and who were your singing influences as you developed?

Kelly – I always loved singing for as long as I can remember and took my first vocal lessons when I was twelve years old. My idol has been and always will be Whitney Houston and that is the style that I always tried to emulate. The song that would show my vocal range the best is “I Will Always Love You.”

UC – Tell me about your post high school education and dance/music training?

Kelly – I went to Howard University where I originally majored in dance. After a year, I changed my major to Pure and Applied Mathematics and minored in Secondary Education and Voice. I studied classical music, mostly Italian.

UC – If there was a dream lead role in a musical that you would love to perform on Broadway, what would it be?

Kelly – If I could have any role in a Broadway play, it would be Velma in Chicago, or basically anything Fosse.

UC – What was dance/cheer squads background before you tried out for the Redskins? What prompted you to try-out for the Skins the first time?

Kelly – While attending Howard University, I was a captain for the Bisonettes. After college, I was a Washington Wizards Dancer for three years and held the position of captain and was with the Washington Redskins Cheerleaders for seven years and was also a captain. My coach Stephanie Gross, who was previously with the Wizards and moved over to the Redskins, was my motivation to try out. I loved dancing under her. I was lucky enough to know a few current and alumni redskins cheerleaders at the time that I decided to tryout and through their great advice and guidance, was able to make the team on my first try.

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UC – What were you favorite memories of being part of the pro cheer, and what experiences did it add to your life?

Kelly – My favorite memories of being a Wizards Dancers and a Washington Redskins was making made several trips to the Middle East, Europe, the Balkans, Central America, and Greenland to entertain and boost the morale of our troops before and after the 9/11 tragedy; serenading the troops vocally as well as dancing. My most memorable moments as a Redskins Cheerleader is running out the tunnel for the first time to thousands of screaming fans, and singing the National Anthem at multiple games. Cheering professionally resulted in me growing more as a person and a professional, meeting so many people that I was able to network with and learn from, and fostering lifelong friendships that I cherish.

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Continue reading Singing the praises of Richmond Lady Raiders Director Kelly Allen, an alumnus of ten years of pro cheer

Courtney is the Sea Gals New Choreographer

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The former Sea Gal and 2014 Pro Bowl representative is shown here with the squad after teaching her first dance.

[Courtney on Twitter]

[Courtney – 2013 P-R-O Convention All-Star]

Former DCC Brooke Soreneson Nix Named New Miami Dolphins Cheerleader Choreographer

We’re pretty excited that former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader, and good friend of UC, Brooke Soreneson Nix was just named the new Choreographer for the Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders. She’ll be teaching the last prep class and the audition routine.


Brooke was a judge at last year’s MDC Finals

Auditions for the 2015-16 MDC start April 25th. Full details here.

From Nunnery to Honey Bears Sisterhood

By Burt Constable
The Daily Herald

After graduating from her all-girl high school in 1964, Cathy Core entered the convent of the Sisters of Charity on her path to becoming a nun.

On Friday night, Core, 68, of Wheaton, will be celebrating a different sort of life’s work when her sisters of the Chicago Honey Bears reunite at a charity event Friday in Addison.

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“There’s just a sisterhood, and part of that sisterhood has to do with Cathy,” says Suzy Kopp-Jones of Bartlett, one of many alums of Core’s Honey Bears dance squad that roamed the sidelines at Chicago Bears football games a generation ago, and still remains close.

“It’s a pretty special little sorority,” says Jackie Nicholas Thurlby, a Naperville real estate agent and former Honey Bear, whose three children all boast Cathy Core and her husband Joe Core as their godparents. “The lives she’s impacted — you can’t count the numbers.”

Inducted into the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame last September before a crowd packed with cheering, former Honey Bears, Core also was in charge of the Chicago Bulls Luvabulls squad for 29 years until her retirement in 2013. She’s toured the globe with the Luvabulls, directed a host of other dance groups with Chicago’s professional sports teams, run camps for kids, and been a key part of many charity events. In the world of sports entertainment, she’d done everything, except make good on one girlhood dream.

“I always wanted to be a cheerleader,” Core says, “but the nuns decided differently.”

One of the nuns teaching at her high school in her hometown of Jersey City, N.J., wanted her to sing with the glee club instead of being a cheerleader, Core says. Core says just minutes before cheerleader tryouts, the nun sent Core to a closet to get supplies. Somehow, the door locked, and by the time Core was freed, she was too late for cheerleader tryouts.

Determined to scratch her cheerleading itch, Core coached the younger girls’ cheerleader squad at her school. Planning to study nursing after graduating from high school, Core moved into the Sisters of Charity convent in Morristown, N.J. But that wasn’t her calling. So she took a job as an office manager in the fledgling computer department at Pace University in New York, where she ended up coaching the university cheerleading squad.

She grew up on Bidwell Avenue in Jersey City, just a couple of blocks from her future husband, and they went to the same grade school and same Sacred Heart Catholic Church. But they didn’t meet until a young adults dance at their church.

A graduate of Seton Hall University, where he joined the ROTC, Joe was inducted into the Army in 1966, married Cathy on Feb. 4, 1967, and was assigned to duty for a year in Hawaii, where his bride picked up a few dance moves from her hula lessons. After a year in Vietnam, where he was awarded many medals, including a Bronze Star, Capt. Joe Core came home and started a career as a federal agent with the Treasury Department. The couple bought their home in Wheaton when he was transferred to Chicago in 1974. Reluctant to leave New Jersey, Cathy Core decided to make the best of things at her new home. She volunteered as the cheerleading coach for young girls at St. James the Apostle School in Glen Ellyn, and took a job at a teachers’ credit union in Westchester.

The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders already had become a national institution when Chicago Bears owner George Halas decided his team should have “dancing girls.” A failed and quickly forgotten experiment with the Bear Essentials, a group of cheerleaders wearing long skirts and knee socks that revealed less skin than the players’ uniforms, led Bears brass to ask around the office for a real cheerleader coach. One woman suggested the cheerleader coach at her church’s school, and Bears General Manager Jim Finks gave Core a call.

“I thought it was someone playing a joke on me, so I laughed and told him I was Shirley Temple,” remembers Core, who didn’t recognize the names of Halas or Finks.

“The next day I answered the phone at the credit union and the voice on the other end said, ‘Shirley, this is Jim Finks. Can we talk?'” Core says.

She was never a cheerleader and her only formal dance lessons were in Irish step-dancing, but Core immediately found success with the Honey Bears as the squad’s director and choreographer.

“I’d do a lot of stuff at home. I’d have the music blasting and be sweating my buns off,” says Core, who admits to learning from her pupils. “I would listen to them. My talent was that I could see the big picture. I could tell right away if it was going to work.”

The first professional football game she attended, Core was on the sidelines directing a squad of 28 Honey Bears adorned in white “hot pants” and a vest that covered their midriffs and laced in the front. “When the girls first hit the field, the fans went crazy,” she remembers.

So did Bears management. At halftime, Core was given a note complaining that the dancers were showing too much cleavage, so Core had them lace up the front. When the Honey Bears came out for the second half with a more modest look, Core got a phone call on the sideline from Finks.

“What are you doing? The girls look like a bunch of nuns out there,” he told her.

“Jim won out,” says Core, who notes that the Honey Bears never showed as much skin as the cheerleading crews in Dallas or Miami. Those original members were required to be full-time students or have jobs. They were paid $5 a game that first season, but were in demand all year for personal appearances.

“I never thought the girls were being exploited. They were always treated with the utmost respect,” Core says, who eventually formed C.C. Company with her husband, and hired choreographers. “They (the Honey Bears) took great pride in their appearance, the way they handled themselves, their education, their talent.”

Making sure that the women adhered to strict behavior codes, including no fraternizing with the players, Core remembers firing a couple of Honey Bears for posing nude in magazines, and another for building a relationship with a player. She ran a tight ship.

“You learned how to be young women,” says Thurlby, who remembers being “scared to death” of doing something that would require a reprimand from Core.

“I still can’t chew gum,” says Kopp-Jones, recalling Core’s ban on gum.

After Halas died, the team soured on the Honey Bears. Their last game was Super Bowl XX on Jan. 26, 1986, in New Orleans.

“If you’re going out, that’s a great way to go out,” Core says. “And they haven’t won a Super Bowl since, I might add. The curse of the Honey Bears.”

Core took over the Luvabulls in 1984, and continued with the squad through the Michael Jordan years and six championships. She and her husband had Jordan sign a few items during the years, including a photo from his rookie season, just in case Jordan became famous someday. Jordan assured them he would.

In traveling around the world with the Luvabulls and other groups, the Cores became involved in A New Day Cambodia, a charity begun by sports photographer Bill Smith and his wife, Lauren. For the past decade, the Cores have been frequent visitors, financial and emotional supporters, and active “parents” for Samong, now 20, and her brother, Pov, 18.

“That’s been wonderful,” Joe Core says, noting so many of their friendships, travels and joys have grown out of the career that began when Cathy Core agreed to be the “Ma Bear” for the Honey Bears.

“I never thought I could tell you anything about football, and now I yell at (Bears quarterback Jay) Cutler like everybody else,” she says, adding that she’d like to see the Honey Bears revived. “I think the team needs a little something-something now.”

Core has gotten more from her career than she ever imagined.

“It’s phenomenal,” Cathy Core says of the relationships she and her husband have built. “Having these women in our lives has been the icing on the cake.”

New Orleans VooDoo Announce VooDoo Doll Directors, Trainers for 2015

From Our Sport sCentral

voodoo

The New Orleans VooDoo have selected Bridget Cordes and Brittany Warden to lead the New Orleans VooDoo Dolls, the franchise’s official dance team, for the 2015 season.

In addition to Doll Directors, the VooDoo have also reached a partnership with The Duke Academy to provide weekly fitness and wellness training for the Dolls for the upcoming season.

“It is with great pleasure that we welcome Bridget and Brittany into the role of VooDoo Doll Directors,” said VooDoo General Manager Brandon Rizzuto. “Both have a passion for dance and the VooDoo Dolls that is contagious, a high-level of energy that is unmatched, and a work ethic that is tireless. I am positive that they will put together a VooDoo Doll team that will mirror their own traits and represent our organization with the utmost integrity.”

Cordes, a former New Orleans VooDoo Doll and New Orleans Honeybee, brings more than 10 years of dance experience to the franchise. Cordes was a VooDoo Doll from 2004-08, and was the first VooDoo Doll chosen by the Arena Football League to represent the New Orleans VooDoo as a member of the “Dream Team” in ArenaBowl XVIII. In addition to her selection, she was also the co-choreographer for the ArenaBowl XVIII half-time performance.

Cordes brings an immense amount of dance and cheer knowledge to the VooDoo Dolls. Throughout her career, Cordes has been a dance member and fitness leader on the television production: “Get Fit With Leslie,” a Louisiana Tumble-N-Cheer Academy assistant coach, and a dance instructor at Lydia Spreens’ Dance Dimensions. Cordes has also been a scholarship recipient to the Professional Dance Teachers Association Convention, a cast member of the Moscow State Ballet Production of the Nutcracker, and a cast member in the filming of Disney’s Wild Animal Kingdom TV special.

Cordes currently owns and operates her own bridal hair and makeup company, Bella Bride.

“It is an honor for me to have this opportunity to help lead the VooDoo Dolls, which is where my professional dance career began,” said Cordes. “My passion is dance and I am looking forward to raising the bar for the Dolls. I am also very excited about working alongside Brittany, and our upcoming tryouts.”

Warden, a three-year VooDoo Doll veteran and captain, brings not only experience, but also leadership to the VooDoo Dolls. The vibrant red-head first became a VooDoo Doll in 2011, and was named captain in 2013. She also represented the New Orleans VooDoo as a member of the Arena Football League “Dream Team” in 2013 at ArenaBowl XXVI. Warden enters her fourth year as a dancer and first year as a director alongside Cordes.

“Being a VooDoo Doll has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and to continue this awesome journey with the organization is dear to me,” said Warden. “I know that with Bridget, the sky really is the limit for us as dancers, role models and people. I cannot wait to begin our season.”

Warden is a sixth and seventh grade math teacher at Riverdale Middle School in Jefferson Parish. She also spent five years as a sign language interpreter for the Jefferson Parish Public School System. Warden also works for the Just Keep Living Foundation that is dedicated to empowering high school students to lead active lives and make healthy choices. Through this foundation, Warden is the cheerleading coach at the New Orleans Charter Science and Mathematics High School.

In addition to new directors, the VooDoo Dolls will also be under the fitness instruction of The Duke Academy for the upcoming season. Owners Duke and Michelle Rousse will instruct weekly fitness and well-being classes for the Dolls, promoting healthy lifestyles for those chosen to the 2015 team. The Duke Academy is one of the nation’s premier athletic training institutions that has been training professional, collegiate and prep athletes for over 11 years.

“Health and fitness has always been a passion of mine. Making others feel physically and mentally stronger and finding beauty in their strength is what I strive for,” said Michelle Rousse. “I am excited to get the opportunity to share my passion with the VooDoo Dolls this year and look forward to helping each one of them achieve their goals.”

Buccaneers Honored as Patriotic Employer

From Buccaneers.com

The Buccaneers were honored for their efforts to support military reservists Friday.

Buccaneers Cheerleader & Mascot Manager Tara Battiato was given the Patriotic Employer Award by ESGR, an organization that supports reservists by ensuring they maintain civilian employment when they are called to active duty orders. Battiato was nominated by Jeannie Gonzalez, a first-year member of the Buccaneers Cheerleaders who is currently an active-duty reservist in the U.S. Navy.