Pacemates Elizabeth and Jessica prior to last night's game
Ahh, romance is in the air; Valentine’s Day, a time to show our loved ones how much we care. In this sometimes mixed-up, crazy world, we need a day devoted to the goodness of wonderful love.
And Indiana’s sports fans love the Pacemates, the dance team of the Indiana Pacers. So what a wonderful group of young women to share their views about this special day. The Pacemates provided UltimateCheerleaders with their thoughts regarding three topics:
1) What is your favorite romantic movie?
2) What Valentine’s Day advice can you give to guys without a lot of money?
3) Life may be like a box of chocolates, but some people say that the traditional box of chocolate needs a healthy replacement. So let’s ask the super healthy Pacemates what they would replace it with, if at all!
First, Elizabeth and Jessica were signing autographs in the lower concourse. Here is what they said about:
Jessica, “I would have to say The Notebook”
Elizabeth, “Yes, that is my favorite, too”
AFFORDABLE VALENTINE’S IDEAS:
Jessica, “The little things are what matter the most. It doesn’t have to be real extravagant. Really, anything that has thought behind it is good for me, whether it is a picture in a frame or just a sweet note.”
Elizabeth, “Good answer. I’m going to go with that.”
A BOX OF CHOCOLATE, OR NOT?: Well, certainly Elizabeth is so very agreeable, so let’s have her go first this time…
Elizabeth, “I don’t know if anything can replace chocolate. Chocolate covered strawberries are really good. That is a good healthy alternative.”
Jessica, “The edible bouquets, like fruit, is good.”
Jordan and Sarrah were helping out near the entry pavillion.
Jordan and Sarrah
Jordan, “The one that always makes me cry is PS I Love You”
Sarrah, “Down with Love it is such a funny movie! It’s adorable!”
AFFORDABLE VALENTINE’S IDEAS:
Jordan, “A card always works.”
Sarrah, “Write a poem or a card. And do a lttle skit, they do it on the internet, they have little boards with (motioning showing a series of cards) “I”, “LOVE’ “YOU.” Those are really cute.”
Jordan, “Or a mix CD of love songs.”
Sarrah, “Or breakfast in bed is always awesome.”
A BOX OF CHOCOLATE, OR NOT?:
Jordan, “I love my chocolate. Nope!”
Sarrah, “If you want to replace it, maybe strawberries.”
Bethany and Erika were helping hand out programs in the entry pavillion, and ready to inform our Valentine’s Day queries,
Bethany and Erika
Bethany, “PS I Love You”
Erika, “I don’t think I have one. I LOVE scary movies!”
AFFORDABLE VALENTINE’S IDEAS:
Erika, “Create something, like paint a picture frame. Do a little ‘favorite things’ basket, like her favorite candy, favorite soap, favorite lotion.”
Bethany, “It is the thought that counts. Once I filled up a bunch of balloons filled with little inside jokes, like a one-hundred different ones, and I filled the room with them. So he had to go through and pop them all and open them”
Erika, “A coupon book!”
A BOX OF CHOCOLATE, OR NOT?:
Bethany, “How bout chocolate covered strawberries?!”
Erika, “Yes, I agree with that.”
In the upper concourse, Walesska and Megan were also at an autograph table, and ready to help out!
Walesska and Megan
Megan, “The Notebook”
Walesska, “The Vow”
AFFORDABLE VALENTINE’S IDEAS:
Megan, “Honestly, its not about the money.”
Walesska, “It’s not.”
Megan, “It’s the little things that matter. They have the online Valentine’s cards, you can send an email.”
Walesska, “Do something creative.”
A BOX OF CHOCOLATE, OR NOT?:
Walesska, “Fruits! Edible arrangements.”
Megan, “Yes! Edible arrangements.”
Thanks Pacemates so much for sharing some Valentine’s Day information! Some great hints, and if anyone doesn’t have a special someone today, don’t fret, that lil ol’ Cupid is out there, and he will catch up to you with the power of one of his arrows when you least expect it!
The final nine members of the Pacemates team for this upcoming season were announced Thursday afternoon on Pacers.com. Five members were announced Tuesday night after the “Pacemates Showcase” at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. That evening, four veterans—Desiree, Bethany, Sarrah and Tamara—joined rookie Walesska as the first members chosen. (Watch their finalist showcase)
The remaining team members were chosen and announced Thursday. Filling out the Pacemates roster for the 2012-13 campaign are Arbara, Brittany, Elizabeth, Erika, Jessica, Jordan, Kayla, Megan and Travasha.
There are some intriguing things about Pacemate Desiree. One is from her on-line bio, saying she “never took a dance class as a kid!” No dance classes (!), for an NBA dancer, who prior to the Pacers was a Colts Cheerleader? And come to think of it, why did Desiree go from cheering for the high flying Colts to, at that time, the more “middle of the pack” Pacers? In essence, the answers to these questions stem from the fact that sometimes going to games with your dad can change your life, and in Desiree’s case, take her from her small home town to cheering for two big league teams, including on the Super Bowl sidelines, and to countries across the globe. And in addition to all of this, no matter who is playing in the game, Desiree will be one of the best athletes on the court or field, whenever and wherever she performs.
Before she moved to Indianapolis after high school graduation, Desiree lived in Greens Fork, Indiana, population 423, about an hour’s drive east of Indianapolis. Desiree says, “I always knew I would get out of the small town, I had hoped to travel and live a lot of places, but Indy just feels like home. It’s a big city, but not big enough that it swallows you. It’s still close to home and it’s easy to navigate, so for the moment, I’m happy living here. Growing up, Indy was the ‘big city’ that we would come to go shopping, or to eat out at a nice restaurant. It always seemed so far away when I was little, but we always had fun when we got to go to Indy.”
Desiree is quite an athlete, and she started young. “I grew up playing all kinds of sports,” Desiree remembers. “I played softball from 2nd grade up until a few years after I graduated high school. In high school, it was volleyball in the fall, cheerleading in the winter, running track in the spring. I enjoyed sports because it kept me active.”
On this night, the toughest part for Shea and Desiree was finding their pre-game station, the prize wheel
But while so many pro dancers are active in dance classes from as young as age three, this was not part of Desiree’s activities. “I guess it was a mix of my mom not knowing when I was that young, if it was something I would like and simply be able to afford it,” Desiree explains. “The nearest dance studio would have been a bit of a drive from where we lived out in the country, and I have a sister who is only 15 months younger, so my mom already had her hands full! I begged to get to do it, but it just wasn’t feasible for our family.”
But Desiree gained inspiration from watching talented people in action. “I would watch the Olympics and ice skating competitions on TV every time they were on, and during the commercial breaks, I would jump around the room and mimic what I saw,” recalls Desiree. “When gymnastics were on, I would literally stretch out an Ace bandage on the floor for my balance beam, and do cart wheels and hand stands. I would just start trying what the athletes were doing until I learned how to do it right.”
And Desiree also learned the ‘agony of defeat’ through her living room adventures. “Once I even put the couch cushions on the floor and decided I was going to do a back flip,” Desiree remembers. “That was the first time I gave myself a bloody nose.”
But these home performances also lead to Desiree’s first on-court dances. “My sister and I would make up dances and perform them for my mom,” explains Desiree. “Somehow, we ended up performing at halftime of a basketball game when we were about 11 or 12! Just the two of us out there doing our dance. Guess that’s when it all got started.”
And performances continued for Desiree on the court, as she details, “There were all kinds of clinics that we would do and get to perform at our older brother’s basketball games, and I started cheerleading in 5th grade. I was faced with the decision of trying out for the basketball team or the cheerleading squad, it was hard, but I went with cheerleading. I really liked performing and dancing, and it came somewhat naturally despite having no training, and I knew it was something that I wanted to continue past high school.”
And the Desiree’s dance goals beyond high school were defined by seeing a certain dance squad that she saw on trips with her dad to see NBA games. “Our trips to Indy would normally consist of shopping and going to the Pacers game,” recalls Desiree. “My dad had great 8th row seats and we always loved seeing the big players so close.”
Desiree gets to hang out with Boomer now
But actually seeing the Pacemates was a bit challenging for young Desiree, as she explains, “It seems like the Pacemates always would dance during a break or a time when people would be standing up or moving around, so my sister and I would literally be jumping trying to see what they were doing. We tried to go down close to the court once, just so we could watch them, and the ushers would make us go back to our seats! We tried to dance and get on the big screen and to get (mascot) Boomer to come over and see us. We always had fun, but I was so intrigued with the Pacemates and music that I was so bummed that I couldn’t really see them. It is crazy now because I see how much we do get involved with the fans, and every chance I get to talk to a little girl or to bring one down to where we sit to take a picture. I really love doing that and it makes me so happy. If that would have happened to me when I was their age, I would have considered it the best day of my life! Every time I get to do things like that, I imagine myself at the age, and it just really makes me appreciate the position I’m in, and how ironic it really all is.” Continue reading Desiree’s desire to be a Pacemate takes her from a small town, to the Super Bowl sidelines, and beyond!
Not that she won’t sit down for an hour to laugh with a stranger, but for the Purdue alumna and Indianapolis Pacers cheerleader, dance is expression. Dance is everything.
Sometimes it expresses the pain she can’t release with words. A dancer since the age of 5, Ammons-Jones found solace in performing during one of the most difficult times in her life – the death of classmate and close friend, Morgan Guice, during her senior year at Purdue.
When Guice was killed by a drunk driver, Ammons-Jones was on the Purdue Dance Team, having quit the year before as student coordinator for the Jahari Dance Troupe at the Black Cultural Center. However, she never forgot, and still hasn’t, her “second home” at the BCC.
She especially remembers her mentor and former supervisor, the Troupe’s artist-in-resident, Kevin Iega Jeff. Iega Jeff worked closely with Ammons-Jones during her seven semesters as the Troupe’s student coordinator, where she held dance class at least once a week.
By speaking with Iega Jeff, he was able to translate Ammon-Jones’ grief over Guice into a dance.
“When she expressed the emotion behind what she was feeling,” he said, “she knew she needed to use dance as a way to honor her friend, as a way to speak to the community of the BCC, the Purdue campus and all students who knew the young lady, and to heal herself.”
“One thing Kevin always said is that (dance) is our way of expressing ourselves. Different people have different ways of expressing themselves, but for dancers that’s how we communicate.”
In 2007, she performed the silent tribute to Guice as a guest during the Jahari Dance Troupe’s spring performance. Renee Thomas, director of the BCC and another mentor of hers, remembered it as a “beautiful, flawless performance.”
These days, that history can’t be seen when you look at the bright-eyed young woman who dances for thousands, a gold and navy “Pacers” logo splashed across her chest. She looks strong and confident, but she doesn’t attribute her ease to experience. This is her fourth consecutive season with the Pacemates, but Ammons-Jones was no more nervous her first day than she looks now.
She doesn’t say it to be cocky, but she just doesn’t get nervous.
“I know myself. I know if I get nervous I’m gonna mess up. I try not to think about it. I do what I know how to do best, which is dance.”
Ammons-Jones uses that confidence to fight for her spot on the team every year, which is never guaranteed. She doesn’t let the lack of stability get to her though, or the fact that she misses the Troupe’s modern dance style “all the time.” In fact, she considers herself blessed.
Comparing Pacemates with Iega Jeff’s “meaningful” style, she sees a big difference between the two forms.
“With Pacemates, it’s literally about performing to the audience, to the crowd, trying to get their attention, trying to draw them in, all smiley faces. We’re performers,” she said. “Whereas with Jahari, it’s not very flashy. It’s very meaningful. I’m almost certain if you went to a performance, it’s gonna tell a story.”
Ammons-Jones wouldn’t pick a favorite style, though.
“There’s many different aspects of dance,” she said. “Pacemates just happens to be another form of dance. There’s nothing wrong with either. I love both.”
Iega Jeff wishes she could have further explored what he calls her gift to be a “born mover.” But he couldn’t be more proud of the former student he connected with on an “intuitive” level.
Looking ahead, Ammons-Jones thinks this will be her last year on the Pacemates and she’s not really sure where she’ll be heading from here.
One thing is certain though: her body is not done dancing.
Mascot Boomer "assists" Bethany in waving to the fans at Pacers FanJam
Thank you to the NBA powers for giving us a wonderful gift, the NBA back on Christmas Day! Preparing for the new season is occurring at warp speed, and the Indiana Pacers held their annual FanJam last Sunday, the annual free event with free food, autograph opportunities, a blue versus white scrimmage, and the antics of Steve Max, who has created his own unique niche of travelling the country leading games of “Simon Says” (FYI, Pacer newcomer and Indianapolis’ own George “Napoleon” Hill was the best Pacer Simon Says player). Maybe the Pacers like “Simon Says” because the Pacers are owned by the Simon family of mall ownership fame.
But the best gift of all is that the NBA being back means that the Pacemates, particularly the rookies, who have been patiently waiting to perform on center court, are able to dance and cheer on their team. The Pacemates were on the concourses signing autographs, encouraging fans to sign a “Good Luck” banner, and then hit the sidelines for the intra-squad game. The Pacemates cheered on their teams and put up with the constant antics of mascot Boomer, who at one point bulldozed his way on his hands and knees through the courtside Pacemates; that crazy cat! Then at halftime of the scrimmage, it was the Pacemates turn to perform at center court. It was their second performance of the season, after a pre-season game the previous Friday against the Bulls (with 14,000 in attendence, way to go Pacers fans!).
Michelle Duggan has been the coach/choreographer of the Pacemates since 2008 after her seven years as a Pacemate herself. As Michelle oversaw the activities of the Pacemates at FanJam, she took time out to fill in UltimateCheerleaders on the preparation for the new season. The rookies have been waiting and wondering when they would hit the court, but Michelle says keeping them motivated has been no problem. “It was actually really easy,” Michelle says, “We just had to change focus. We did a lot of team-building activities throughout the season. It just gave us a little time to bond, that we don’t usually have. Of course, we would have wanted to be on the court, but it’s fun.”
The schedule was modified according to Michelle during the lock-out. “We had practices once a week, and then we did a lot of community service. Again, we don’t usually get a lot of extra time to do those things besides our appearances, so we focused on that.”
This season’s adapted NBA schedule has a lot of back to back to back type games, but Michelle has no worries. “We are prepared,” Michelle smiles. “Just the energy and anticipation, being anxious about getting started, it is making their performances and practices easier, because they have wanted to be out there for so long. So I don’t think we will have to double up or anything like that, we are going to stay with our schedule, and we are going to go on from there.”
Pacemate Desiree and Pacemate coach/choreographer Michelle Duggan
Michelle looks forward to this season and being around this Pacemate squad. “I think I have a beautiful team all-around this year. I think their abilities are well rounded and they get along really well. So I am just looking forward to seeing them on the court, and the better they get along off the court, the better they are going to perform on the court.”
Michelle was a staple at FanJams for years as a Pacemate, so does she miss being on the squad, giving autgraphs and performing? “I was just thinking about that when I was standing against this wall,” laughs Michelle. “I was just thinking, ‘You know, I kind of like being back here, so I don’t have to be ready and everything.’ But it’s hard, it’s where I was for a long time. I like this part of being a leader and motivating the girls, and getting them involved in the community. So, I had my time, and am ready to do my other parts.”
Michelle’s time directing the Pacers included becoming a mom to her daughter 20 months ago, which creates new challenges to balance mommy-hood and running the Pacemates. “Oh, it’s hard,” laughs Michelle, “but it makes it easier when I love both sides of my roles. I like being a mom and I like doing this.”
Michelle says her daughter is showing her first dancing skills. “She is starting to,” reports Michelle, “she shakes her behind. She is going to be a little performer, she is a drama queen. So is her mom, and her dad,” laughs Michelle.
The Pacemates site has been updated for the 2011-12 squad. Beaucoup thanks to Frank for discovering this! It’s not linked directly to the Indiana Pacers site yet, so you’ll have to click here to get there. (It may take a few tries to load the page.)
Yes, if they were trick or treating in your neighborhood, you would definitely leave your porch light on, and you’d put away the circus peanuts, and hand out the good stuff!
You can’t lock the the Indiana Pacemates out of getting into the late October spirit, so they are in the midst of the Costume Contest! And the Pacemates need your help deciding who has the best Halloween costume. Visit www.pacemateshalloween.com to submit your vote as well as check out photo and videos of every member of the Pacemates dressed up in their favorite costume. Voting ends Sunday, October 30, with the top three vote-getters announced on Halloween.
Each girl has selected a Central Indiana charity and whomever wins, the Pacers Foundation will donate $1,000 to their charity!