The San Antonio Spurs. Perhaps nothing in the Alamo City unifies the locals together like our beloved NBA team, who won their fifth championship last summer as they throttled the Miami Heat with a 4-1 NBA Finals series win.
But beyond the glitz and glamour of the Spurs championship pedigree over the years, are people who work just as hard behind the scenes. And front and center of that hard work are the Spurs Silver Dancers, who are sponsored by World Car.
Their ability get the crowd to cheer and yell as loud as they possibly can has given the Spurs one of the best home court advantages in league. Their knack to galvanize people doesn’t stop on game day, as these young ladies are prominent pillars of hope for the youth of our society.
Dance, Dance, Dance
Dancer Taylor, from San Antonio, was one of six dancers who recently participated in a photo shoot featuring a 2015 KIA Soul and 2015 KIA Optima.
Taylor said she has been dancing since she was in high school and was proud to be member of the Spurs dance team.
“I like it,” she said. “It’s always fun to do charity events, visit group homes, and of course watch the Spurs play and get the crowd going.
“This season, the game that really stands out for me was the first game,” she added. “It was against the Mavericks and of course we had the ring ceremony. It was just such a festive atmosphere and a joy to be a part of.”
photo 9 300×219 Spurs Silver Dancers Driven by World Car Paige, from Austin, added that she has been dancing for 12 years and felt a strong sense of fulfillment when she became a member of the Silver Dancers.
“It’s a really good feeling,” she explained. “It’s a passion that you’ve fallowed your whole life and it has paid off into becoming a professional dancer. You’re out there doing what you love to do, which is dancing and performing.”
Jaclyn, from Kyle, said she was attending UTSA when she found out about an open audition and jumped at the chance to try out.
“It was a long time coming,” she said. “Dancing is a sport onto itself, a definite cardio workout. We’re really a big deal. When we visit kids they think we’re like superheroes and they want to take pictures with us and it’s a great feeling to be a positive role model in the community.”
Jaclyn said that she enjoys meeting new people at different events and being a Silver Dancer allowed her to visit Berlin, Germany and Istanbul, Turkey this preseason when the Spurs participated in the NBA’s global game series.
“It was great,” she added. “We were on a plane with Coach Pop and all the players and collectively (as dancers) we got to do some sight-seeing. There is never a dull moment being a part of the Spurs.”
Doug Hester, Partnership Activation Coordinator for Spurs Sports and Entertainment, said working with the Spurs organization was a dream come true and that he thoroughly enjoys his job, which includes working with organizations like World Car.
“I activate and full fill partnerships with sponsors,” he said. “I enjoy working with the Spurs as it lets me see the games from a different perspective. Sometimes, I do have encounters with the players. Matt Bonner is a really personable guy and so is Patty Mills.”
Hester recently purchased a Mazda3 from World Car and couldn’t be happier with his investment.
“It’s a good car,” he said. “I wanted a stick shift, a 4.0 cylinder car, and this one is sporty and fun. Best of all its economical.”
Katie Gibbons, coordinator for the Silver Dancers, said it was imperative for the group to not only give back to the community, but to support the sponsor that allows them to bring the Spurs’ crowd to life during time-outs on game day.
“When it comes to a partnership, where we’re presenting ourselves at events then (photo) shoots like this are fun to do,” she said. “World Car has been great and it’s fun to be a part of the partnership and give back to them.”
So I went to an L.A. D-Fenders game on Friday, something I haven’t done in a few years. I was there with a friend, who always tries to catch a game at the Toyota Center every time he’s in town during the season. Why? Because the D-Fenders’ dance team are the Laker Girls. And it is a rare treat when you can see the Laker Girls up close and personal.
The first clue that the Brooklynettes aren’t your average dance team is what they’re wearing. They’re more likely to strut onto the Barclays Center court in wedge sneakers than heels; their graphic black-and-white uniforms are urban chic, not girly-girl cute (though, to be fair, they’re known to sport a sequin or two).
But then the dancers start to move. And as they blaze through high-octane, hard-edged choreography by an industry A-lister, you realize that this isn’t just the best-dressed dance team you’ve ever seen. It’s the best dance team you’ve ever seen, period.
In fact, the Brooklynettes—who’ve been entertaining Brooklyn Nets fans since the team’s move from New Jersey to Brooklyn, NY, in 2012—are changing what it means to dance for the NBA. Their top-notch dancers are attracting big-name choreographers, artists who aren’t otherwise associated with the dance team world. And their every move reflects the diversity, creativity and grit of the borough they call home.
(Photo by Erin Baiano)
That Brooklyn Feel
When it was first announced that the New Jersey Nets would become the Brooklyn Nets, Adar Wellington—coach of the team then known as the New Jersey Nets Dancers—knew some major changes were in order. “We wanted to reimagine the dance team so it truly represented the city,” says Wellington, whose own impressive dance career includes
several seasons with the NJ Nets Dancers and tours with Rihanna and Ashanti. “Brooklyn is so cool and effortless, and it has this edgy, rough feel to it.”
To Brooklyn-ify the renamed Brooklynettes, the artistic crew made hip hop the team’s new foundation. “When you think Brooklyn, you automatically think hip hop,” says current Brooklynettes captain Amanda Robinson. “In keeping with that, our choreography is very street, very gritty.” But the team also wanted to incorporate the borough’s myriad other musical influences. “Around here, there’s everything as far as
music goes,” Wellington says. “We’ve got jazz, we’ve got Latin, we’ve got swing. And it was important to us to recognize that diversity in our routines.”
The resulting melting-pot-with-an-edge style not only separates the Brooklynettes from other pro dance teams—it actually puts them right in line with commercial industry trends. “What the Brooklynettes are giving you is what people are seeing in television, film and music videos right now,” says frequent Brooklynettes choreographer Tanisha Scott, who’s worked with Rihanna and Beyoncé.
Stefani Montiel may be a Grammy-nominated Tejano star, but for 16 years, she’s been upstaged over and over again by the same person:
Zavala is Montiel’s daughter, and even as a toddler she would wander on stage during her mother’s shows, striking poses and hugging fans in the front row. Zavala may be the youngest of the Silver Dancers at 18 years old, but she’s played to crowds for almost her entire life.
“She would pretty much take over the show starting all the way back to when she was 2,” Stefani Montiel said. “She grew up around performing, and it was like she was destined to do what she’s doing now.”
Mother and daughter will be on the AT&T Center court together on Sunday for Los Spurs day, when the Silver and Black face Chicago. Montiel will be singing, while her daughter provides backup.
Montiel has performed the national anthem at Spurs games before, and her cover band Lush also has played at the AT&T Center’s Overtime after games. Montiel will be back to perform at Overtime on April 3. Her daughter, meanwhile, is in her first season as a Silver Dancer.
“I’ve gotten a little better at dancing since I was 2,” Zavala said. “Once, I did a pose during a game that someone noticed looked exactly like my mom’s pose on a CD cover. I didn’t plan it or anything, it was just natural.”
Montiel has won numerous Tejano Music Awards and has been nominated for three Grammy Awards and three Latin Grammy Awards. But she said performing in front of 10,000 fans doesn’t compare to watching her daughter dance in front of a packed crowd at the AT&T Center.
“I’m so proud,” Montiel said. “It’s surreal, because even when she’s on the court, she’s still my little girl.”
When Montiel goes to Spurs games, she ends up watching the dancers more than any of the action on the floor.
“She has a dance background too, so she’ll record our routines,” Ileah said. “I think my mom notices more with my dancing than any coach ever has.”
Ileah grew up on the road, following her parents as they were on tour for about 200 days a year when she was young. Ileah’s father and Stefani’s husband Gabriel Zavala also is Stefani’ producer.
Stefani said she never wanted to push her daughter into performing, but Ileah always ended up dancing anyway. Ileah said she may follow her mother into singing some day, but for now, she’s “living a dream” as a Silver Dancer.
By the time Ileah was 16, she officially became one of Stefani’s backup dancers. She still performs with her mother sometimes, although life as a Silver Dancer has become the priority. In January, Zavala missed a game to perform with her mother on a “Tejano Legends” cruise trip to Jamaica.
When Ileah was 17, she was captain of dance team for the San Antonio Talons, an Arena Football League team.
But Ileah, who graduated from Brennan High School last year, said she still didn’t think she would make the cut for the Silver Dancers when she auditioned over summer.
Her mother had no doubt.
“I’ve been performing for years, but I’ve never seen anyone as naturally comfortable as Ileah when she’s up there,” Stefani said. “She has these big dreams, and you could always tell she was a budding superstar.”
If you went to the Miami Heat vs. L.A. Lakers game Wednesday night, there’s a good chance you’ll came home with a cool souvenir. Team reps distributed 20,000 posters featuring the entire squad of Heat dancers, inspired by Broadway classics All That Jazz and Cabaret, shot by the team’s photographer David Alvarez.
“We are always brainstorming ways to give fans something fresh and new, so this year we decided to go with a more classic beauty/old Hollywood look,” Alvarez says. “We wanted to remain true to who these ladies are: performers. This was the biggest, most intricate group shot we’ve ever done. A lot of thought and planning went into every aspect of this project — from the lighting to the poses to the wardrobe.”
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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.
“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.”
The Vanity Dancers are an elite, all female performance group assembled by Patrisha Yabes and Shonna Chiles.The team was designed to train women who wish to have a pro-dance team experience in the areas of dance, promotional expectations, and community service.
Their December Showcase will featured two performances, complimentary hors d’oeuvres & mimosa bar, a lash studio, make up demos, and much more.