By Nora Olabi
As recent Woodlands High graduates prepare to start their college careers, one former High Stepper has turned an extracurricular activity into her dream job.
Kara Robinson started competitive dancing as a fifth grader at Mitchell Intermediate in The Woodlands. She kept dancing all the way through high school, when as a senior at The Woodlands High School she became captain of The Woodlands High Steppers.
After graduating, she took her dance skills on the road, attending college with acclaimed dance teams. She danced with the Kilgore College Rangerettes, the first women’s precision drill team in the country, and, a few years later, danced for the Dallas Cowboys for three years.
Earlier this month, Robinson signed her second season contract with the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder to dance as a Thunder Girl.
“Performing for a crowd is one of my passions in life. I know that there’s only a short amount of time that I’m going to be able to do this, and I’m coming up on that time where I have to start focusing on a career,” Robinson said. “But for now, I have the most supportive parents in the world that have always wanted me to follow my dreams, and I was lucky enough to do that.”
The Thunder Girl auditions are rigorous. Before the auditions started, dance coaches held boot camps and prep classes for anyone interested in being a dancer.
On the big day, 60 new and returning dancers went through three audition phases over five days this summer. The prospective dancers learn three routines – pom, hip hop and jazz – go through a fitness bootcamp, and undergo business interviews all in full makeup. Those who make the first two rounds perform a final show at the Riverwind Casino in front of an audience of TV and radio personalities, some season ticket holders and the entertainment department of the OKC Thunder. In the end, seven new girls joined the Thunder Girls, and 12 returned, including Robinson, to dance in the upcoming season.
“She’s great; she’s made for this,” said Paige Carter, manager and dance choreographer for the Thunder. “She’s a wonderful person, and her big talent is how remarkable she is at learning choreography and retaining it.”
Once brought on, all 19 dancers train two to three nights a week, perform several dance routines during the games, and make about 200 public appearances throughout the season. And although it sounds like a full-time job, most of the women have part- or full-time jobs outside of the Thunder Girls.
When Robinson is not performing as a Thunder Girl, she works as a brand ambassador for the Austin-based designer jewelry store Kendra Scott. After transferring from Kilgore College, Robinson graduated from the University of North Texas with a bachelor’s in merchandising. Although she’s learned and grown as a professional dancer, she hopes to one day blaze her own trail in the fashion industry.
“There are a lot of different options I can take with fashion. Being in the fashion industry, I’ve always wanted to open my own store and sell my own merchandise there. That’s definitely in the far away future,” Robinson said.
In the meantime, Robinson will wield her pompoms and entertain fans for the 2015-16 NBA season.
By David Bitton
Stillwater News Press
August 19, 2015
She has been shaking her hips and dancing to choreographed moves most of her life, and come this fall Addie Corley will be performing at Oklahoma City Thunder games as one of 19 Thunder Girls.
“I’m super excited to be cheering on the Thunder,” the 22-year-old lifelong Stillwater resident and Oklahoma State University Strategic Communications senior said.
The weeklong finals included interviews and dance rehearsals before the final audition.
“I was a nervous wreck,” Corley said. “I don’t think I slept for two weeks straight.”
Corley admits that the on-stage question-and-answer portion of the audition was the most challenging aspect. She remembers the question was something like, “If I made the team, what would I bring as a Thunder Girl,” but she doesn’t remember how she answered it.
“I got nervous,” she said.
Which makes it that much sweeter where her name was called on July 30.
She was one of seven rookies to make the 2015-16 Thunder Girls dance team.
“I had self confidence in my dancing,” said Corley, who has been twirling since she was 4-years-old. “I knew that if I danced how I’ve always danced, I’d feel okay.”
She attributes much of her success to Encore Dance Studios in Stillwater, where Corley has been both learning and teaching dance for many years.
“Addie is probably in the top three dancers I have ever taught,” said owner Holly Belford-Davis, who has been teaching dance for more than 30 years. “Her dedication, drive and hard work set her apart.”
Corley graduated from Stillwater High School in 2011, and cheered on the Pom Squad at Oklahoma State University for four years before auditioning for the Thunder Girls.
Paige Carter, dance team manager and choreographer for the Thunder Girls, is looking forward to having Corley on the team.
“I am excited to enter a new season with this outstanding group,” Carter said in a press release. “Thunder Girls engage with our fans on and off the court, and sometimes even across the globe. These ladies will add excitement and energy to the Thunder experience at Chesapeake Energy Arena, as well as being excellent community ambassadors.”
Right now, Corley is busy learning dance routines while practicing twice a week so she is ready when the Thunder take on the San Antonio Spurs on Oct. 28.
“Oklahoma City Thunder fans are like no other fans,” Corley said. “They are amazing and I’m ready to meet them, talk with them and cheer on the Thunder with them.”
August 13, 2015
When the lights go up at Chesapeake Energy Arena in October and the Oklahoma City Thunder take the court, Chickasha will be represented.
There on the side of the court, and on it between quarters and timeouts, Kalyssa Singleton will be fulfilling a dream she’s had since about a year in to her Chickasha High School dance and pom journey. The newest member of the Thunder Girls is still adjusting to the thought that her ultimate goal is now a reality just months after graduating.
“I’m still trying to make sure, for myself, I’m still on the Thunder Girls,” Singleton said. “I wake up and have to remind myself that this is happening. Honestly, whenever they called my name, I had no words. I was overwhelmed with nerves and excitement.
“I’ve been working for it since I was a sophomore in high school, so I was really excited to know all of my hard work paid off.”
Months of bootcamps, Thunder Girls clinics and training on her own culminated in Singleton’s selection for the 2015-16 squad that will take to the court every home game this season. On top of her talent, it was Singleton’s dedication that Thunder Girls selectors said made her a clear choice.
“Kalyssa stood out from the beginning by attending optional boot camps and prep classes to prepare for the Thunder Girls audition,” Paige Carter, dance team manager and choreographer for the Thunder, said. “As a coach, this shows me that she is willing to go the extra mile to try to make this team and be successful. Kalyssa struck me as being a very well-spoken young lady, which is important because our Thunder Girls engage with so many fans at the arena and in the community throughout the season.”
It’s been a somewhat quick rise for Singleton, who only became involved in dance when she was a freshman. She said her cousin encouraged her to come along to a few classes.
“I fell in love with it,” Singleton said. “I think just expressing yourself. There’s a whole other side of dance that people don’t see outside of dance. It brought out a whole other side of me that I don’t show a whole lot.”
Singleton spent two years at Love to Dance in Chickasha, and she joined the CHS pom squad, performing at varsity level for all four years. For her junior and senior years, she attended Top Hat Talent in Moore.
“I’ve been in dance for about four years, but I think I’m just really blessed that I could catch up in a short amount of time and eventually make the team,” Singleton said.
In many ways, Chickasha pom was preparation for the Thunder Girls, Singleton said. There is an important team aspect to dance that she would have struggled to find anywhere else.
“Being a part of that team [pom] made me understand the togetherness,” she said. “You need to have a good relationship with the girls to perform better on the court or on the stage. Chickasha pom was a little glimpse of joining the Thunder. It made me develop a way of communicating better, and I think that’s going to help me now and for the rest of my life.”
When the time for auditions came, everything she had learned was thrown at participants at once. It was a fast paced environment, with dancers gathered from across the country required to learn routines and perform them perfectly in a matter of hours. All the while, elimination hung around the corner.
“It was tough to keep focused on what I was doing,” Singleton said. “It was kind of overwhelming, but we all helped each other. There were three rounds in a full day, and each round was a different style of dance. Also, in each round, people got cut. We would learn a dance right before we would perform in groups of three in front of five or six judges.”
Singleton made the group of 34 finalists on July 30, and by the end of the weekend was one of seven newcomers named to the group of 18 Thunder Girls. Now, after about a week of everything sinking in, more work begins for the squad to prepare for the season.
The first official practice was Tuesday.
“We had a mini-camp over the weekend, and that was more about the girls getting to know each other,” Singleton said. “But the first preseason game for us is in October, so it’s coming up pretty quick. I’m just excited for the whole process.”
As for the future, Singleton said she plans to stay with the Thunder and the NBA as long as she can. Something she only really picked up four years ago looks to be taking her on a life-long journey.
“Maybe one day I’d like to become an instructor, or maybe even become a back-up dancer for someone famous,” she said.
Riverwind Casino to host Thursday’s event, which is free and open to the public
The Oklahoma City Thunder will host the final audition for the 2015-16 Thunder Girls on Thursday at Riverwind Casino, starting at 7 p.m. Fans of all ages are invited to watch as 34 finalists compete for a spot on the dance team. Admission is free and doors open at 6 p.m. The event will also be streamed live on the Thunder website, okcthunder.com, and on the Thunder Mobile App.
A panel of judges – including Roy Williams, former NFL player and an All-American safety with the University of Oklahoma; former Miss Oklahoma Kelli Masters; and Caroline Bennett, the 2015 Miss Black Oklahoma U.S. Ambassador – will assist Thunder staff in determining the final squad. The Thunder will announce the new team at the end of the evening.
Sixty dancers participated in Saturday’s open audition, where judges narrowed the group down to 34 ladies for Thursday’s finals.
WHAT: Thirty-four Thunder Girls finalists will compete for a spot on the 2015-16 Thunder Girls dance team
WHEN: Thursday, July 30, at 7 p.m.; doors open at 6 p.m
WHERE: Riverwind Casino, in the Showplace Theatre
1544 W. State Hwy. 9, Norman (I-35 and Hwy. 9)
Front row (from left; first name and hometown listed): Kim (Houston, Texas); Tiffany (North Richland Hills, Texas); Chelsie (Oklahoma City); Kara (The Woodlands, Texas); Kayle (Oklahoma City); Stephanie (Oklahoma City); Jennie (Owasso, Oklahoma); Katie (Moore, Oklahoma); Jaimie (Yukon, Oklahoma); Monique (Kansas City, Kansas); Kourtney (Fresno, California); Sarah (Moore, Oklahoma); Brooke (Prague, Oklahoma); Whitney (Kansas City, Missouri).
Middle row: Jessica (Madison, Wisconsin); Alex (Weatherford, Oklahoma); Kalyssa (Chickasha, Oklahoma); Audrey (Edmond, Oklahoma); Addie (Stillwater, Oklahoma); Kelly (Owasso, Oklahoma); Rachel (Oklahoma City); Blaire (Greensboro, North Carolina); Taniah (Fort Worth, Texas); Alicia (Moore, Oklahoma); Natasha (Edmond, Oklahoma); Carly (McAlester, Oklahoma).
Back row: McKenzie (Mustang, Oklahoma); Kaitlyn (Wichita, Kansas); Liz (Franklin, Tennessee); Kimberly (Del City, Oklahoma); Sydney (Mansfield, Texas); Jeanette (Guthrie, Oklahoma); Tressena (Moore, Oklahoma); Lauren (Duncan, Oklahoma).
A Chickasaw woman’s dream has come true. And she’ll get to share it with thousands.
Katie Callaway will cheer on basketball pros and fans as a member of the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder’s dance team.
“I am so excited,” Callaway said in a news release. “I can’t wait to get on those sidelines and entertain the best fans of any city with an NBA team.”
Callaway, 26, sat in the stands as a fan for six years before she decided to try out. But, she didn’t make the team on her first try.
“I worked hard, very hard, to improve my technique,” Callaway said reflecting on the failed effort. “I worked on leaps, turns, and pointed toes. It was a full-on effort for a year. It was tough.”The final audition process consisted of three rounds: a choreographed routine, a question and answer session, and a solo dance. Only 38 women were selected as finalists from nearly 100 hopefuls. The group of 38 was eventually narrowed down to 20.
She auditioned at the Riverwind Casino in Norman, Oklahoma in front of a packed house. Now that she’s one of the 20 Thunder Girls, Callaway is looking forward to the team’s first game in November.
“I wondered what it would be like to be down there. I wondered how exciting it was for the team and how much they looked forward to it,” she said in the news release.
Callaway is an Oklahoma resident. She attended Ada High School where she was a cheerleader, but she was born in England where her father was stationed in the U.S. Air Force. Her mother is Chickasaw and works for the Chickasaw Nation. For years, her grandfather, Jack Wells, served as a Chickasaw tribal legislator and her great-grandmother, Delta Wells, was an original enrollee with the tribe.
“We’d go to festivals and I was a member of the Governor’s Honor Club,” Callaway said. “I learned my heritage is important and tradition is important. It is essential to know one’s self. I am very proud of my Chickasaw heritage.
But, Callaway won’t quit her day job. She’s a drilling engineer technician with Chesapeake Energy where she analyzes drilling for natural resources. She started working there as a receptionist and moved up rather quickly. Callaway is also a graduate of the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond where she studied public relations.
Not only is she excited about cheering on the fans, but as a Thunder girl, Callaway will also have a chance to work with her community. “Being a part of the organization will give me that opportunity to give back, which is something I’m looking forward to very much.”
By Michael Kinney
The Moore American
August 21, 2013
MOORE — Three months ago Katie Jones was sitting in class at Moore High School waiting on graduation just like any other high school senior. At the time, she was looking forward to getting on with her future.
Jones’ future took a pleasant detour Thursday when she was selected to be part of the 2013-14 Thunder Girls dance team. She joins 19 other young women who will represent Oklahoma City’s NBA franchise inside Chesapeake Energy Arena and the community at large during the upcoming NBA season.
“I don’t even know how to react right now,” Jones said. “It’s still processing in my brain. I’m so excited to cheer for the best team in the whole nation this whole season. I can’t even put into words how excited I am.”
Jones wasn’t the only Moore native to make the team. Sarah Jackson and Lateshia Dockery also heard their names called.
Katie, Lateshia, and Sarah
“This was my first time trying out,” Jackson said. “I felt I had good chance because I went to classes and went to training. I was prepared to the best of my ability. I feel like I did everything I possibly could. And I had faith it was enough to make the team.”
The selection process began last week when the Thunder held open tryouts at the team’s training center in Edmond. From that group, 38 women reached Thursday’s final audition in front of a packed house at Riverwind Casino.
“The Thunder Girls serve as ambassadors for our team, both on and off the court,” said Paige Carter, who enters her third season as the dance team’s manager and choreographer. “We are excited to have a group of young women who not only are great dancers, but also can engage with our community of fans to form a positive connection with our team.”
The 38 competitors were whittled down to a final 20 after two hours of competition that consisted of three rounds: a choreographed jazz/hip-hop routine, a question-and-answer session and a solo dance.
“I tried to give myself the benefit of the doubt,” Jones said. “There are so many beautiful and so many talented girls. So I really was intimidated a little bit. But I went out there and did what I love and it paid off.”
Jackson had the same reaction.
“Never in a million years did I think I would ever be a Thunder girl,” Jackson said. “And the fact that I did, and I just achieved one of my dreams, I’m ecstatic. I can’t even believe it. I’m so happy. Honestly, I have been training for this for months now. And the fact I did the best I could and left it all out on the floor and I made it, it’s just a dream come true.”
Of the 20 women, 11 return from last year’s squad. That includes Dockery, who is entering her sixth season. She’s made the squad every year since the Thunder first arrived in Oklahoma City in 2008.
“I think every year it’s different,” Dockery said. “I’m really excited to start the new season. We have a bunch of new girls and I’m just excited about the talent. I think every year I try to push myself to get better and better. I get older every time and I know these young girls come in and are so full of energy and have a lot of talent. So I just try to step up my game and push myself.”
While Moore will be very well represented on the team, this will mark the first year the team doesn’t include any performers from Norman.
“To make it my first year is really exciting,” Jones said. “My mom was hysterical. She was balling. I honestly didn’t know if I was going to make it because there were so many good veterans and other girls who had tried out in previous years that didn’t make it all the way through. But I went out there and did what I did. I guess I impressed them.”
The regular season begins Oct. 31 and the Thunder first play at home Nov. 3 when the Phoenix Suns visit Oklahoma City. The dance team, however, will begin representing the franchise much sooner than that.
“I think it’s going to be breathtaking,” Jackson said. “I don’t have any other words. I think it’s going to take my breath away. I’m just going to be in the moment and live in the moment.”
Michael Kinney Follow me @eyeamtruth email@example.com
Oklahoma City Thunder – Oklahoma City, Friday, Aug. 9, 2013 – The Oklahoma City Thunder selected 20 women for its 2013-14 Thunder Girls dance team on Thursday night, the team announced today. Final auditions took place in front of a full house at the Showplace Theatre in Riverwind Casino.
Photo Gallery | Video | Meet the Team
Of the 20 ladies, 11 return from last year’s squad, joined by nine rookies. Three Thunder Girls – Jada, LaTeshia and Shereka – are headed into their sixth season on the squad.
“The Thunder Girls serve as ambassadors for our team, both on and off the court,” said Paige Carter, who enters her third season as the Thunder Girls dance team manager and choreographer. “We are excited to have a group of young women who not only are great dancers, but also can engage with our community of fans to form a positive connection with our team.”
A panel of judges, including Gary England of News 9, Miss Oklahoma Kelsey Griswold, and Joey and Heather from WILD 104.9, assisted Thunder staff in making the final selections.
The final audition process consisted of three rounds: a choreographed jazz/hip-hop routine, a question-and-answer session and a solo dance.
Following last Saturday’s open auditions, 38 women were selected as finalists for Thursday’s event from an initial group of nearly 100 hopefuls. During the week, finalists took part in formal interviews and rehearsals to prepare for the finals.
The Thunder Girls are presented by Riverwind Casino. Members of the team make more than 200 appearances each year throughout the community and have served as ambassadors for the team at home and overseas. More information about the team is available at THUNDER.NBA.COM. Fans can also get updates on Facebook (facebook.com/thundergirls), Twitter (@thundergirls) and Instagram (@okcthundergirls).
Cheerleaders from Japan at the P-R-O Convention
Kei of the Oklahoma City Thunder Girls
Oklahoma City Thunder Girl Jessica
OKLAHOMA CITY, Friday, August 03, 2012 – The Oklahoma City Thunder announced the 2012-13 Thunder Girls dance team Thursday night at Riverwind Casino in Norman. Judges selected 20 ladies to be on next season’s squad. More than 1,000 fans attended the live event.
The final team consists of women from Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and as far away as Japan. This year’s team includes 12 veterans and 8 rookies.
*Click here for individual photos of this year’s team
The audition process began last Saturday, on July 28, with more than 100 hopefuls. The process included preliminary tryouts, interviews and practices. Thirty-eight girls performed Thursday night for a spot on the team. Judges included Wayne Coyne, Miss Oklahoma 2012 Alicia Clifton, Joey and Heather from WILD 104.9 HD and Thunder officials.
“This year’s talent and caliber exceeded my expectations,” said Thunder Girls manager and choreographer Paige Carter. “It was a difficult selection process for us to narrow it down to 20 members. I’m confident these ladies will uphold the standards and character it takes to be an ambassador for the Oklahoma City Thunder and the NBA.”
The Thunder Girls make more than 200 appearances throughout the region for the Thunder at community and sponsorship events. The 2012-13 Thunder Girls are as follows (last names are not used so as to protect privacy):
Hometown: McAlester, Okla.
Hometown: Edmond, Okla.
Hometown: Moore, Okla.
Hometown: Tulsa, Okla.
Hometown: Choctaw, Okla.
Hometown: Oklahoma City
Hometown: Tulsa, Okla.
Hometown: Madison, Wis.
Hometown: Hayes, Kan.
Hometown: Chiba, Japan
Hometown: Oklahoma City, Okla.
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Hometown: Moore, Okla.
Hometown: Dowagiac, Mich.
Hometown: Layton, Utah
Hometown: Del City, Okla.
Hometown: Waco, Texas
Hometown: Cyril, Okla.
Hometown: Muskogee, Okla.
Hometown: Kansas City, Mo.
38 Headed to Finals
More than 100 talented ladies spent Saturday vying for spots in the Thunder Girls Finals, presented by Riverwind Casino. When the preliminary auditions were finished, 38 dancers made the cut. The public is invited to the Finals, Thursday evening at 7 p.m. at Riverwind, doors open at 6. PHOTOS | VIDEO | THUNDER GIRLS FACEBOOK
When I first received notification that I would be attending the P-R-O Convention, I started doing my research and scanned the listing of squads that would be in attendance. One of the new squads was the Oklahoma City Thunder Girls and I was excited to see who they would bring to P-R-O. There are many NFL squads, but only a few NBA teams in attendance, so I was looking forward to photographing them. And I was not disappointed as there were several girls that stood out for their beauty and tremendous dance ability.
In this edition, we feature one Oklahoma City Thunder Girl…Jessica, whose beauty and talent was readily evident.
An Oklahoma City Thunder Girl – It’s Christmas in July!