Sisterhood of the Center Court

by Kerry Eggers
Portland Tribune

They converged on the Rose Garden hardcourt last Wednesday night, 65 strong, all legs and full of gusto.

For 90-second dance sets at breaks between the first and second and third and fourth quarters, they turned the clock back as many as 25 years.

A quarter-century of entertainment by the BlazerDancers was celebrated with a reunion that brought hugs, smiles and a few tears from the participants.

“It was an absolute blast,” says Caitlin Tinney, 28, a member of Portland’s dance squad from 2007-11. “It was so much fun to see everybody and be back on the floor again. Walking in the doors (to the arena), it felt like no time had passed at all. Makes you want to be back here.”

Michelle Burch, a former BlazerDancer and the club’s performance teams manager since 2008, says about half of her email list of 116 showed up for the first reunion of the group in four years.

“I’m biased,” says Burch, who danced with the troupe from 1992-98, “but I thought it was fabulous. It was an amazing turnout, and I loved the results.”

They rehearsed for 3 1/2 hours Tuesday night, spent game night together and celebrated afterward at a reception in the Sphere room at the Rose Garden.

The former BlazerDancers made it look easy, though it wasn’t.

“The routines were hard,” says Dee Dee Anderson, one of seven original BlazerDancers who performed. “I teach a fitness class, which involves plyometrics and circuit training. I have a lot of athletes in my class.

“I was telling the dancers, (the routines) were tougher than any class I teach. It’s like you’re sprinting, but you use your whole body for a minute and a half straight. Very difficult to do.”

Also, Anderson says, “Everybody was nervous. I heard a lot of ladies saying, ‘Now, why are we doing this again?’ Because it was fun.

“We hadn’t seen everybody in a long time,” says Sara Post Anderson, no relation to Dee Dee but a BlazerDancer from 1996-2000. “We told funny stories, and then we danced, and that was even better.”

‘They’re like sisters’

Women flew in from as far as Atlanta, Denver and San Francisco to be a part of the reunion.

“The best part was seeing everyone again,” says Post Anderson, 36. “Coming back together to relive the dream.”

The experience, says Ione Chaco, “was both exhausting and exciting. It was amazing to be on the court with all those wonderful ladies.

“They’re like sisters, seriously,” says Chaco, 28, a mainstay on the dance corps from 2002-09. “Feeling that energy and excitement, feeling like a BlazerDancer again … I completely forgot what that felt like. I can hardly describe it. It’s that numbness in your body — it’s just overwhelming.”

Tinney felt it, too.

“There’s nothing like being out there,” she says. “It’s like the best minute and a half you could ever describe.

“It’s so funny. We were talking after we danced and people were like, ‘How did it go for you?’ I’m like, ‘I don’t really remember what happened out there.’ You just go out. It’s a surge of energy and excitement like I have never experienced anywhere else.”

Post Anderson says the entire squad “from my rookie year” participated.

“It’s such a good group of girls,” she says. “We just laughed the whole time.

“There was a lot of hooting and hollering while we were dancing. We were so impressed with how everyone looked again. Everyone was excited for each other. We left feeling good.”

90-second routines

Anderson, who served as coach of the BlazerDancers from 1989-2008, says her initial inclination was to be there just to watch.

“It brings me a lot of joy to watch the dancers perform,” she says. “That was one of the biggest rushes for me as a coach. So it was hard for me to make a decision.

“But Melissa York told me Tara Dynes was dancing. The three of us auditioned together back in 1988. We would practice in my backyard, living room and garage, and we made the team together. They convinced me I should dance, and I’m glad I did. It was really special.”

As a result of her late decision, Anderson said she was playing catch-up when given the material with which to dance.

“I had to spend the weekend cramming,” she says. “To be honest, the dancing was not really enjoyable. A 50-year-old should not be rolling on the ground.

“But it was great to be out there with everyone. To put together a show together so fast with that many dancers is not easy, but it came off really well.”

The best part, the women agreed, was the re-lived camaraderie.

“The highlight of the night for me was to hang out with all those ladies who are so talented on the inside and out,” Burch says. “It was so nice to bring everybody together. The 90-second routines they performed were incredible to watch, with the number of people and how professional everybody was. They’re great dancers.”

“The best part,” Tinney offers, “was reuniting with old friends and being able to renew those relationships. It’s a lifelong friendship, and you can tell. When people come together after not seeing each other for even a couple of years … it’s like no time passed.”

The women have dispersed into various walks of life, though many are still involved with dance.

Anderson is a personal trainer and dance coach who performs with the rock group Flexor T. Chaco is a singer/dancer with the Patrick Lamb band who teaches dance at Hockinson (Wash.) High. Post Anderson owns a Portland dance studio and coaches the Junior BlazerDancers, of whom her daughter is a member.

Tinney? The dark-haired lass runs a dog-walking business in Northwest Portland.

Canines deserve to enjoy a little rhythm, too, just like the former BlazerDancers in marking an important anniversary at the Rose Garden.

[BlazerDancers on Facebook]

BlazerDancers Celebrating 25 Years, Sneak Peak

The BlazerDancers will be celebrating 25 years of dancing and entertaining the Blazers faithful this Wednesday night at the Rose Garden. From the original Rip City Review dancers to recent alum and current dancers, over 70 women have flown in to prepare for a celebration sure to not disappoint. Get a sneak peak at their performance, and find out what some of your favorites are up to.

[BlazerDancers on Facebook]

Portland Trail Blazers Stunt Team

Whether they’re flying 30ft above the court, or pumping up the crowd, The Bowflex Stunt Team is an integral part of every Trail Blazers home game. The team is one the best in the business, and they’ve got the awards to prove it.

At the 2003 United Spirit Association Nationals, members of the Trail Blazers Bowflex Stunt Team swept the top three spots in the Open Team Partner Stunts category.

In addition, a squad comprised mostly of Blazers Bowflex Stunt Team members took National Championship honors at the 2003 USA National Cheer Championships in Las Vegas.

During the summer of 2004, the Stunt Team was invited to perform on live TV in Hong Kong for the opening ceremony of the Greece Olympics.

[Trail Blazers Stunt Team on Facebook]

Former Dancers Help Former Troops

From KXL.com

The group Vets 4 Vets started last year, after the Blazer Dancers were getting dozens of requests to visit troops and military vets. They were in such demand that a group of former Blazer dancers decided to start their own group. The 14 women represent several professional sports teams in addition to the Blazers, including the Seattle Sonics and Seahawks, even the old Portland Lumberjacks. The group has visited several V.A. centers in Oregon and has been to Joint Base Lewis McChord a few times. At Christmas they send cards to the troops serving overseas. Vets 4 Vets Secretary Desiree Goode, Blazer Dancer from 2001-2006, says the goal is just to show vets and troops some appreciation. Vets 4 Vets has applied for non-profit status, which means until then, they can’t accept donations. The members currently pay for all expenses out of pocket. If non-profit status is granted, the group plans to do more outings and put together a calender they can send to troops every year.

[Vets 4 Vets on Facebook]

Finalists Selected For 2012-13 BlazerDancers

Sarah Hecht
Portland Trailblazers
July 18, 2012

Last Saturday and Sunday eager dancers converged on the Trail Blazers’ Tualatin practice facility to put their skills to work for a chance to earn one of 16 coveted spots as a 2012-13 BlazerDancer.

Day one saw the field of new hopefuls learn multiple routines and perform them for the judges of the day—the panel was composed of Trail Blazers broadcasters, local media members and former dancers. The group was narrowed through two rounds of cuts and the remaining dancers learned yet another routine to practice and perform the next day.

[Check out this video of all the day one action.]

The Sunday returners danced before another panel of judges for one more round of cuts. After the morning of auditions the finalists were announced and veterans, who are automatically included in the finals, joined the narrowed field to learn the routines for the finals.

Now, the talented finalists have a week to practice their finals routines and prepare solos before the final audition takes place this Saturday. With every spot up for grabs each year even the veteran dancers are hard at work.

You can watch the entire Finals via a live stream on Trailblazers.tv starting at 12pm this Saturday, July 21st.

[Enjoy a full photo gallery of the first weekend of auditions.]

Former BlazerDancer Raising Funds for Solo Album

Shannon Bex grew up in Bend and graduated from Mt View High School. She returned 5 years ago with her husband Ron Basada. Shannon was a Blazer Dancer for 5 years. She then went on the show Fame in which she got runner up. Later Shannon was featured on MTV’s show Making The Band in which P.Diddy selected her as one of the 5 members to make up the music group Danity Kane. The group went Double Platinum. After it’s final episode on MTV, Shannon started pursuing her solo career in country soul.

Shannon is currently working with Pledge EP to launch her solo album. The EP album will only go through if Shannon reaches 100% of the money needed. So far with the pledges made by fans she is at 67%. She has only 4 more days with approximately $6,000 left to raise. If she does not reach the goal, EP will not complete the album and those who donated will be refunded their money. If she does reach her goal, 8% will go to OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and her Solo Album will be produced.

This is a life long dream for Shannon and she has worked hard to achieve it. Shannon really needs the support of her home town at this late hour to help reach this goal. She is loved by all of her fans as she is a sweet, humble, and amazing women. Shannon is also known in Oregon from the years she spent as a BlazerDancer and singing the national anthem at Blazer games. Please help Shannon raise sufficient funds in time by going to her website today and pledging money for any of the packages offered.

[Shannon’s Project at PledgeMusic.com]

[Shannon Bex Official Website]

Aloha Stories

Aloha High School teacher and former Blazers dancer says Aloha High crowd was better than any Blazers game

By Casey Parks
The Oregonian

For about 10 years, Aloha High School health teacher Marlene Kanehailua pulled double-duty as a dancer for the Portland Trailblazers. In 2000, her worlds collided when the Blazer Dancers performed at the first Aloha High School Jam the Gym. In her “Aloha Story,” she talks about how much better the Aloha crowd was than a typical basketball fan crowd.

“The crowd went crazy,” she said. “For me, it was like wow.”

Listen to Marlene’s story or download the mp3 here.

2011-12 BlazerDancers

The Portland Trailblazers dance team is ready for action! Click here to check out their new photos.

2011-12 BlazerDancers

The Portland Trailblazers website has been updated with new photos of this year’s squad. Click here to go there now.

Rachel, Veronica, and Kelly

Video: NBA Madness in the Philippines

BlazerDancers In Manila: NBA Madness Ensues

By Sarah Hecht
Portland Trailblazers
9/30/2011

[Photo Gallery]

The BlazerDancers are in the midst of a whirlwind NBA Madness tour of the Philippines with NBA Legend Clyde Drexler . As one of two NBA dance teams—the other being the Magic Dancers—representing the league, they’re sharing hoops with the people of Manila on a non-stop adventure.

Sunday afternoon six BlazerDancers—Eri, Rea, Michelle, Stephanie, Kimberly and CaMicha—accompanied by Performance Teams Manager Michelle Woodard began their journey and hopped a 16-hour flight bound for the Philippines.

Day one saw the tour grind to a halt before even starting. What was supposed to be a well-oiled itinerary was thrown asunder by a visit from Typhoon Nesat. Racing winds coupled with drenching rains resulted in the cancellation of NBA Madness plans for the day.

A day later, after the storm cleared, activities resumed at a break-neck pace. St. Dominic College of Asia played host to the opening events of day two. Drexler instructed eager students at a hoops clinic and the BlazerDancers taught a routine during their time on stage.

Woodard called the enthusiasm at St. Dominic’s the highlight of the day. “It was the most incredible, overwhelmingly fun experience I think for any of us,” Woodard said. “We were shocked at how enthusiastic the kids were. It was insanity. They were excited before people got there and then they sustained that energy for two hours.”

With NBA mania in full swing in Manila the BlazerDancers moved into a third day jam-packed with events. BlazerDancer Eri engaged in a very special experience. Of Japanese descent, and fluent in the language, she held an interview with TV WOWOW of Tokyo and graciously posed for a small photo shoot—sure to result with her being marketed in Japan. The media session was followed by another school assembly and the NBA Madness crew rounded out the day at a pop-a-shot challenge hosted by Coors Light.

Reception for the NBA ambassadors has been through the roof. “They’re just excited about the NBA period. There have been some really good emcees so they get the crowd going and really amped up and we’ve been told everywhere that the Philippines, surprisingly, are huge basketball fans overall,” said Woodard.

As the NBA Madness marquee event draws nearer Drexler, the BlazerDancers and the Magic Dance team continue to promote the sport to an enthusiastic fan base halfway around the world.

Stay tuned for more from Clyde Drexler and the BlazerDancers at NBA Madness!

NBA Madness Stops in the Philippines

The NBA Madness 2011 tour stopped in Manilla this week to bring a dash of excitement to local fans. The tour is a traveling event that features famous NBA alumni, dance teams, the league’s outreach programs, and of course lots of basketball. This year the Portland Trail Blazers BlazerDancers and Orlando Magic Dancers are part of the fun.

Click here or here for photos.

BlazerDancers at the Pro Action Dance Intensive in Las Vegas

Portland TrailBlazers

[Watch the Video]

[photo gallery]

BlazerDancers Michelle and Veronica along with Performance Teams Manager Michelle attended the 2011 Pro Action Dance Intensive at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. The conference brings together dancers from many pro teams such as the Celtics, Kings, 76’ers, Hawks and Nuggets as well as strong college dance programs like Ball State, USC and of course University of Oregon to name a few.

Dancers learned routines to songs like Sandman, Born This Way, Vertigo, Shake Senora and We Got The Beat with talented and renowned choreographers Mina Ortega, Tony Gonzales, Marina Ortega, Andy Vaca, John Peters and Shandon Kolberg. We were able to learn some really fantastic routines that we’ll be able to teach our teammates next month when practices begin.

We can’t wait to share our new routines with the fans in the Rose Garden!

2011-12 BlazerDancers Announced

After weeks of tryouts and competition, 16 dancers became the 2011-12 Portland Trail Blazers’ BlazerDancers today.

In order to claim one of the coveted 16 spots on the 24th edition of the BlazerDancers, hopefuls had to go through a rigorous audition schedule that began July 9, at the Trail Blazers Practice Facility in Tualatin. Dancers were taught and judged on three different routines. Those that survived the cuts made it into the finals, and were joined on Sunday by any dancer that was on last year’s team and wished to reclaim her spot. All 16 spots are up for grabs, and while last years dancers get a bye into the finals, even those hoping to return for another season have to compete and earn their spot.

“We had one of our strongest groups in a long time this year, so the competition was very intense,” said Trail Blazers Performance Teams Manager Michelle Woodard. “It’s been a long process, and we are excited to announce to our fans who made the cut tonight on Courtside.”

All 36 finalists performed the three routines that they learned the previous weekend at the Winningstad Theater. In addition to the three group routines, all finalists were required to choreograph a one-minute solo routine and perform an unexpected 30-second “Hot Time Out” routine at the end of the day. As if that wasn’t enough, finalists who weren’t on the team last year were required to have an interview with members of the front office staff to ensure that those selected are great representatives of the Trail Blazers organization both on and off the court.

2011-12 BlazerDancer Team Announced

Source: Portland Trailblazers

[Photo Gallery]

[Videos]

After weeks of tryouts and competition, 16 dancers will become the 2011-12 Portland Trail Blazers’ BlazerDancers today, announced live on Courtside tonight at 6 p.m., and on Trailblazers.com shortly thereafter.

Their first public appearance will be tomorrow, Tuesday, July 19, on KGW’s Live @ 7 show with Stephanie Stricklen.

In order to claim one of the coveted 16 spots on the 24th edition of the BlazerDancers, hopefuls had to go through a rigorous audition schedule that began July 9, at the Trail Blazers Practice Facility in Tualatin. Dancers were taught and judged on three different routines. Those that survived the cuts made it into the finals, and were joined on Sunday by any dancer that was on last year’s team and wished to reclaim her spot. All 16 spots are up for grabs, and while last years dancers get a bye into the finals, even those hoping to return for another season have to compete and earn their spot.

“We had one of our strongest groups in a long time this year, so the competition was very intense,” said Trail Blazers Performance Teams Manager Michelle Woodard. “It’s been a long process, and we are excited to announce to our fans who made the cut tonight on Courtside.”

All 36 finalists performed the three routines that they learned the previous weekend at the Winningstad Theater. In addition to the three group routines, all finalists were required to choreograph a one-minute solo routine and perform an unexpected 30-second “Hot Time Out” routine at the end of the day. As if that wasn’t enough, finalists who weren’t on the team last year were required to have an interview with members of the front office staff to ensure that those selected are great representatives of the Trail Blazers organization both on and off the court.

Recognized as one of the top dance teams in the NBA, the BlazerDancers engage fans and perform exciting routines at every Trail Blazers home game. The BlazerDancers also make countless charitable and promotional appearances throughout the greater Portland area and have historically been asked to represent the Trail Blazers and the NBA overseas in China.