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.

BlazerDancers Auditions: A Two-Day Road To The Finals

Sara Hecht
Trailblazers.com
July 11, 2011

The line outside the Trail Blazers practice facility wrapped around the parking lot. Sixty-nine new hopefuls for the 2011-2012 BlazerDancers were taking deep breaths to calm their nerves before entering the gym to participate in a grueling audition process for the major professional dance squad in the Rose City.

Day one was nine solid hours of learning choreography, practicing and performing for the judges. Three rounds of cuts narrowed the field as the day progressed. The first round, a technique routine, eased the girls into the speed of the day. The second round upped the ante in difficulty and the third round, an actual routine performed by BlazerDancers this season, pushed the girls even further.

The women fighting through the process, faced an extreme version of what many of them know as dancers. As athletes they experience tough workouts, fatigue and injuries. Band-aids and ice all made appearances on this day. The strength and endurance they’ve built over their tenures as artists were put to the test.

The audition process isn’t just a physical battle, but a mental one as well. For BlazerDancers, being an ambassador and performer for the organization isn’t their only job.

The search for BlazerDancers is an extensive process, and rightly so. Todd Bosma, Director of Game Operations, described a typical game day for a BlazerDancer, “You get to your real job, you do that from 9 to 4:30 or so and if you’re a BlazerDancer you come to the arena and then you start getting ready to be a dancer, that’s a long day. So you have to be physically able to handle that and then mentally you’re performing in front of 20,00 fans. I think the audition process is a good way for us to start seeing who physically and mentally can handle being out there.”

The search for BlazerDancers is an extensive process, and rightly so.

The next day the 25 girls who survived day one were joined by the 11 BlazerDancers veterans returning to audition for their spots on the team for the 2011-2012 season. There are no guarantees for the veterans, they have to earn their titles just like everyone else.

Looking forward, the finalists face a round of interviews and a final performance of the the three routines they learned on day two, as well as a solo of their own making.

After that… the promised land and a season spent as a BlazerDancer.

See the photo gallery of BlazerDancers auditions.

Tigard’s Stephanie Anderson is now a Blazer Dancer

By Mikel Kelly
The Tigard Times

stephblazAs odd as it may sound, Stephanie Anderson quit her full-time job as a development assistant in university advancement at Southern California’s Chapman University just to try for a hard-to-get, part-time position in Portland.

A member of Tigard High School’s class of 2005, Anderson was recently named one of the 16 new BlazerDancers, following a rigorous July audition process that drew 11 existing members of the dance team along with 77 new hopefuls.

“The BlazerDancers is something I wanted to do for a long time,” said Anderson, whose resume lists dance training and experience at Chapman, with the Tigerettes dance team in high school, with the Junior Blazer Dancers and early years at the Westside Dance Academy in Tigard. “I felt I would have kicked myself if I didn’t try out this year. It was very hard to leave California, but I knew it was worth it.”

Anderson is now one of four women on the Blazers dance team with Tigard backgrounds. The others are Cristi Bitz, Leisel Stohr and Eri Janagawa.

What is it about Tigard that seems to inspire (not to mention actually qualify) young women to become a BlazerDancer?

Anderson couldn’t help but laugh about that, but then she gave it some thought because it had obviously crossed her mind.

“We all have some background in dance training at Westside Dance Academy,” she said. “And we were all on the Tigerettes.

“Tigard has groomed us well for being on a dance team,” she added.

The daughter of Steve and Mary Ann Anderson of Tigard, Stephanie graduated from the Conservatory of Music at Chapman in 2009. Although she’s always pursued dance, she also sings and acts.

“I just love to perform” she said. “It’s such an adrenaline rush.”

And the Rose Garden crowds for Trail Blazer games are big, loud and appreciative, she pointed out.

Being a BlazerDancer is not a full-time gig.

“We do get paid minimally for games and appearances,” she said. “It is definitely a part-time job.”

But it was not an easy one to get.

On the second day of tryouts, the field of hopefuls was cut down to 33 finalists – still more than twice as many as needed.

“The finalists spent the next week going through interviews with Trail Blazers representatives,” according to the team’s website, “practicing the three finals routines that they learned and creating a solo routine to perform at the finals.

“When the dancers arrived for the finals at the Winningstad Theater in Portland’s Center for the Performing Arts, they were surprised with an additional dance to perform and only one hour to prepare for it. Luckily, this was a free-style ‘hot time-out’ dance that didn’t require any choreography, but instead was meant to showcase the dancers’ personalities and their ability to have fun and play to the crowd.”

After they’d performed five routines, the dancers’ scores were tallied by the judges, and the audition process was over. Then they had to wait 24 hours to find out whether they had made the team.

“It was very intense,” Anderson said of the audition process. “You had to come ready – and I did feel ready.”

The “hot time-out” portion was unexpected, she said.

“That was a surprise, but you just kind of had to go for it,” she said. “You just think, ‘Oh, well, I’ve got nothing to lose,’ so you just go out there and do it.”

Meanwhile, she’s looking for other ways to keep busy, “whether it will be at the Rose Garden with BlazerDancers – hopefully for many seasons! – or on the theater stage while also keeping up with singing.”

“I love teaching and hope to pass along this love to young children,” she said. “I enjoy teaching dance classes and also choreographing for various dance teams and studios. I plan on helping a couple of dance teams around the area this next year with choreography.

Other long-term goals, she said, include working in a Portland-area university “on the administrative side.”

So, even though she’s technically only working part-time, Anderson is on a high right now.

“This is a huge deal,” she said. “I don’t know how I can fully express how excited I am.”

On 5th try, Vancouver woman earns spot on Blazer Dancers

2010-blazers-audition_1By Erin Middlewood
Staff Reporter
The Columbian
August 20, 2010

Amanda Greger almost gave up.

She had auditioned four times for the Portland Trail Blazers’ dance team.

“After I didn’t make it last year, I thought maybe dancing wasn’t my thing,” said Greger, a 22-year-old Vancouver resident.

Before calling it quits, she decided to ask judges for their feedback.

“They said I’m a good dancer, but I’d be a better candidate if I was more fit,” she said.

She hired a personal trainer at 24 Hour Fitness in January. When he asked her about her fitness goals, she got straight to the point: “I want to be a BlazerDancer.”

“I wasn’t huge,” she said. “I just wasn’t toned. The trainer’s term was ‘soft.’”

She started lifting weights. She replaced the cereal she was eating for nearly every meal with oatmeal, chicken, veggies and protein shakes. In July, 15 pounds lighter and toned, she returned to audition yet again.

This time, she made it.

Greger traces her passion for dancing to her freshman year at Heritage High School, when she tried out for the dance team.

“I don’t know how I made it,” she said with a laugh. “I was really bad.”

But she stuck with it. After graduating in 2006, she attended the International Air Academy and scored a job based in Seattle with Continental Airlines. She was hit by a car when she was in Cleveland for training. The accident injured her shoulder, and she came home to Vancouver.

Then she got a job with a bank, and decided to return to dancing in her spare time. She joined Groove Nation Academy. She landed a gig dancing for the Vancouver Volcanoes in 2007, and the Portland Winterhawks in 2009.

But she always had her sights set on becoming a BlazerDancer.

2010-blazers-audition_2

It’s not uncommon for aspirants to try out for the team several times, said Michelle Woodard, the Blazers’ performance teams manager, adding that she thinks Greger may have set a record.

“I think coming back five times is pretty unique,” Woodard said. “The audition process is very grueling. You have to be very physically fit.”

The preliminaries include three rounds of cuts in two days. Aspirants learn a new routine for each round.

“It’s stressful,” Woodard said. “You have to learn quickly.”

Judges seek strong dance skills, but not a cookie-cutter look, Woodard said. In fact, the team strives to have dancers look different from each other, but they all have a certain presence, she said.

“They all have an ‘it’ factor, a ‘look-at-me factor,’” she said.

Greger is thrilled judges decided she has what it takes to be a BlazerDancer. In her struggle to make the team, she has drawn inspiration from her roommate, 23-year-old Michelle Johnson, who became a BlazerDancer last year.

“Living with her and knowing she made it was so motivating for me,” she said.

Greger plans to continue taking classes at Clark College and working part time. BlazerDancers earn minimum wage for two 5-hour practices a week and games, and $75 an hour for publicity appearances.

She will have to audition again to keep her spot on the team next year, but she’s already planning on it.

“I want to dance for the Blazers as long as my body will take it.”

2010-11 BlazerDancer Team Announced

blazerdancers-2010-11

Portland Trailblazers
7/20/2010

Congratulations to the 2010-2011 BlazerDancers! The sixteen dancers who make up the squad were chosen from thirty three finalists who have been auditioning for the past week to make the team.

The audition process started with a weekend of preliminary rounds where dancers learned and performed three routines for judges with cuts being made after each routine. Judges included Trail Blazers representatives, professionals from the dance community, former BlazerDancers, journalists and fans. The judges were looking for well-rounded performers to represent the Trail Blazers organization.

By the second day, the field was cut down to 33 finalists, including eleven returning BlazerDancers who were all competing for one of the 16 spots. The finalists spent the next week going through interviews with Trail Blazers representatives, practicing the 3 finals routines that they learned, and creating a solo routine to perform at the finals. When the dancers arrived for the finals at the Winningstad Theater in Portland’s Center for the Performing Arts, they were surprised with an additional dance to perform and only one hour to prepare for it. Luckily, this was a free-style “hot time-out” dance that didn’t require any choreography, but instead was meant to showcase the dancers’ personalities and their ability to have fun and play to the crowd.

After performing five routines, the judges’ scores were tallied and the audition process was over. Unfortunately for the dancers, they had to wait 24 hours to find out whether they had made the team. The next day, each dancer came to the Rose Garden and found out individually if she had made the final cut by finding a BlazerDancer uniform in her locker. Once a dancer got the good news, she joined the rest of her excited teammates.

This season’s squad includes eleven returning dancers, two dancers who were on the team in previous years, and three rookies. The Trail Blazers are happy and proud to introduce you to a group of young women the fans will come to know very well. [Photo Page #1] [Photo Page #2]

Blazer dancer tryouts: More than meets the eye, and not easy to judge

By Kerry Eggers
The Portland Tribune
Jul 20, 2010

When I was asked to judge tryouts for the Trail Blazers’ dance squad for the first time this year, it wasn’t one of those decisions you wrestle with for the longest time.

It’s a rough job, for sure, but somebody has to do it.

My dance expertise fizzled out years ago on the disco floor, but I have spent the past 15 years watching the Blazer dancers do their thing at the Rose Garden.

I figure I’m as qualified as anyone to cast a vote in the selection process of 16 women to dance at the team’s 41 home games next season.

I saw a lot of strong candidates during Sunday’s finals in the Winningstad Theatre at the Portland Center for the Performing Arts.

There were 33 finalists who went through five routines, spanning nearly four hours before a packed house in a performance that was televised and will be used as an eight-episode reality series on Comcast SportsNet later this summer.

Several of the 11 judges who sat in the balcony Sunday hold significant dance experience. A few of us did not. That didn’t faze Todd Bosma, the Blazers’ director of game operations, or Michelle Woodard, the Blazers’ performance teams manager.

Bosma sought a panel of judges who represent a cross-section of the fans who cram the Rose Garden every night and watch the dancers perform. In his instructions to the judges, Bosma offered this: “If you’re not a technical dancer, don’t try to judge on technique. Judge on what you think is important. Just be consistent. Whatever you see in dancer No. 1, look for the same in dancer No. 33. Score what you see.”

Of course, technique and dancing ability matter. So does appearance, at least to me and a majority of the males who cast an interested eye on the dance squad during Blazer games.

But there’s more to it than that. Bosma and Woodard are looking for “the best overall representatives of the Trail Blazer organization,” he said.

“They’re not just dancers, they’re ambassadors,” Bosma said. “We send them out for appearances all throughout the year. We ask them to promote our brand and our team and our organization.”

It doesn’t hurt to have a little charisma and some personality in front of a crowd.

“The ladies on the team work really hard at what they do,” Woodard says. “They’re excellent athletes and dancers and performers. You don’t make it because you’re cute. They just happen to be cute as well as talented.”

The judges’ votes mattered, but not ultimately. Bosma, Woodward and other Blazer representatives met with the 33 finalists earlier in the week for interviews that were graded and figured into the overall selection process. Our votes figured into the formula that decided the winners, but the Blazer reps had the final say.

The tryouts began a week earlier, with 77 women performing during preliminary sessions at Portland State’s Stott Center. I attended one of the sessions, and while I respect those with the courage to get out there and try, some of them weren’t qualified to be a member of the dance team.

I can’t say the same for the finalists – 22 from the tryouts, joined by 11 from the 2009-10 team who gained an automatic pass to Sunday’s show. Every one of them was good enough to become a member of the Blazer dancers.

“That’s true,” agreed Mark Mason, the KEX (1190 AM) disc jockey who doubles as the Blazers’ public-address announcer and has judged dance-team tryouts for many years. “But you have to pick the best of the best.”

Mason said he was looking for “the wholesome look, the girl next door.”

“That’s the kind I enjoy watching,” he said. “I try to imagine them dancing in a Blazer dancer uniform. How they look, their eye contact, if they engage the audience. You have to communicate with the dance. It comes from their pores. They love dance that much.”

I didn’t have any real pre-set criteria. I’m not sure what all goes into making for a good Blazer dancer, but I think I know one when I see one.

The tryouts are open by design, and the television coverage adds a transparency to the process.

“We want people to know how we do it, that we’re fair to everyone who is trying out,” Bosma says.

The 11 returning dancers weren’t identified to the judges or the audience. Mason and I agreed that we recognized some, but not all, of the returnees.

“We don’t stack the odds in their favor,” Woodard says. “A lot of the judges don’t know any of the girls on last year’s team. The one advantage (for returnees) is they know what’s expected of them. Someone new maybe doesn’t quite know how to perform. But it’s what you do out there that counts.”

I should say here, there were no bribes offered to the judges by the competitors. Or if there were, I was excluded from the gratis list.

Judges were asked to score, from 1 to 10, each of the dancers’ five routines – three in small groups, a fourth solo and a fifth “hot timeout” number they were told of only an hour before Sunday’s show.

Nobody was out of sorts Sunday. Voting is very subjective. One judge’s taste doesn’t necessarily match another’s. It struck me that Bosma, Woodward and company had some tough decisions to make.

“I don’t sleep this week,” Woodward said. “I worry about getting it right. Judges’ scores help guide us to the final decision, but I went home Sunday night and didn’t have 16 girls on the team in my mind. There were more than 16 who could do a good job.”

On Monday night, Bosma and Woodward gathered 31 of the 33 finalists (two couldn’t make it) at the Rose Garden. With the TV cameras rolling, they entered the Blazers’ locker room, where name plates for the 16 winners were set up.

All 11 returnees made next year’s team. So did the two with previous Blazer dance team experience but weren’t members of last year’s squad. There were three new dancers who made it, including one who was trying out for the fifth straight year.

The survivors returned to bedlam in what Bosma calls “the Happy Room” in the Courtside Lounge to sign an agreement to work next season.

“There was so much screaming and yelling, I felt like I was at an American Idol concert,” Bosma said.

For those who didn’t make it, it wasn’t quite like that.

“There were tears on both sides,” Bosma said. “The happy tears are fun to see. The ones who don’t make it, those tears I completely understand, too. I respect every single girl who tried out.”

I do, too. They had a lot of guts to get out there and perform in front of a big crowd and a TV audience. They put a lot of work into preparing for the routines. I’m sure many of the ones who didn’t make it were crushed.

For the ones who did, exciting times are ahead.

“We have a couple of appearances scheduled for this weekend,” Bosma said. “The (2010-11) season will be here before we know it. This past week was hard, but now the real hard work happens.”

As for the judges, we take a ribbing for doing something a lot of guys would kill for.

“I’m pretty proud that I get to do this,” Mason offered. “If anybody razzes me, deep inside, they’re jealous.”

BlazerDancer Auditions Electrify Portland

reacristiSandra Colton
Oregon Live
July 14, 2010

Performing on an NBA dance team is a great opportunity for dancers to work professionally in Portland. Ever wonder what it’s like to audition for the NBA’s Portland BlazerDancers? With the next level comes a responsibility as well. Do you have what it takes to make the 16-girl roster?

I had a chance to talk with some BlazerDancer hopefuls and the Director of the BlazerDancers, Michelle Woodard. Michelle said she and the judges are looking for technique and great performers at the auditions for prospective BlazerDancer team members. Fans rule in the Rose City. “We have over 20,000 fans,” said Michelle. “We want people you can see moving in a crowd and who are really enthusiastic and show a lot of energy and excitement.”

I asked this former BlazerDancer, and now BlazerDancer Director, what girls who want to tryout next year should do to prepare for the audition. Michelle advises dancers to “start preparing early, don’t let the auditions be the first time you’ve danced. If you want it really badly, you have to work toward it. It is not like high school dance team. You need to take adult jazz classes where you’re learning how to move your body a different way. Look at any professional dance team Web site and do your research. Look at the Blazers Web site. Find out what the current members look like. How are they wearing their hair? How do they do their makeup? And come looking like that to the auditions vs. coming in your workout clothes with your hair in a ponytail.”

I also sat down with three BlazerDancer hopefuls: Rea, Cristi and Stephanie.

My first question was for Rea who jokingly said that she is auditioning for the BlazerDancers because she can’t play basketball. A four year member of the BlazerDancers (2006-2010), Rea said, “It’s completely different every year. During the years I’ve been on the team, there have been at least 5 new people on it every year.”

Cristi is auditioning for the third time and has been a BlazerDancer for 2 years. She was excited about the audition process and said, “The most fun I’ve had performing at a game is during overtime because the crowd gets really hot and it makes it all worth while. And of course during the playoffs as well.”

The audition process can be grueling and from what I’ve heard, the auditioning dancers have learned six routines and are in the interview process heading into the final round. Cristi adds, “The most nerve wracking part of auditions is knowing that you have standards set for yourself and so you want to make sure that the one time that you get to do it out on the floor is your best time. You have all all week to practice and only one chance to do each routine on the floor.”

I was also interested to talk to Stephanie who told me it was her first time trying out for the team. I wanted to know what it was like for someone who had never been through the BlazerDancers auditions before and she said, “It has been thrilling, exciting and sweaty! It is really intense but really rewarding. As a new person, there are three cuts before you make it to the finals, so it’s stressful to go through all of that.”

Advice Stephanie would lend to dancers who haven’t been through the process before would be “to come ready and prepared to dance all day. Bring your all, your best, your A-game. You’re there because you want to dance. You’re there because you want to be on the team. So just show that when you go out and perform. Have fun also, because I think that is what has gotten me through so far. You can stress over each little routine between each cut, but once you go perform it for the judges, that’s out the door. Just smile and have a great time.”

I asked Michelle Woodard (BlazerDancer Director) about how many new people make the team and the number of veterans who also make the cut. Michelle stated, “It’s an exciting time of year and a stressful time as well. It is just a lot to make sure you have a great team put together, the right mix of girls who look good performing together and get along well with one another. It is a long season, it gets quite busy and there are periods of time where we see each other every day. We try to get it right. We do want our returners to come back. That really contributes to us having a good team. We also want to have really strong, positive and energetic rookies because they re-energize everybody with their excitement to be on the team. I’m excited for both.”

All three ladies above were raised in Oregon, (Rea in Hillsboro, Ore. and Cristi & Stephanie in Tigard, Ore.) One thing is for sure, all three dancers are ready to bring it to the finals. Selected dancers for the 2010-2011 season will be announced via the Comcast SportsNet NW reality show. Michelle said, “We bring all of the finalists into the Rose Garden. They are then gathered into one of the team locker rooms and then one by one they go in to find out if they have made the team. So it is a visual reveal on television and at the end of the night we’ll all be together as a group for the first time.”

Practice starts in mid-August for the new team. I want to wish them all luck and will showcase the new team photo once they are announced.

SI Gallery Update – NBA

Click here to check out the NBA Playoff dancers on SportsIllustrated.com!
si-nba-2009_magic2

Former BlazerDancer Builds Powerhouse Dance Team

By Sandra Colton
Dance Spirit Magazine

blaz1When talking with dancers, I’ve been known to say, “Make your mark, don’t just stand on it!” Allow me to introduce you to a dancer who made her mark and is staking her claim in the world of dance: Sara Anderson is the coach of the Lincoln High School Dance Team in Portland, OR. The Cardinal ladies under Sara’s direction are the proud champions of the 2010 Oregon State Dance Team Championship. Sara began dancing at age six, danced on the Rex Putnam High School Dance Team and performed as a BlazerDancer for the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers for four years. Committed to the community and her passion for dance, Sara interviewed for the dance team coach position at Lincoln High School, and 13 years later she says, “The rest is history.” History is right. Sara and the Cardinals Dance Team have won eight Oregon State Dance Team titles!

Sara is also the owner of Elite Dance Studio (which has been open for seven years), co-coach of the Junior BlazerDancers for the last six years and coordinates competitive teams outside of the studio along with the Cardinals Dance Team. I sat down with Sara to learn about some of the challenges and positives aspects she finds while coaching the team and how she has time to do it all.

“My biggest personal challenge is juggling my schedule,” she says. “Between my own family with two kids ages 7 and 4, my demands at the studio and the studio competitive teams schedule, as well as coaching the Junior BlazerDancers, and our rehearsal schedule at Lincoln… Whew… Everyday is a busy one! Thank goodness I’m surrounded by wonderful, helpful and supportive people. There are so many positive aspects I love about coaching. The sense of accomplishment and pride I get when I watch the dancers perform. I love watching them grow not only has dancers but as young women. I am still very close with many of the girls that have gone through my program over the years.”

Sara believes that as a coach you have to “lead by example and bring a strong work ethic and dedication for the program. A united team is a successful team,” she says. Sara creates a positive atmosphere for the girls and says, “We take time for team bonding and do fun activities outside of practice, like bowling, movie nights and team dinners. I remind the dancers we are all here for the same reason, with the same goals. I always try to finish every rehearsal on a positive note. Keeping your dancers inspired and motivated is important not only for the teams’ success but for the overall experience the dancers have in your program. Our team is rich with traditions and the dancers love that! Most importantly, help them believe in themselves, their teammates and their dance.”

After winning eight dance team titles (2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010), Sara emphasizes that “your dancers will take cues from you about how to respond after a big win or an upsetting loss. We talk about winning and losing gracefully and we talk about respecting what the judges say and the scores we receive. If we are happy with our performance then we graciously accept the outcome. We talk about the will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win.”

With more than 30 dancers on her team, the audition process can be competitive. Sara suggests that dancers “do their research before auditions. It is always good to come into an audition well trained, but some of my best dancers have started their training later in life. It is all about how bad you want something. If I select a dancer who shows raw potential, I will encourage them to get outside training as well as provide them with more guidance during rehearsals. Before auditions I always remind the dancers to show me how much they love to dance when they hit the stage. I say, ‘I can fix your feet, but I cannot fix your attitude…passion comes from inside!’”

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The 2010 Oregon State Dance Team Champions are the Lincoln High School Cardinals consisting of members Alaina, Ali, Alyssa, Amanda, Andrea, Ashley, Aubree, Caroline, Casey, Cassidy, Catalina, Clare, Dorie, Emma, Eri, Hannah, Judy, Kayla, Kristy, Lexi, Lyndsey, Mackenzie, Maddie, Maddy, Maggie, Malia, McKenzie F, Mckenzie T, Natalie G, Natalie M, Rachael, Serena and Shaina. (Head Coach Sara Anderson, Assistant Coach Shelly Misevch and Team Manager Phyllis Zeck). Congratulations, ladies!

[Elite Dance Studio]