by Kerry Eggers
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.”
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.