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Dancers Lead Cheers for Fans of the OC Gladiators

By Lois Evezich
Orange County Register

They’re not cheerleaders, they’re dancers. That’s what members of the Goddesses are, young women who love to dance and enjoy leading fans as they root for the local semi-pro basketball team, the Orange County Gladiators.

The dance team boasts years of experience in competitive dance, but there’s more to each girl than being in the limelight. Each is currently in college or has a degree, or is working already in business. There’s no real paycheck, but there are perks, said Jessica Decille.

“We get free tanning and hair,” she said. “The Tribeca Salon does our makeup, unless we do it ourselves, and the team pays for our uniforms.


“We’re not cheerleaders,” she adds. “Cheerleaders tumble. We’re dancers.”

Decille is taking classes at Saddleback College in food, nutrition and dietetics, she said, and plans to transfer to California State University Long Beach.

Lindsay Hofstatter is a freshman at Chapman University and is majoring in communicative disorders. She loves performing and is on the dance team at Chapman.

Naina Venkatesh is studying kinesiology and public health. “I love dancing, and would love to dance with NBA and NFL teams, and work as a fitness instructor at 24-Hour Fitness,” she said.

Marissa Domantay is the dance director. This is her second year, and she and Stephanie Manista, assistant director, held the auditions this year.

“We form teams about a month before the season begins,” Manista said. She adds that she works as a marketing manager and has an MBA from the University of Southern California.

About 20 girls tried out for the Goddesses this year.

Family fun starts when the game begins and the stands start filling up. Basketball players warm up and begin play while the Goddesses entertain with short routines along the sidelines, and children climb all over the bleachers. During time-outs, the girls perform longer dance numbers in synch.

Tracie Griffin is a mom of a 2- and a 3-year-old and loves to dance. Her mom watches the children when she dances with the team. She’s a professional dance instructor at the Endeavor Dance School in Costa Mesa and at the Zone Dance Center in Rancho Santa Margarita, and said she enjoys her Sundays with the Gladiators.

Lindsay Smith has a lot of experience dancing for fans of sports teams. She lives in San Diego and has danced with the local semi-pro basketball team there, the San Diego Wildcats. She’s been with the NBA B-team in Anaheim, the Arsenal, and with a hockey team in San Diego. She works with a footwear company in Aliso Viejo.

During time-outs and half time there’s a lot of action on the floor. Sharon de Jean-Murray is the events coordinator for the team and promotes free-throw contests with kids and tosses Gladiator caps and shirts into the fans in the bleachers, all for fun.

But that’s not why Fred Kingdon and his wife Terryll Carpenter come to the games. They’ve had season tickets two years in a row.

“I wanted to be the first to buy season tickets because I wanted to support the team,” Kingdon said. At over 6 feet, Kingdon played basketball in high school and now likes to bring his grandson, who is only 2, to the games.

Four-year-old Kiana Kaminski also wants to play. She climbed into the basketball cage and brought out a ball bigger than herself, and looks like she’s ready for the big leagues.

[OC Goddesses Dance Team]

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