When you need to provide the best people in a moments notice, you call on your “A-Team.” So on March 22nd, after the New Orleans Hornets hosted the Dallas Mavericks, Honeybee Director Ashley Deaton gave me the wonderful opportunity to speak to two Honeybees. She called on her own personal “A-Team,” Honeybees Ashlie and Amy, to fill the bill. Director Ashley is a big fan of these two members of her squad, and for good reason.
Ashlie is in her second season on the squad and Amy is a rookie. I wondered what was more nerve-wracking, their first try-out or their first game. Amy immediately replied it was the first try-out, because “No one knew who I was. It is your first impression.” Amy made the squad on her first time trying-out, and, rather than nerve-wracking, found her first game to be really exciting.
Rather than first try-out or first game, Ashlie wanted to add a third option to my multiple choice question. “The second try-out was more nerve wracking,” explained Ashlie. “We had a lot of good girls come in this past year. So there were so many good girls to choose from, it was scary.” Ashlie’s second year anxiety was escalated by an unexpected change in the selection process compared to the previous season’s selection of twenty Honeybees. “They announced the twenty girls, and they hadn’t said that they had chosen twenty-four,” recalled Ashlie. “Well, I was one of the girls not called yet, so I thought I was going home.” But as the announcements continued, Ashlie found out she made it!
I asked the veteran and the rookie what advice they would give to someone trying out for a pro dance squad for the first time. Amy advised, “Just be confident,” and Ashlie added, “Have a lot of personality. Have fun. That’s the main thing, you have to enjoy it.” Amy added “That is what they are looking for. We are entertainers. If you miss a step, make up for that with personality.“
Even though they work hard to make it look easy on the court, with thousands of pairs of eyes watching them during games, there must be embarrassing moments that might arise during Honeybee careers. For rookie Amy, her moments occurred before she was officially a Honeybee. “At each audition, I missed a few steps,” volunteered Amy, “I was so nervous!” So far for Amy, nothing embarrassing during the games, “Not yet, thank goodness. I am glad I got it out of the way during the auditions.”
Ashlie’s longer tenure has provided more memories. Ashlie noted, “I’ve had a few embarrassing moments at the games,” to which Amy laughingly interjected, “You’ve had some good ones.” Ashlie recalled one event that stood out, “During Honeybee Olympics, we did the wheelbarrow race across the court.” Ashlie played the role of wheelbarrow, and “my partner was going too fast for my hands because I was crawling. I slid across the court on my face. That was real nice.”
Certainly, these two “got game” when it comes to dancing, but how about their hoops prowess? I am a big UCLA fan, so I am very glad to see Hornets rookie point guard Darren Collision emerge during Chris Paul’s absence. I asked Ashlie and Amy what part of their game is most like Darren’s (speed, shooting, steals?). Both ponder, and Ashlie contributes, “My ability to steal the ball, and to do an alley oop.” Amy offers, “I don’t know how accurate I am in the shooting, but I am pretty fast. He has quick feet.” Come to think of it, I think Darren and his quick feet might me a nice addition to some of the Honeybee routines, when the Hornets have the game in hand, of course.
Amy has lived in New Orleans for two years, moving from Georgia when her boyfriend moved to the area. Amy added, “New Orleans has always been a fun place for me. I have friends here, so it wasn’t a hard move.” Ashlie was born and raised in New Orleans. I asked about how Katrina affected her, and Ashlie recounted, “We had three feet of water in my house, and we moved from New Orleans to the other side of the lake. It was tough, but we made it.”
As an Indianapolis resident, this trip to New Orleans reminded me of the recent Super Bowl that made my city a different shade of blue for some days afterward, but justifiably electrified the home city of the Saints. Super Bowl Sunday for Amy “was awesome.” She added, “I was in the (French) Quarter. I thought, I can’t be at home, I want to be in the middle of it. It was overwhelming! We were high fiving people we didn’t know, younger people, older people. High fiving down the street, it was awesome!” Ashlie remembered the throngs of people, “I was with every New Orleans Saints fan on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter.” For Ashlie, the Monday after the Super Bowl was “unreal.” Amy added, “Nobody went to work. Nobody went to school. Actually, people started Thursday and Friday; I think some missed a lot of days, not just the Monday, in ‘preparation.’”
So, on this third day of my first trip to New Orleans, I had one personal challenge left. The city had won me over: the friendliest people from the minute I stepped off the plane, food that can make your knees buckle in ecstasy, and enough fun that I went right to monster.com to look for local jobs. But I wanted to pronounce the city’s name like a local, not like the lifelong Midwesterner I am. I asked Ashlie to rate my pronunciation of “New Orleans” from one to ten. Ashlie graded me, “I’ll give you about a seven. You’re a little off on the Orleans part. It needs to be one big word. It’s all jumbled together.” Amy advised, “Just spit it out.” Unlike the often written ‘N’awlins,’ I sensed more ‘New’ than ‘Nuh’ in Ashlie’s pronunciation. On about my attempt number six, Ashlie exclaimed, “Yes! That was it! That was perfect, that was a ten!”
Well, for me, the opportunity to speak with Ashlie and Amy definitely went to “eleven.” They are beautiful, talented, personable, and as sweet as a Honeybee should be. I asked to take some photos, and they apologized that their post-game look may not be optimal. I think most of us would spend 48 hours straight prepping for photos and still come way short of a Honeybee after a couple hours of dancing. Best of luck Ashlie and Amy on the remainder of the season, and many thanks for your time and dedication!