Twenty-Five Years Ago, the Chicago Honey Bears Rode Off Into the Super Bowl Sunset: Part I: The Pre-Super Bowl Years, an Interview with Honey Bear Captain Renee Halverson

Renee (top right) during a Honey Bears photo shoot

Twenty-five years ago tomorrow, the Honey Bears, the cheerleaders for the Chicago Bears, cheered officially for the Bears the last time, for Super Bowl XX, January 26th, 1986. So it has been a while since the Honey Bears have cheered on the Soldier Field sidelines. But that does not stop the former Honey Bears from still getting together and cheering! For instance, Honey Bear Renee Halverson attended the Miss USA pageant last year with some of her squad mates to cheer on one of the contestants, who is the daughter of one of her Honey Bear sisters. But before we skip ahead to 2010, let’s go back to 1976.

Based on the success and popularity of squads like the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, many NFL teams added cheerleaders to their sidelines that provided a more dance-based, glamorous look than college cheer teams. The Bears owner at that time, George Halas, one of the founders of the NFL, also wanted to add cheerleaders to Bears games. He put General Manager Jim Finks on the case, and a Finks’ friend recommended someone with experience with junior high cheerleaders, Cathy Core, who had recently re-located to Chicago from New Jersey. When the Bears GM called Cathy, she thought it was a joke and hung up. Later, friends interceded and eventually explained, bringing brought Core, Finks, and Halas together. Halas told Core, “As long as I’m alive, we will have dancing girls on the sidelines.” So in 1977, the Honey Bears debuted at Soldier Field, which was also a year that the Bears returned to the playoffs after 14 seasons away from the post-season.

The Honey Bears continued on, but Papa Bear Halas passed away in October 1983. His daughter, Virginia McCaskey gained control of the Bears, and tried to discontinue the Bears association with the Honey Bears. However, the Honey Bears continued to cheer on the Bears because they were under contract through 1985, which also was the only Super Bowl victory season for the Bears. Since Super Bowl XX, the Bears have not had cheerleaders.

Renee was a Honey Bear captain
Renee was a Honey Bear captain

In 1978, in their second year of existence, aspiring actress and professional dancer Renee Halverson made her first Honey Bears squad, the first of three seasons, eventually as one of the captains. Renee was on the sidelines when the Bears needed to win by 34 or more on the last game of the 1979 regular season, coupled with a Redskins loss, to make the playoffs, and the Honey Bears cheered them to a 42-6 victory on a bitterly cold December 16th as the Bears returned to the post-season.

Renee’s Honey Bear journey started a bit north of Chicago, “I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin called Dodgeville.” She began her training by, “Starting dance lessons at the age of four, and I was a cheerleader throughout high school. I am a diehard football fan. My father played football for the Wisconsin Badgers.” So the lines were connected for her interest in the Honey Bears, as Renee says, “I love to dance and cheer AND I loved football.”

Renee tried out in for the 1978 Honey Bears and made the squad on her first attempt, being one of 28 selected from a field of 1,500. Renee recalls her feelings at the Honey Bear auditions as, “Nervous but excited to being trying out. But didn’t think I would make the team.” Renee heard the good news of making the squad long distance, “My roommates in Evanston called me while I was on spring break in Florida. I was VERY surprised!” Most excited in her family, according to Renee, was, “My Dad, even though he was a Packer fan. My parents bought season tickets. They loved it!”

Honey Bears try-outs
Honey Bears try-outs

Remembering her first time on the field as a Honey Bear, Renee recalls, “So much excitement! It was a thrill to be cheering in Soldier Field.” During Renee’s three years of the squad, some of the more interesting moments on the field included, “Walter Payton ripped his pants and they brought him a towel to walk off the field. Also, one of the Honey Bears heel broke off her boot and she had to walk all the way to the locker room with a limp in front of the fans.” The Bears fans loved Renee and the other Honey Bears, even trying to collect some souvenirs, “A few tried to take strands from my pom poms.”

Renee's (second row from the top, far left) first year with the squad, 1978 (click to enlarge)

Continue reading “Twenty-Five Years Ago, the Chicago Honey Bears Rode Off Into the Super Bowl Sunset: Part I: The Pre-Super Bowl Years, an Interview with Honey Bear Captain Renee Halverson”

Sixteen Years, Six Squads, Priceless Experiences: Jeanine Klem-Thomas Takes the Magic Dancers Soaring to New Heights

Jeanine Klem-Thomas (middle left) when the current Magic Dancers squad was selected (click to enlarge)

In any walk of life, it is rare to find someone as welcoming, enthusiastic, positive, efficient, and hospitable as Jeanine Klem-Thomas, Director of the Magic Dancers, the dance squad of the NBA’s Orlando Magic. How nice is Jeanine? Well, in her rookie season as a Magic Dancer, she jumped up and cheered when an opposing team’s player made a great play; that is how nice she is. But more on that later!

Jeanine’s association with the Magic started with the simple wish to dance with a friend for one season. Jeanine remembers, “I had a high school friend who was a Magic Dancer and she was planning to dance one more season with the Magic. With a little prompting, we both decided it could be great to dance another year together if I were to make it, and so I packed my dance bag and headed to Orlando for the audition! I did make the squad the first time I auditioned, which was a whirlwind of a year since my first season was the year after the Magic made it to the NBA Finals for the first time and during the Shaq era! I was hooked from the moment I stepped on-court and sixteen seasons later, I’d suffice to say I’ve found my home!”

Jeanine's first season as a Magic Dancer (middle row, far right)
Jeanine's first season as a Magic Dancer (middle row, far right)

Seeing that one could have a life of dance was a gift that came from Jeanine’s mom. “I have been surrounded by dance since the moment I was born,” Jeanine recalls, “My mother was actually a professional Polynesian/Hawaiian hula dancer, and continued dancing well into her later thirties! I loved nothing more than going to rehearsals and shows with her and now it’s come full circle as my three and a half year old daughter loves coming to rehearsals and games with me. I knew very early that to be truly happy, dance would always need to be part of my life and I’m just thrilled that I’ve been able to make a career doing what I love, very few people can say that!”

Prior to joining the Magic organization, Jeanine attended Florida State University, and was a member of their nationally ranked FSU Golden Girls squad. Jeanine graduated with a degree in Nutrition and Fitness, and soon was headed south to Orlando. Soon after graduation, “I auditioned to become an Orlando Magic Dancer in the summer of ’95, and when I made the team it solidified Orlando as my new home. Little did I know it would be the start of a great long-term career with the Orlando Magic as well!” During this period, Jeanine also taught for NCA Danz for many years traveling around the country teaching dance camps.

Jeanine’s Magic Dancer days are filled with memories, but a few remain especially notable. One shows her still ever-present spirit and enthusiasm, as Jeanine recalls, “In my rookie season, I remember sitting under the baskets and we were playing Chicago. This was while MJ was still playing and having been a long-time Michael Jordan fan, I just couldn’t believe that he was running down the court towards me. He made an incredible play and I jumped up cheering for him only to find my captain yelling at me, ‘Jeanine, that’s the wrong team, sit down.’” She recalls, “I was mortified and thought ‘Oh boy, they’ll never keep me after that,’” Jeanine laughs, injecting, “Still here in my sixteenth season!”

Jeanine with Cris Judd, 2004, at a Dance Workshop in Tampa
Jeanine with Cris Judd, 2004, at a Dance Workshop in Tampa

Continue reading “Sixteen Years, Six Squads, Priceless Experiences: Jeanine Klem-Thomas Takes the Magic Dancers Soaring to New Heights”

Some Like It Hot (well, really just one), But Cool TopCats Kick It Up a Notch

TopCat Chika during the November 7th Panthers-Saints game
TopCat Chika during the November 7th Panthers-Saints game

It was a bright, sunny morning on November 7th in Charlotte. But the fans on their way to the Carolina Panthers game against the Saints had broken out some warmer garments than expected for this time of year. Unseasonably cool temperatures for this region had swept in over the weekend. So, for the TopCats, the cheerleaders for the Panthers, what is preferable, a cool, windy day like this, or a 100 degree day that might be part of the Charlotte’s late summer?

The TopCats were in locations around the stadium area pre-game to meet with fans and sign autographs from 11 am to noon. One area is the “Panther’s Lair,” which also features mascot Sir Purr, music, and entertainment. Sideline Captain Stacey’s line was there signing autographs and greeting fans. All of the TopCats here preferred these cooler temperatures over summer heat, but one hand raised up in a slow but determined fashion to voice her lone opinion; Jeri said, “I’ll take 100 degrees.” Not one of any of the the other TopCats at any of the pre-game locations preferred the heat to that days’ chill, but one could tell that Jeri wouldn’t mind tropical temperatures, even for three hours of dancing, all year long.

TopCats Jeri (left) longs for summer, while Stacey and the others welcome cooler temps
TopCats Jeri (left) longs for summer, while Stacey and the others welcome cooler temps

But her line captain Stacey’s opinion was shared by most of the squad, cool temps are preferable, but the gusts of wind that can whiz through the sidelines are less favorable.  But Stacey added, “Once you start jumping around, it is not that bad.” But all parts of the stadium are not created equally, and certainly it is better to be in the sun, to which Stacey replied, “There are a couple sides that are really cold.”

T’fani and Jocelyn also greeted fans in another location closer to the stadium.  T’fani pointed out that the cool temps and wind affects one of their tools of their sidelines trade, “When you start losing feeling in your fingers, you’ve got the problem that you can’t hold onto the poms.  At least when it’s hot, you always have them!”  I don’t think I saw one pom fumble, though, all day from T’fani or the rest of the TopCats.

T'fani and Jocelyn greet fans prior to the game
T'fani and Jocelyn greet fans prior to the game

The TopCats finished interacting with fans when it was time to head to the game.  The one thing that stood out watching the TopCats on the sidelines was their kicks. Of course, high kicks are part of all NFL cheer squads, included in many routines. But the TopCats have this knack of being on the sidelines, going along, cheering as expected, and then, BOOM, huge, upward, vertical kick out of nowhere! When later that month I watched a college game on TV, and Boise State’s field goal kicker missed two short field goals in their key loss to the University of Nevada, my first thought was, “The Broncos really need to go to Charlotte to scout the TopCats for kicking talent!” The importance of TopCats kicks was emphasized when TopCats Coordinator/Choreographer Richelle Grant said in her interview, “From a fans perspective, I feel it’s important to have visual performances on the field. This includes constant, eye catching movements and formations and high kicks are a must!” No kidding!

Dana kicks up a storm
Dana kicks up a storm

And there was some impressive high jumps as well. Forget about Air Jordan across town at the basketball owner’s suite; it’s all about Air Shelby at the Panthers games. I don’t know if the kicks and jumps were used to stay warm or not, but gravity was seemingly taking an afternoon off on the sidelines on this day.

Cool temps for Shelby? Might was well jump!
Cool temps for Shelby? Might as well jump!

On the sidelines during the game and in the Panther’s Lair during pre-game, a familiar face was supporting and accompanying the TopCats.  Record setting TopCat Shannon was in the house!  Shannon was a TopCat for over a decade, and is still on the sidelines as their assistant.  Shannon commented at the Panther’s Lair, “Eleven years cheering, and I have done this for two, so thirteen total. Thirteen, I LOVE it, I am not going anywhere!” Shannon has been part of the leadership of some other squads, including an arena team, but financial hardships of the franchises shortened their existence. But Shannon is certainly ready if other opportunities to lead dance squads arise!

Shannon's 13th year with the TopCats, in the Panther's Lair with Sir Purr
Shannon's 13th year with the TopCats, in the Panther's Lair with Sir Purr

Continue reading “Some Like It Hot (well, really just one), But Cool TopCats Kick It Up a Notch”

Frankly My Dear, Billie O’Hara Goes Like the Wind to Build UFL Cheerleading

Billie surrounded by her Florida Tuskers Cheerleaders after the last home game
Billie surrounded by her Florida Tuskers Cheerleaders and mascot after the last home game

In April 2010, it seems like Billie O’Hara was given a Herculean task.  Billie was named Cheer and Dance Development Director for the new UFL; not just for a team, the entire league!  Billie had the responsibility to establish five complete cheerleading squads, in cities stretching from California to Connecticut.  They all needed their own budgets, directors, auditions, more than two dozen dancers per squad, choreography, uniforms, and more.  Plus, Billie had the task of establishing the UFL’s dance team procedure manual.  Oh yeah, and have that all ready by the 2010 fall season, thank you very much.  And if you have attended UFL games in person or viewed them on Versus and HDNet, you will see those squads not only came to being, but that they have the look, performance, and field presence of squads that have existed for years.

But wait, there’s more!  Oversight over an entire league not enough for you?  Well, Billie is also Director of the UFL’s Florida Tusker Cheerleaders, the franchise that call Orlando’s Citrus Bowl home.  This includes creation and development of her own new squad, including organizing and conducting auditions, final team selection, serving as team choreographer, and overseeing practice and game presentations.  Whew!  So Billie has all the work of high level management of the entire league’s cheerleaders, and the daily hands-on responsibilities of a brand new squad.  How did Billie pull it off?  Did she find a little local Harry Potter magic or some of Tinkerbell’s pixie dust?  We interviewed Billie as the UFL season wound down to learn her formula for UFL success with both speed and quality.

Billie is a native Floridian, originally from Jacksonville, and has been dancing from nearly the beginning.  “I started dancing at the age of three and never stopped.  It’s all I know!” recalls Billie.  Billie’s dance development hit its stride when she began participating in competitive events.

I wondered if she was ever nervous about these public performances, and Billie remembers, “My first dance competition, I was twelve years old, and I was competing for Miss Petite Dance of Florida.  Forty-seven girls were entered into the competition, so it was a long night!  I was very nervous!  I knew I had a great jazz routine, but I was nervous about my costume.  I was the only contestant with spray painted silver jazz shoes!  I kept telling my dance teacher and my mother, ‘I’m going to lose because I have alien and outer space shoes on.’  They tried to reassure me, but it didn’t work well!  They announced the top ten, then got down to #1 and #2.  All I could think about was the shoes, and I was staring at them as they announced the second place winner. But it wasn’t my name that was called, and I was in shock, looked out into the crowd, and mouthed to my mom, ‘They liked my space shoes.’ I had won the competition. My mom told me afterward, ‘It wasn’t your space shoes they like; it was you and your talent!’ I’ll never forget it! I still have the dance on video.”

“That was the beginning of many competitions to come,” Billie added, “I never wore silver shoes after that ever again and I rarely get nervous win it comes to competing.  I love to compete!”

Billie’s dance training continued at several prestigious dance schools, including the Tremaine Dance Center in Hollywood, and the Douglas Anderson School of the Performing Arts, where she was accepted into the All-American College Program at Walt Disney World.  Billie has also served on the faculty of the Dance Conservatory of Orlando and Academy of Performing Arts.

Billie (lower right) during 1995-1996 Orlando Magic Dancer season
Billie (lower right) during 1995-1996 Orlando Magic Dancer season (courtesy of Jeanine Klem-Thomas)

Billie’s excursion into pro sports dance included being an Orlando Magic Dancer for four years, and also on the squad for the AFL Orlando Predators.  Eventually, Billie moved into managing the Predators dance squad, the Prowlers.  Her Predators connection is especially strong because Billie’s husband, Pat O’Hara, is their current head coach, and was previously the Predators quarterback, playing for coach Jay Gruden.  Together, with Pat as QB and Jay as head coach, the Orlando AFL team won two ArenaBowl titles.

“It’s a Small World” in Orlando’s football and dance communities, so the stars aligned for the UFL and Billie to coalesce.   Fast forward to 2010, and Jay Gruden is now Head Coach of the UFL’s Orlando franchise, the Florida Tuskers.  The dominoes started to fall when Gruden called Billie with an idea last March.  “I originally went in to interview for the Director position for the Florida Tuskers Cheerleaders with no expectations beyond that.  Jay Gruden asked me if I would be interested, and if I could meet with Brian Melekian, Team Business Director of the UFL.  I said of course! I was thrilled to meet with Mr.Melekian.”

“The interview went very well, and long,” Billie recalls, smiling, “He asked me back for a second interview to sit down with Bill Peterson, the Chief Operating Officer of the league a week later. I had to prepare budgets, proposals, timelines, visionary ideas and concepts, et cetera. About an hour after that meeting, I received a phone call that not only would they like to hire me for the position of the Florida Tuskers Cheerleaders’ Director but also the UFL Cheer and Dance Development Director. I was honored and more than excited to accept.”


Continue reading “Frankly My Dear, Billie O’Hara Goes Like the Wind to Build UFL Cheerleading”

2010 Ben-Gals Earn Their Stripes at Audition Finals


On Sunday, May 16th, an enthusiastic crowd of families, friends, and fans filled The Syndicate in Newport, Kentucky to experience the finals for the 2010 Cincinnati Ben-Gals try-outs.  This is the second year that the Ben-Gals have brought their finals out to the public as a special event.  Seventy candidates remained for this elite squad, and the final squad was announced this week.  The finals was a gala event, co-hosted by local TV weather guy Steve Raleigh and former Ben-Gal Melissa Scalia.  This was the end of a long process of workshops and earlier rounds of try-outs.  In late March and early April, prior to the start of auditions, four three-hour workshops were held to help prepare the candidates.  The first auditions were held in mid-April, and then those who made it through this preliminary round were required to attend five workshops.  Semi-finals were held on May 9th which produced the elite group of dancers that participated in the finals.
Harmony at morning practice
Harmony at morning practice
Although the public festivities began in the early afternoon, it was an early morning for the Ben-Gal candidates.  Candidates arrived at 8 am for a morning of rehearsals and preparation.   As coach John Wooden said, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail,” and the morning practices provided great learning experiences for all of the contestants.  During the rehearsals, one of the veterans experienced a “wardrobe malfunction,” but made one of the greatest catches in organization history, surpassing anything Trumpy, Collinsworth, or Ocho Cinco ever did on the field.  While holding up her top with one hand, she completed the routine perfectly to the rousing applause of her peers.  However, lesson learned to the squad finalists: safety pins, safety pins, safety pins.
Rehearsing the dance routine
Rehearsing the dance routine

A key part of the finals was a dance routine performed in pairs on stage.  Although this was an individual event, it was noted for the candidates during the morning that the most successful performances were those in which the dancers kept an eye out for the other for proper spacing and timing.  It was amazing to watch the transformation from morning practice to afternoon performances.  The little glitches and kinks in the morning seemed to be smoothed over in the afternoon with both practice and the adrenaline from the lights, judges, and fans.

All of the dancers auditioned to the same song, Christina Aguilera’s “Not Myself Tonight.”  During the morning rehearsals, that song was played over and over again.  For the finalists, they had spent a week practicing to that song.  Although this was a competition for precious squad spots, there was a supportive air of camaraderie among the finalists.  During Sunny’s morning practice routine, she earned oohs, ahs, and applause for sticking a move with a high degree of difficulty.  Rather than cut-throat, the atmosphere was more of finalists bonding, while raising each other up to perform their best.

Sunny's dance moves were too fast to be captured by photos, so here she is in bathing suit finals
Sunny's dance moves were too fast to be captured by photos, so here she is in bathing suit finals
Veteran Ben-Gal Teresha was instrumental in providing access to to this event.  Teresha works in the hospitality industry and she certainly puts the “hospitable” in “hospitality.”  We appreciate the time and effort she put in to getting access for us!  During the morning practices, she was dancing, smiling, and laughing like the most relaxed person on the planet.  When she said she was “SO nervous”, I told her that she seemed more relaxed than anyone.  Teresha said that she might be the goofiest one, not the most relaxed.  Either way, she makes everything and everyone around her a bit less nervous when her fun spirit springs forth.
Teresha shines in swimsuit finals
Teresha shines in swimsuit finals
The morning featured practice time for the three main activities in the afternoon: the opening number, dance routines performed by a pair of dancers, and bathing suit modeling. Scores from the interviews and skill set evaluations were compiled the previous week at the semi-finals and added to scores from dancing and modeling at the finals.
Rehearsing the big opening number
Rehearsing the big opening number
Morning practice for the swimsuit modeling
Morning practice for the swimsuit modeling
In the morning, Head Captain Tara lead the practice session.  Tara is one of our superstar pro dancers for so many reasons: this will be her ninth season on the squad; Pro Bowl squad selection; competitor on the NFL Network’s cheerleader competition; completing her Ph.D. in cancer biology at University of Cincinnati; and co-author of a paper in the prestigious journal Nature Genetics.  During a brief respite between morning practice and the start of the show, Tara took time to fill me in on all the things swirling around in this busy time.  This is the time of year when fans of the squads find out if some of their favorites are coming back, and Tara said this year’s decision was down to the wire.  In her busy life, there is a lot going on but that being part of the Ben-Gals is fun, and keeps her energized and definitely never bored.

Continue reading “2010 Ben-Gals Earn Their Stripes at Audition Finals”

Lynn O’Brien Cheer and Dance Camps

Former New Orleans Saintsation Lynn O’Brien runs her own Cheer and Dance Camps. But the most important thing Lynn wishes the girls would take away from the camps is not cheer and dance technique. She wants each girl to walk away from her clinics and classes with a smile, pride, and knowledge that they can use in the future. Lynn says, “It is a rough world out there, especially for girls.”

Lynn O'Brien
Lynn with a dance camp class

Before we get back to the camps, here’s a little about Lynn. She danced on her high school dance team, the Goldenettes at Turner High School in Kansas City, Kansas. She was also a UDA All-Star Dancer. Lynn had always wanted to cheer for the NFL growing up. After high school she met her then boyfriend (now husband) David and moved to New Orleans after dating long distance for two years.

She started college at the University of New Orleans and worked as a waitress. One of the girls she met waitressing was on a dance team, the “Dominators of Dance”, that performed at Mardi Gras Parades. Lynn tried out and made that team. Unfortunately her friend that had introduced her to was kicked off the team for not perfecting a signature move. Lynn consoled her friend by saying, “Don’t worry, we’ll try out for the Saints”. Two months later they both tried out and made the team.

Since she had always loved pro football, Lynn says have that one of the most exciting parts of being a NFL Cheerleader was being so close to action. During one of the very first games she cheered at two players tackled with terrific force and impact just two feet from her. Lynn says that most of her teammates moved away, but she was too busy watching to see if the Saints still had the ball.

Her proudest moments as a Saintsation would come while visiting small towns outside of New Orleans. The people, the kids and the entire town were so grateful for the Sainsations appearances. Lynn says she felt such a great sense of pride when she stood under the hotel’s marquee that read “Welcome Saints Cheerleaders”. She says, “I know it’s a small thing, but you can’t take small things for granted.

Lynn on the set of Kansas City LIVE

Today Lynn runs Lynn O’Brien Cheer and Dance Camps. There are five-to-eight week long camps over the summer, as well as two day clinics and weekly classes. Lynn decided to start the camps just after she had her fist child, David. She was not ready to leave him for a long period of time and really wanted to dance again. She had an idea to hold a cheer camp where she would utilize her talents both as a dancer and as a teacher.

During the first camps the girls seem to really open up to her and talk about pretty important things. Lynn had 5 year-olds telling her they think they need to go on a diet! She realized the impact she could have on their lives. These girls really looked up to her, really listened to her and she had to take advantage of that.

A typical class begins with stretches, dance and cheer technique. Then they move on to free dance, where Lynn talks to the girls about moving to the music, if the music goes fast, dance fast, if the music moves slow, dance slow. Most importantly, Lynn tells them dance in a way that makes you feel good. She encourages the girls to use dance as a release of feelings. She advises, if you are happy, sad, mad, scared, just put on music in their room and dance and soon you will feel better.

Then they have “girl talk”. Lynn explains to the girls that now that they are on a dance team (cheer team) together they are best friends. They can rely on each other to learn and lean on. She brings up a topic and let the girls comment on their experiences and their thoughts. Some “girl talk” topics include: body image, giving to our community and those in need, standing up for yourself, healthy eating, smoking prevention, taking care of yourself, a positive body image and role models and much more.

Lynn gives all the girls her e-mail address and phone number in case they want to talk or just let her know how school is. She says she gets great e-mail updates and questions about issues the girls are facing at school.

Lynn says she is especially pleased when parents tell her stories of how their daughters came home and taught the family a lesson that Lynn taught them. One example Lynn cites is a mom who told her 6 year-old daughter had another girl that was being mean to her and mom asked her how she dealt with it. The girl said “I put on my best cheerleader smile and said, I am sorry you are having a bad day, but I care about you.” Her mom said, “You sound just like Ms. Lynn.”

Lynn says that each girl at each camp, class, and clinic holds a special place in her heart. She has had over 350 girls participate in her camps in the past five years and she can tell you something about each of those girls.

Lynn O'Brien

Lynn’s three-year old daughter Maddie is now participating in the camps and classes, and they have a great time making up the dances and learning from each other.

Lynn also has a clinic for the winter that is held one week before Christmas. The girls learn a fun Christmas dance, rockin’ around the Christmas tree, two cheers and we will talk about the importance of giving. And there are more clinics coming during Spring Break. And between camp, classes, teaching pre-school and raising her own children Lynn spends an astounding amount of time with kids, so how do she do it all and keep her sanity? Lynn says she adores children, her own and others. “Kids are amazing and have nothing but love to give. I have never loved a job so much. I love how excited the girls are, the way they look up to me, the impact I have on them. I also appreciate the parents. I think I would go insane without kids. I have a very goofy personality. I need to be crazy and silly and I just don’t think adults would get that.”

Lynn speaking about her Cheer and Dance Camp from Kansas City LIVE! Learn more about Lynn’s camps at

A dancer returns to her Manassas roots

crystal-boutselisBy Bennie Scarton Jr.
July 5, 2009

When she was 3 years old, Crystal Boutselis began taking dance classes at Showcase Dance Studio in Manassas.

Now, 23 years later, she is running the studio.

In the intervening years she has had a remarkable dancing career.

Following graduation from Stonewall Jackson High School, Boutselis moved to New York City to train at Broadway Dance Center with top professionals in the dance industry.

After returning to Manassas, she performed four years professionally—three years as a Washington Red-skins cheerleader and one year as Washington Wizards dancer. She appeared twice in the Redskins cheer-leader calendar and has her own trading card.
While dancing with the two professional teams, Boutselis traveled around the world, performing in Kyr-gyzstan, Oman, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Africa, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Honduras and China with Armed Forces Entertainment to boost morale of U.S. troops.

Retiring in 2008 from those sports teams, she began dancing with ‘The Capital Movement Pro-ject” in Washington to hone her jazz and hip-hop training.

“While I love performing in front of large crowds, my heart lies in teaching. I love choreographing routines for local school dance teams, as well as professional teams such as the Wizard Girls,” she said.

Boutselis’ love of dance led her to re-open Showcase Dance Studio as a tribute to the school that allowed her to dance in the professional arena.

“I want to make local residents proud of the dance talent in the community. For this reason, Show-case’s curriculum is based on style, technique and showmanship, which allows each student to excel in all genres of dance. Even more important, class sizes are small, permitting our instructors to focus on individualized instruction,” she said.

Showcase offers prestigious Royal Academy of Dance ballet, pointe and character classes, Broadway-style jazz and top classes, as well as jazz, hip-hop, musical theater, breakdancing and pom styles. Showcase is also a satellite studio for the Washington Redskins Junior Cheerleader program.

“I feel that by re-opening Showcase I’m giving back to the community of Manassas, where my love of dance was fostered,” she said.

She has been running the studio for the past year and recently held the first recital, with 115 students par-ticipating.

Boutselis trained with Carol Gil-Montero for 15 years, studying styles such as Broadway tap and jazz, theater ballet, pointe, pom, hip-hop and acrobatics. Gil-Montero had the first dance studio in Manassas, opening in 1972.

Boutselis was also a dance instructor for the Prince William County Public School System, serving two years as a captain for the Stonewall Jackson High School Raiderettes dance team and a year as captain of the freshmen cheerleading squad.

“Dancing is in my blood. I really enjoy what I do for a living,” said the 26-year-old dancer.

As a dance instructor, she now has students who start at 3 years old, as she did. She instructs adults and senior citizens as well.

Boutselis believes dancing classes can do a lot for an individual.

“Not only does it build self-confidence, but in my case it gave me the opportunity to travel around the world, which I could not have done otherwise,” she said.

One of her highlights was performing with the Washington Redskins cheerleaders in front of more than 90,000 spectators, along with forming lasting friendships and doing community charity work.

Boutselis will be busy this summer running dance camps. They begin today and run through Aug. 27 for ages 3 to 14 and include tap, ballet, jazz, pom, hip-hop and lyrical.

The studio is located at 8704 Rolling Road and the telephone number is 703-368-0555.

Give me a T! Give me a V!

Brother-sister team hopes taping of pilot episode at Sutra Lounge for new cheerleading competition show will be a breakout for all.
By Jeremiah Dobruck
Daily Pilot
Friday, July 3, 2009

derickalexanderAt Sutra Lounge in Costa Mesa tonight, Derick Alexander isn’t going to be working the door as a bouncer like he has many Fridays. Instead he’ll be directing cheerleaders, overseeing a fashion show and monitoring every piece of production while he’s filming the pilot for a reality TV show created by his sister Roxanne Alexander-Pringle.

“Pro Cheer Danz” is a potential competition reality show that focuses on seven cheerleaders graded for 13 weeks by their acting, dancing, modeling and cheering ability as producers search for a breakout star.

Alexander, a Costa Mesa resident, is producing and directing the pilot with the sponsorships of local businesses but mostly on his own cash, much of which was earned working the door at Sutra.

Tonight, the cheerleaders will strut down the runway at Sutra as Alexander films the high-fashion segment of the pilot, hosted by his sister.

“The whole idea is it’s a professional fashion show,” Alexander said of the show, which will feature pieces from Orange County designers and stores.

Alexander is shopping out the pilot, looking for a network to pick up the show so he can produce the entire series in what he calls “a can’t-miss situation.”

“I’m glad to do the show here because I feel like I have roots here now,” Alexander said, who followed a roundabout route to living and working in Costa Mesa.

Alexander’s career path might seem a little backward. He’s had small parts in major movies like “Castaway” and “Dreamgirls,” but seven years ago when he married his wife, Sheryll Alexander, he moved from Los Angeles to Costa Mesa and later began attending OCC.

“I decided I want to do a whole lot more in terms of acting, producing and directing, so that’s when I got the film school bug,” Alexander said.

After graduating from OCC, he moved on to Chapman University where he graduated from its film school.

“That’s a big deal for me because there was a point when I thought I would never finish college. I had started and stopped and dropped out of more colleges than I have fingers,” Alexander said.

All the time, he and his wife were supporting their two daughters with Sheryll Alexander’s freelance writing and Derick Alexander bouncing at Sutra so he could fund the career path he yearned for.

“Our challenge together has been to truly be artists together and make money at what we’re passionate about,” Sheryll Alexander said.

That challenge revved up in the spring. When Derick Alexander was graduating from Chapman, his sister approached him with the idea of a show looking for breakout cheerleading stars who could hold their own in modeling, acting and dancing.

“If someone were to watch the show, they’re going to see a variety of different talents,” Derick Alexander said.

Alexander has cut his teeth in both acting and directing, and Alexander-Pringle, with a background in professional cheerleading, including four years as a Raiderette, brings the dance and cheer experience to the production.

“I’ve had over 20 years of cheerleading and dance. It has been my passion all of my life,” Alexander-Pringle said. “Now that I’ve had my hurrah on the sidelines, I want to take it up to the next executive level.”

Alexander-Pringle, who lives in the Bay Area, said Orange County is a perfect place to film the pilot, noting there is an abundance of talent in fields like dance.

“They’re coming out of Orange County like crazy,” she said.

Alexander hopes he too can be a break-out talent from his newfound hometown.

“It’s important to me that the show do well, that I represent Chapman well, represent OCC well and represent Sutra well,” Alexander said.

Melissa Rycroft Makes a Date with Good Morning America

116086_369by Matt Mitovich
Jun 17, 2009

She made a Bachelor think twice. She tore up the dance floor. Now, Melissa Rycroft will tackle a third gig for ABC, on Good Morning America.

Though unconfirmed by the network, sources tell that Rycroft will join the morning program this summer as a special contributor. In that capacity, Rycroft will deliver “uplifting, summer-type” pieces, our insider says.

Rycroft — who on Wednesday hinted at her new job via Twitter, saying, “Guess who just got a job with Good Morning America???” — is expected to make several appearances throughout the summer.

Rycroft first braved television as a contender for Bachelor Jason Mesnick’s heart. After famously falling short in the endeavor, she was tapped to replace an injured Nancy O’Dell during the most recent cycle of Dancing with the Stars.

As a Dancing star, Rycroft aced the samba and, with partner Tony Dovolani, ultimately placed third in the competition.

The Science Cheerleader

By DeliaTheArtist


In 1991, Darlene Cavalier was a professional cheerleader for the 76ers. Today however, she’s cheering for a different team – Citizen Science!

“Citizen Scientists aren’t waiting for an invitation to get involved. They are literally changing the way science gets done,” Darlene says. Her website,, is a wealth of information as well as THE resource for anyone who wants to get more involved with science efforts in their communities. “It’s important that the citizen scientists get something out of the project and for that to happen researchers must believe that the public is capable of more than just data entry. Volunteers should be given the opportunity to ask questions and draw upon the data. In its most successful forms, citizen scientists even help shape science policy.”’s Project Finder helps connect people with scientific projects in their area of interest. What are some examples of things people can do? “Tag butterflies to help track their migratory habits, count fireflies to help researchers better understand why they appear to be diminishing in some places but not others (talk about a fun family project; my kids and I learned how to differentiate between males, females and stealth predators!), sort through galaxies, help meteorologists predict weather patterns, record earthquakes, help project flu outbreaks, you name it!”

Darlene is also working on having more user generated content on her site as well as “a full-functioning Mother-of-all-Citizen-Science websites” – read my entire interview with Darlene Cavalier, The Science Cheerleader, in this awesome 4th installment of Science is Speaking! [Click here]