Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders’ Longtime Director Suzanne Mitchell Dies at 73

Sepember 28, 2016
Marc Ramirez, Dallas Morning News

The longtime director of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders has died at 73, the organization said Wednesday.

Suzanne Mitchell, who shepherded the iconic cheerleading squad amid rising popularity from 1976 to 1989, died Tuesday, according to a Cowboys news release.

Mitchell embraced Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle following his talk at a 5K benefiting pancreatic cancer research in 2014. After being diagnosed with the disease and undergoing successful surgery, Mitchell campaigned to raise awareness.Ben Torres/Special Contributor
Mitchell embraced Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle following his talk at a 5K benefiting pancreatic cancer research in 2014. After being diagnosed with the disease and undergoing successful surgery, Mitchell campaigned to raise awareness.
Ben Torres/Special Contributor

Mitchell started her career as an assistant to club president and general manager Tex Schramm. Before long, she took over as the cheerleaders’ director, and under her leadership, the group became one of the most highly regarded squads – and certainly the most familiar – in not only the National Football League, but all of professional sports.

The squad has been the subject of  made-for-TV movies and the selection process is chronicled in a reality TV series, Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team on CMT.

Mitchell said that when choosing women to join the iconic squad, she looked for personality and character as well as wholesome beauty and dance skills.  She worked to achieve a diversity of size, looks and grace to “represent a cross-section of American women,” she said in 1985.

Mitchell (right), who directed the squad through the peak of its popularity, playfully clutches Suzy Roberts, one of her former cheerleaders, at a 2002 reunion celebrating the team's 30th anniversary at Texas Stadium. <br>File photo<br>
Mitchell (right), who directed the squad through the peak of its popularity, playfully clutches Suzy Roberts, one of her former cheerleaders, at a 2002 reunion celebrating the team’s 30th anniversary at Texas Stadium.
File photo

Charlotte Anderson, the Cowboys’ executive vice president and chief brand officer, called Mitchell “a pioneer in the world of professional sports” and said her creativity and innovation forged a path of style and quality that other NFL squads tried to emulate.

“Her impact on our home games remains to this day, and her inspiration will always have a presence within our organization,” Anderson said.

Mitchell, born in Fort Worth, is survived by her brother, W.W. Mitchell and his wife Beverly; nephews Todd, Adam and Jake; and niece Katherine Mitchell Richardson.

Passion, Persistence, and Pride: Honeybees Director Ashley Deaton Reflects on Dance, Her Squad, and Her City

I’ve seen basketball announcer Dick Vitale name his college basketball “All-Thomas Edison Team” for point guards.  In his keyed up voice, he’ll say, “This is my All-Thomas Edison Team! They’re creators, innovators, pioneers!!”  Well, if I had to name my UltimateCheerleaders.com All-Thomas Edison Team for creativity, innovation, and pioneering spirit, Ashley Deaton would be among the top of my list.

Ashley is director and choreographer for the excellent dance squad for the NBA’s New Orleans Hornets, the Honeybees.  A native of Louisiana, Ashley graduated from LSU, where she was also a member of a national championship-winning dance team.  She then was a member of the Honeybees for three seasons when the Hornets moved to New Orleans.  After this, Ashley became the Honeybees’ director and choreographer. 

Two months into her new role, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, and the Hornets needed to relocate for two seasons to Oklahoma City.  Half of the pre-storm Honeybees had to stay in Louisiana and rebuild, so Ashley had to hold tryouts for ten new dancers from Oklahoma City to fill out the squad.

Since then, the city is back, the Hornets are back, and Ashley leads a squad known for innovative dance routines, cutting edge apparel, and high visibility at the games and in the community.  It is immediately recognizable after meeting Ashley, that she LOVES her job and has a passion to excel in all of its diverse challenges.  Recently, Ashley graciously participated in an interview with UltimateCheerleaders.com.



Director of the Honeybees Ashley Deaton during a recent Hornets-Mavericks game
Director of the Honeybees Ashley Deaton during a recent Hornets-Mavericks game

UC.com –Ashley, tell me about the genesis of your love of dance

Ashley – I’ve loved to dance as long as I can remember.  My mom would often find me off by myself dancing up a storm.  I would even dance down the aisles of the grocery store…and we all know how lame the music is that they play in the grocery store. That’s passion!  I actually grew up with two older brothers so I played a lot of sports with them.  I always danced as a hobby with my friends.  I even forced my little brother to learn some choreography and perform with us.  Poor kid! But now that he’s in his mid 20’s the ladies love his dance moves.  I LOVED to choreograph dances and had a lot of musicality at a young age.  I became more serious about it when I was in high school and continued on from their working as an instructor for summer dance camps.


UC.com – I assume dancing on the LSU squad were some of your first performances on a “big stage.”  What was that experience like?

Ashley – In the summer of 1997, I was heading into my junior year in college and heard the news that LSU was holding tryouts for a new dance team that would perform for the basketball games. I made the inaugural team and we even won UDA’s National College dance team championship in our second year in existence.  Performing on that level was such an amazing experience.  It challenged me and made me such a better dancer.


UC.com – At LSU, what was it like preparing and performing in a competitive setting versus preparing and performing at home games?

Ashley – Competition preparation was definitely more intense than game preparation.  Competition routines are obviously more difficult and longer than an average performance.  Typical rehearsals were 2-3 hours long.  But I remember have three practices a day for two weeks preparing for competition.  We’d start in the morning, break for lunch, have an afternoon practice, break for dinner, and then finish with a rehearsal that night. Needless to say, we were in great shape and not a hair was out of place in our routine.  When the competition is fierce it takes inspiring creativity and absolute perfection to be the best.  When I watch competitions now, it amazes me how far dance has come.  The talent and skill level is unbelievable and the bar is raised year after year.


UC.com – What aspects do you find dancers who were successful at the college level still need to concentrate upon to move up to the professional level?

Ashley – In my experience the college level focuses more on technical skills.  Although NBA dancers need technical ability as well, there’s a much higher concentration on the glamour of it all.  NBA dancers do more than just perform.  They are spokes-models for the organization.  They are required to be at peak physical condition.  They must look beautiful and glamorous in photos and on the court. With so many appearances in-game and out in the community, they also have to be outgoing and approachable to really connect with fans. 


UC.com – At what point did you think you might be interested in moving from dancer to director/choreographer, and what is the best way to prepare for that position?

Ashley – For me the transition was very natural.  I started my NBA dance career as the choreographer and a team leader.  After three years on the team our manager decided to leave, and it was an ideal opportunity to take over.  It was perfect timing as I was ready to move on from being a dancer to playing a bigger role in the whole operation.  I worked closely with our manager the three years before and had gained invaluable experience as a dance instructor for seven years before that. Managing people is never easy, but being passionate about what you do helps a lot.  Just like any other job it’s important to learn from your mistakes, strive to constantly be better, and truly value and respect those who work so hard for you.


UC.com – It seems like the Honeybees have always been fashion forward in their apparel.  What role do you have in the ideas and designs?  Have you always been interested in clothing design?

Ashley – Well thank you!  It’s funny that you ask because I remember when I was in 4th grade my dream job was to be a fashion designer.  At some point, dance became more important, but I still love costume/clothing design.  I come up with all of our costumes with the help of a few different seamstresses.  I pull ideas from different trends and adjust them to work in the appropriate capacity.  It can be a bit of a challenge to come up with creative concepts that are figure flattering yet supportive enough for the style of athletic choreography that we like to do. But I like a challenge.  It’s so fun!


UC.com – Are there things you hear coming out of your mouth as director to the squad you’d never thought you would say?

Ashley – Once in a while I’ll surprise myself with the words that come out of my mouth, but what surprises me more is the way the girls react to me.  I have an awesome group of talented ladies, and they work really hard.  They hear my voice so much though that I think I become like the squeaky fan who’s steady rhythm puts you to sleep at night…after a while you don’t even hear it any more.  It often reminds me of how good I was at tuning out my mother when she spoke to me.  It’s an interesting feeling to be the “mother” of the group.  I know how dedicated these girls are and how much they have on their plates, and I can totally relate having been in their shoes myself.  I know that they do respect me and care about what I have to say.  It’s just part of the job.


UC.com – Two months after you were named director of the Honeybees, Hurricane Katrina affected your city like no other has been in years.  Describe the process of the decisions that were made to deal with how to provide a dance squad for two seasons away from New Orleans?

Ashley – Well, that situation definitely threw me into the fire so to speak.  I was new at the job, we just had our auditions to select our new squad, and then Hurricane Katrina hit.  The whole organization fully relocated to Oklahoma City full time and brought as many full time employees along.  With the start of our season being weeks away, we decided to take 10 of our dancers with us.  Several of them were completely flooded out of their homes and really had no home of their own to go to, so it was a great opportunity.  Oklahoma City welcomed us with open arms and really made us all feel at home.  We had a quick audition in Oklahoma City to select the rest of our squad. We felt that it was very important for us to have dancers on our squad who were from the city that embraced us.  It was such a unique combination of ladies and a great representation of both New Orleans and Oklahoma City. We lost all of our costumes when the New Orleans Arena was flooded so I had to be very resourceful.  We were cutting up jerseys, putting rhinestones on t-shirts, and raiding all of the local dance shops to get it all pulled together in two weeks. We managed to pull it off and continue to grow each year. 


UC.com – Did any of the Oklahoma City Honeybees go on to dance for the Thunder?

Ashley – Yes. I think there have been about five girls that were on my Honeybee squad that have (or still do) dance for the Thunder.  I’m proud of those girls and really glad that they decided to continue their professional dance careers.


UC.com – What surprised you most about the New Orleans ability to recover?  On the flipside, is there something about pre-Katrina New Orleans life that hasn’t returned that you miss? 

Ashley – From my perspective New Orleans is bigger and better than before.  There is such an interesting and unique culture here that you just can’t find anywhere else. True New Orleanians won’t just give that up and walk away.  It feels good to be involved in an organization that does so much to give back to the community, and I do believe that we’ve been a significant part of the rebuilding of this city.  


UC.com – What were New Orleans and its people like the day after the Super Bowl? 

Ashley – The Saints’ Super Bowl win has energized this city in a whole new way.  New Orleans has been down for so long and battling against some major odds to thrive, to be taken seriously. That win means so much to this community and pride is running rampant through a town that’s been kicked down quite a bit.  The odds that the Saints have faced throughout the years are a good representation of the city of New Orleans, and now there’s a new hope across the board…a sense of importance with a real value to offer the world. The party is still going on and I’m not sure that it’s going to end any time soon.  




Thanks so much Ashley for your cooperation, and continued success with your excellent squad!


Michelle Guidry Named Turfcats Cheerleader Director

From <a href=”http://www.turfcats.com/news/2009-03-14/guidry-named-cheerleader-director.html” target=”_blank”>Turfcats.com</a>
<blockquote>The Austin Turfcats were pleased today to announce that Michelle Guidry has been named the Director of Cheerleading and Dance for the team.

Guidry is originally from League City, Texas, south of Houston. She grew up dancing from the age of three. She attended Clear Creek High school where she was a member of the Cavaliers Dance team and was honored to be an officer for two years and serve as Captain of the dance team her senior year.

<center><img src=”http://procheerleaderblog.com/blog/images/2009/Mar/guidryturfcats.jpg” alt=”Michelle Guidry” /></center>

After graduation Michelle spent two years at Kilgore College where she was a member of the world famous Kilgore College Rangerettes. While with the Rangerettes her performances include the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, the second inauguration of President George W. Bush in Washington D.C., several halftime performances at Dallas Cowboys games and halftime performances at the Cotton Bowl.
After attending Kilgore College, Michelle went on to finish her college career at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. She majored in Psychology and minored in Sociology. Michelle attained a degree from Texas State University this past year in Psychology.

Guidry spent two years cheering and dancing for the Austin Wranglers of the Arena Football League. Her second year she was honored to also direct the team and choreograph routines for the cheerleaders.

She is looking forward to a great season with the Turfcats! The team cheerleaders are currently seeking a title sponsor. Having your company’s name on our team can reach approximately 250,000 sports fans each year. More importantly, a title sponsorship can help establish a scholarship fund for members of our team. With rising tuition, and increased demands on our team, we desperately need a scholarship fund to ensure our program’s success.</blockquote>

Tami Krause is Mrs. Minnesota International 2009!

Tami KrauseTami Krause (Mrs. Bloomington) was crowned Mrs. Minnesota International 2009 on March 15th in St. Cloud. Minnesota, where she competed with other “county/city” title holders from across the state. These women are recognized for their achievements as individuals and as a vital part of the family unit.


“The HEART of the Matter!” Tami has been a volunteer speaker bureau with the American Heart Association since late 2004. She is also an advocate for the AHA and serves on the Go Red Education Committee. She is very excited to be assisting with the development of the AHA Ambassador program later this year.

She began research on heart health after her husband Aaron was diagnosed with a genetic heart condition called a bicuspid aorta. Tami discovered that the AHA offered programs, services and education in so many areas that were relevant to her life. Her husband is living a healthy lifestyle and doctors have said – so long as he is following the “heart healthy plan” they don’t anticipate any further monitoring of his condition until he reaches age 50.

With three young children, and as the Head Coach and Coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders and Swarm Performance Team, she is working everyday in an industry where health and fitness are tremendously important. She knows first hand how rewarding it can be to take charge of your health, get educated on health topics, share your knowledge with others and to make it a family priority! It is her hope to inspire people to consider the “Heart of the Matter” and how it affects their and their families lives.

More at MrsMinnesota.com

Cheering with the Force: Shannon McClattie

From the Website of the South Carolina Force:

Shannon McClattie was named Director and Choreographer of your South Carolina Force Cheerleaders.

She comes to the organization with a wealth of experience in dance and professional cheerleader knowledge. An 11-year professional cheerleading veteran with the Panthers, she has assisted in choreographing show team shows, the 2000 millennium halftime show, and performed in St. John’s, Newfoundland at the 2001 Bud Bowl. In 2005 she represented the Panthers at the Pro Bowl in Hawaii and in 2006 in a nationally televised show competing with other professional cheerleading teams.

Shannon is no stranger to hard work and works full time as a Forensic Social Work Investigator for the Department of Social Services.

She earned a BA in Criminal Justice from Fort Valley State University where she served 3 years as Captain of the Blue Machine Marching Band Dance team, The Dancing Dolls. After graduating college, she choreographed dance routines for high schools in Georgia and Florida.

“My goal is to have a great season with this organization and bring my professionalism to the cheerleading team so that the finished product is one the city and surrounding area can be proud of. I am thankful for the opportunity to work with the Force and look forward to a winning season” says McClattie. Shannon also states “My motto has always been ‘Don’t watch the show, be the show’ and I plan to incorporate my enthusiasm and love for dance and football together to bring to the fans the best cheerleading team in the AIFA”

The South Carolina Force gladly welcomes Shannon McClattie into its organization.

Auditions for the South Carolina Force Cheerleaders are Sunday, March 8th in Greeneville. Complete details here.

Christian Naven, Head Coach Sixers Dancers

It’s been a exciting half year for Christian Naven.

Sixers Dancers

At end of last June, she to came from Illinois to Philadelphia to be the new Sixers Dancers Head Coach. She barely had time to catch her breath before auditions started. Two rounds of cuts and a final audition at Chickie’s Pete’s produced a squad of 10 veterans and 6 rookies, a team of great dancers that will connect with the fans.

But Christian was busy with a lot more than selecting her new squad. Lining up sponsorships, new uniforms, preparations for the new Sixers Dancers Calendar (which has been a huge success) were all tasks that she normally would have been working on when the basketball season ended in the spring. Add on twice-weekly three-hour rehearsals on top her already compressed schedule and you can see why Christian might need to catch up on her sleep.

But she’s no stranger to multitasking. Back when she was a student at Illinois State University, she was the coach of the dance team, The Redline Express. While she was running the squad she had to come up with new composition and routines for her classes (she was a dance major) and at the same time she needed to create new choreography for for classes she taught at a local dance studio.br /br /Christian stayed at ISU has been coaching The Redline Express for the past 7 years. In that time she’s had dancers go to the NBA and NFL as well as perform in music videos and at local concerts.

And she has lots of big plans. For game night she says, “The Dancer’s routines will be sharp and innovative. My goal is to continue to see that they perform with charisma in front of the most loyal fans in the league.” While she describes her style as “Hot Jazz” a fusion of Hip Hop and Technical Jazz, the Dancers will be performing all styles of dance this season. Christian says she wants the fans at the Wachovia Center to be constantly thinking, “What will the Sixers Dancers be doing next?”

And so once Christian gets some free time, what does she plan to do? Actually she’s going to dance some more. She has always wanted to learn Salsa and Ballroom Dance and she’s looking forward to taking advantage of some of the great dance studios that Philadelphia has to offer. Aside from dance Christian love watching movies and reading. A self-described bookwork she lists Push Comes to Shove, the autobiography of Twyla Tharp, as her favorite book.

[Philadelphia Sixers Dancers]