Pacemates Meet and Entertain Fans As Season Tips-Off

Pacemates (lower row) Sarrah, Joanna, Jessica P, Melanie, (upper row), Shea, Desiree, Meredith, and Erin

The annual Indiana Pacers FanJam took place last Sunday at downtown’s Conseco Fieldhouse, and fans took the opportunity to enjoy a fun afternoon of, not only free entertainment, but free food! 

As usual, the Pacemates were part of the festivities to get us psyched for a new season of NBA action.  Two groups of Pacemates posed for photos with fans on the concourses from the start of FanJam until an hour passed and it was time for everyone to head to the court to see the team. 

(Lower row) Megan, Jessica R, (top row) Kayla, Tamara, Ashley, Jarin, and Courtney pose with a FanJam fan

Many our favorite Pacemates are back plus some talented rookies, including Desiree, who is a “rookie” Pacemate, but a former Colts Cheerleader.  Way to go, doing it two-sport Bo Jackson style, Desiree!

The Pacers didn’t scrimmage on the court but competed in events like “chocolate unicorn” (i.e., stacking ho-ho’s on your forehead).  In a “Name That Tune” type of competition, players tried to guess what Danny Granger was “singing” (yes, we admire his, um, bravery to sing in a large, amplified building).  The Pacemates also took center court for a performance. Yeah, it is fun to see the Pacers play some birthday party games, but the Pacemates gave the crowd a real performance.

Pacemates perform to help us forget about Danny's singing
Pacemates perform to help us forget about Danny's singing

Then the Pacers participated in the tradition of the rookies getting to show their dance moves.  The Pacemates lined up to give it a Soul Train vibe.

A young fan helps show the Pacers how it is done on the dance floor, and if there are kids around, Tamara (right) will be making it fun for all
A young fan helps show the Pacers how it is done on the dance floor, and if there are kids around, Tamara (right) will be making it fun for all

So how about next year Pacers, let’s get the Pacemates in the fun.  How about a Pacer/Pacemate “Dancing with the Stars” competition?  Or a competition between Pacers and Pacemates in some of the fun games?  Bet the Pacemates emerge victorious!

Have a great season Pacemates!

Ashley is back for her third season as Pacemate, and her bio says she has Roxette and Def Leppard on her iPod.  Well, "She's Got the Look" alright!
Ashley is back for her third season as Pacemate, and her bio says she has Roxette and Def Leppard on her iPod. Well, "She's Got the Look" alright!

Polls are open to vote for the 2010-2011 Pacemates


We need your help selecting the 2010-11 Indiana Pacemates. Check out their photos and videos before submitting your ballot. Your votes will be compiled along with those from the other judges to determine who makes the squad. Cast your vote prior to the audition showcase and squad announcement on Wednesday, July 21. Vote Now

Looks like a great set of candidates: some veterans, newcomers, and maybe even a former Colts cheerleader.


Playoffs? Playoffs?! Nope, But Pacemates Will Make the Most of a Little Extra Time

There was a recent time when the events surrounding the Indianapolis 500 also were augmented by the Indiana Pacers still in the thick of NBA playoffs come Memorial Day weekend.  In those days, the crowd would get loud at the 500 Festival Parade, on the Saturday of the long weekend, when the Pacemates dance squad would pass by.  Enthusiasm for the team and the ability of the Pacemates to pump up the volume added to the excitement along the parade route.
But these days, the Pacers are in NBA limbo land: not good enough to make the playoffs and winning enough to have a no real shot at the draft lottery’s top prize.  This limbo can last a long time.  Season after season.  I have lived through it before. 
So during one of the final games of the year in April, I wondered what the busy Pacemates would do with the extra time afforded by a lack of playoff games.
Meredith and Brittany greet fans as they enter Conseco Fieldhouse
Meredith and Brittany greet fans as they enter Conseco Fieldhouse
Fans entering Conseco Fieldhouse were greeted by Meredith and Brittany who handed out programs.  Appropriately, the program cover featured the best performers in the organization, the Pacemates!
Now that's a program!
Now that's a program!
In the upper concourse, Jessica R and Jarin were signing the same photo (in souvenir card form) that graced the cover of program.   I asked Jessica what she would do with the extra time that no playoffs would provide.  Jessica laughed and responded, “It will be from one extreme to the other.  It will be short though, because we have auditions in July.  We’ll be right back into it before too long.  Just a little break, but I’ll take advantage of it. I am going to sleep, I know that.” 
Jessica R and Jarin
Jessica R and Jarin


Down near the club area “Legends” which is sponsored by Brighthouse, also the sponsor of the Pacemates, Tamara and Elizabeth met with fans.  Tamara shared with us all that this was Elizabeth’s birthday, and Elizabeth seemed thrilled about the sharing of this information. 
Tamara is about as fun and joyous as you can get.  If there is a little kid in sight range, Tamara will be making that child smile and giggle soon enough. I asked Tamara what she would do with the off season time, and she replied, “Some of the girls on the squad and I have some exciting trips planned.  We have a break, but the time is going to pass faster than you know it!  It’s definitely a break that we need, but once we get it, we are going to be ready to start right back up.”
On the main concourse, Ashley and Jessica L also were signing the souvenir cards.  It didn’t sound like the extra time would make much difference in their busy schedules.  “We will work and go to school,” they said, with an inflection that indicated busy days remained ahead as semesters wind down. 
Ashley and Jessica L
Ashley and Jessica L
Pulling double and triple duty with cheering, work and school is one thing, but on this game night, Shea would be pulling double duty as both a Pacemate and the on-court emcee during game breaks.  Shea not only performs these tasks, but also drives all the way from Ohio to be one of the Pacemates!  For those of you not from ’round here, that is over an hour drive (through some of the most exciting scenery, corn, you’ll ever see, too).   And this part of Indiana also gets its share of ice on the roads during the winter months, so a big THANK YOU to Shea for all the work and effort she puts into being on the squad and making the game breaks entertaining!
Shea I: The Pacemate
Shea I: The Pacemate
Shea II: Game emcee
Shea II: Game emcee
Jarin's fancy footwork avoids mascot Boomer's flag antics
Jarin's fancy footwork avoids mascot Boomer's flag antics
Tamara and Elizabeth amongst one of their many young fans
Tamara and Elizabeth amongst one of their many young fans
All of the Pacemates did their typical wonderful job, both greeting fans as gates opened to performing on the court, but the my Center Court Standout of the Game (drum roll please) is the amazing Tamara!  This Purdue grad is known as “Teyonce” to the rest of the squad because, according to Captain Melanie Tamara “can dance and sing just like the diva Beyonce!! Tamara is one of our best hip hop dancers on the team. She is known to serenade us at the games in the locker room and at practice as well. Teyonce can light up a room once she enters it!!” 
No doubt, Tamara is a joy to behold as a fan also!  Tamara also is head coach of the dance team at local Marian College.  So Tamara, and other Pacemates, enjoy this time off, recharge, and be back for try-outs in July!!  We need one star-laden team to see during basketball season!! 

The Post-Game Buzz from Honeybees Ashlie and Amy

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.

Rookie Honeybee Amy

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!

Second Year Honeybee Ashlie
Second Year Honeybee Ashlie

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.“

Amy is a native Georgian, but still caught Saints fever
Amy is a native Georgian, but still caught Saints fever

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.

Ashley for President!  She thinks the day after the Super Bowl should be a holiday
Ashlie for President! She thinks the day after the Super Bowl should be a holiday

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 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!”

Amy and Ashlie after the Hornets victory over the Mavs

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!

A personal favorite; My struggles with my flash provided me a photo that demonstrates their fun, sweet personalities

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 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



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