Sports Illustrated has posted a collection of NBA dance team photos from the last week. The gallery includes teams from the Phoenix Suns, Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics, Memphis Grizzlies, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Philadelphia 76ers, Golden State Warriors, Orlando Magic, and Dallas Mavericks. Click here to check it out!

NBA Dance Team Action!

CBS Miami has a couple of new galleries of NBA dance teams in action last week. I’m super excited to see a few of mah girlz featured. Click here for photos from January 11th. Click here for photos from January 18th.

Rookie Laker Girl Mekyala

Rookie Silver Dancer Anncell

Shannon (veteran) and Ashley (rookie) from the Clippers Spirit

Adrenaline Rush Dancers: The Face Behind the Team

Being involved in a professional dance environment can be challenging both physically and mentally. Without much pay, dancers sacrifice financial stability because of a love and passion for performing. For one woman, the opportunity to blend her extensive dance background and work for the Rush has provided an outlet for her to continue living her dream.

As a former Luvabull and Adrenaline Rush Dancer, team coach and choreographer Gloria Esposito certainly doesn’t lack the experience. She began dancing at the age of five, but it wasn’t always her strong suit.

“During my first dance recital I ran off the stage and my mom told me she would never let me do that again, so I had to convince her to let me do cheerleading and pom in high school and I just fell in love with it.”

Gloria finds it exciting to try new things and says that nobody should be afraid that they aren’t skilled enough to pursue doing what they love. She says there is much more to dancing professionally than just technical skills and that it should never hold someone back.

As for being the coach of Adrenaline Rush Dancers, Gloria says she never would have dreamt it when she was younger. But being the leader of the team now, she finds inspiration for dance in almost everything she does.

Gloria was a Luvabull from 2001 to 2003
“Inspiration can come from anywhere at any time. I can hear a song when I’m driving, or I could be watching a movie, but I am a very visual person and a lot of times at practice I’ll teach something and then watch them do it and get other ideas from there.”

She also mentions watching “So You Think You Can Dance” and other dance teams to help get ideas flowing. What she says she finds most interesting about watching other dances is how one song can be interpreted in many different ways and used for different styles of dance. Aside from music and movies, Gloria says she will often go to her team captain Mekial for some help.

Gloria was a member of the Adrenaline Rush Dance team from 2004 to 2007
“I used to be the go to person for our old coach Wynne, so I felt when I took over I needed someone who I trusted and that person is Mekial. I know that if I am not there, she’ll make sure everything that needs to get done will get done. I lean on her and I’m very thankful that I have her to help me.”

She welcomes ideas from all of her girls and appreciates their input on song choices and choreography. In order for the music to make the cut, she says that it needs to excite her and it should be able to touch an audience. While she likes to remain open minded, it can be difficult to choreograph a dance that doesn’t have a clear vision so she’ll sometimes have to reluctantly decline.

“We can try anything, but I did have someone ask us to do a Maringa routine and I said ‘no’. Typically the routines the fans like are the ones with head whips, kicks, and jump splits.”

Despite the long hours Gloria puts into brainstorming and choreographing dances, she still manages to find time to dance on her own.

“My neighbors think I’m crazy. I live on the first floor and have a big screen door and I am always dancing. But seriously, I will take some classes here and there, it is always good to go and learn from someone else.”

Whether or not she’s dancing, her mind is always on bettering the team. With the prep classes and auditions approaching, one thing is certain: she remains very busy solidifying the team’s reputation as one of the best in the league.

Survivor: Luvabulls

It takes more than pom poms and a smile to make the Bulls’ dance team

By Ryan Smith
For RedEye

Considering she’d just spent several weeks preparing for it, the seven minutes Ashley Piepenbrink spent kicking, twirling and dancing in front of judges in her bid to join the Luvabulls felt more like two seconds.

The 24-year-old from Wrigleyville hired a personal trainer to help her lose 3 inches off her waist and spent much of her free time practicing dance moves. But when one of the judges came backstage to announce who would stay for the second round, Piepenbrink’s number was not called.

“Honestly, I knew what to expect, but that still felt like it was over very soon,” she said.

As the Bulls open their preseason home schedule Tuesday, it’s the Luvabulls’ time to shine, too.

Time is of the essence when you’re trying to earn a coveted spot on the Bulls’ dance team. Of the 155 women who auditioned recently at the United Center, less than half made it to the next stage—making every moment spent performing freestyle dance moves, thrusting legs up in a kick line and answering a few simple biographical questions in front of the seven judges essential.

“The audition starts out the minute you walk in and you have to leave a good impression,” said Jessica Piper, 22, of Brookfield. “It’s very fast-paced but they warned us about that. It’s good because no one wants to waste their time.”

The dizzying speed left Erin Collier, 23, out of breath as she trotted off the United Center court following her tryout.

“That was an intense kick line right there,” she said while bending down for air.

The new contenders were teamed up with Luvabulls veterans during the afternoon sessions, and those veterans are required to compete for their jobs again. By the end of the exhausting day, 50 were selected for a three-day minicamp. From there, only 25 dancers made the final squad.

Because there are so many potential Luvabulls in the morning session, the women each wear a number attached to their tops. The judges then study each woman’s performance and take notes divided into three categories: appearance, personality and dance. Team director Cathy Core expects each Luvabull to score highly in all three.

“I always like to say that I’m looking for the total package in a person—looks, body, personality and performance level,” she said.

Core said she looks for women who are height and weight proportionate and have a look that’s glamorous, yet “girl-next-door approachable.” Dance ability sometimes trumps all, however.

“If a girl doesn’t have the right look, maybe that look can be changed a bit with the magic of makeup and hair coloring. Regular workouts can change a body very quickly,” she said. “But if the girl can’t dance, that’s a problem. Some girls have good rhythm but can’t follow choreography.”

The interview also is important, said judge Tracie Marciniak, a former Luvabull dancer and choreographer, because the women are ambassadors to the community.

“This isn’t just about grabbing some pom-poms and cheering on our stars and being a fan,” she said. “We also need to know what’s their background, what’s their resume, can they multitask.”

Still, even with a set of criteria of what makes an ideal Luvabull, narrowing down so many quality candidates is tough, Marciniak said.

“I always say that no one should feel a sense of rejection because there is so much talent and there’s going to be quality people that slip between the cracks because there’s such an amazing amount of competition,” she said.

Piepenbrink believes she’s one of them.

“I feel like it’s almost luck a little bit to get them to see you,” she said. “I wanted to be like, ‘Hey, I’m over here!’ But it’s OK, I had a great experience and I’ll be back next year.”

So you didn’t make the team. You can pretend on Halloween!

Hardcourt Halloween: NBA licenses sexy ‘dance team’ costumes
By Adam Tschorn
Los Angeles Times
October 4, 2012, 10:32 a.m.

Since the NBA season officially gets underway the day before All Hallows Eve, perhaps it’s fitting that one of the National Basketball Assn.’s latest licensing deals is for women’s Halloween costumes.

Described by the NBA as “dance team costumes” (as opposed to, say, “sexy team groupie costumes,” or “sexy cheerleader uniforms”), the collection includes body-hugging, leg-baring riffs on the uniforms of five teams: the Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Miami Heat, New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers.

The three-piece 100% polyester costumes, which consist of a top, a pair of color-coordinated knee-high athletic socks and either a super-short skirt or hotpants, are being sold nationwide through Party City’s retail stores and website and retail in the $50 to $60 range.

There’s a Los Angeles connection deeper than the sexy Lakers uniforms, too. The licensee behind the costumes is L.A.-based, family-owned lingerie and costume company Leg Avenue, which creates costumes under license for all kinds of entertainment properties including “Flashdance,” “Top Gun,” and new for 2012, “Grease.” (The company’s motto? “Leg Avenue … No one does sexy better!”)

The new Halloween costumes are just the latest in a range of efforts by professional sports leagues to acknowledge — and cater to — their female fan base, including team-inspired high heels (licensed by the NBA) and a Swarovski-crystal-encrusted T-shirt created by Marchesa co-founder Georgina Chapman for New York Jets fans, that was unveiled by the NFL on Oct. 2.

Luvabulls select 2012-13 dance team

Chicago Bulls – The Luvabulls, one of the most recognized dance teams in sports, completed auditions for the 2012-13 team on Aug. 29 at the University of Illinois at Chicago Flames Athletic Center.

Approximately 200 women were invited to audition for a panel of judges on Aug. 25 and 47 were chosen to attend a mini-camp that week. The mini-camp concluded with 25 candidates selected to entertain Bulls fans at the United Center and represent the city of Chicago across the U.S. and abroad.

>> Video: Making the Luvabulls, Part 1

Luvabulls host opening round of auditions

Chicago Bulls – The Luvabulls, one of the most recognized dance teams in sports, held auditions for the 2012-13 dance team on Saturday at the United Center. Female dancers 21 years and older who were interested in joining the 34-year tradition of the Luvabulls were encouraged to submit an application available at

The ladies that made it through Saturday’s first round have been invited to the Luvabulls mini-camp this week and the final squad of 25 will be announced on Wednesday evening. BullsTV will have a two-part video feature on auditions later this week.

Once selected, the Luvabulls will perform at all Chicago Bulls home games and have the opportunity to appear and perform at numerous other events including banquets, corporate parties, conventions, promotional events, trade shows and charity events. Additionally, the Luvabulls perform internationally in such places as Holland, England, France, Costa Rica, Japan, Cyprus, Greece and Turkey.

[click here to view full size photo]

2011-12 Luvabulls

I am not a person who likes to wait for things. I’m not good at waiting. So when I saw, several weeks ago, that the Chicago Bulls were planning to reveal the members of their 2011 dance team one day at a time, I was OUT of there. With 25 dancers on the team, it would be over a month before the entire squad was posted! Oh heck no. This kind of thing is not for me. I’d rather wait a month, and then come back and see the entire squad. Which is what I did. If you’re a Luvabulls fan, you may have been following along with the reveal. But if you’re like me, I’m happy to say you can click here and see the entire team.

Tiara, Pam, and Kafi

Comcast SportsNet to air “The Making of the Luvabulls”

“The Making of the Luvabulls” to premiere Wednesday, November 2 at 7:00 p.m.; to provide additional “web-exclusive” content, including extended video clips

Chicago Bulls
October 26, 2011

[Video preview]

Chicago, IL (October 26, 2011) – Beginning Wednesday, November 2 at 7:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet will debut a landmark, four-part, behind-the scenes documentary entitled The Making of the Luvabulls, chronicling the personal dreams, joy and heartbreak taken by over 200 Chicago area women vying for just 25 spots on one of the NBA’s most prestigious dance teams.

With over 30 hours of exclusive footage shot over the course of four weeks, The Making of the Luvabulls (narrated by Comcast SportsNet’s Pat Boyle and produced by Sarah Lauch & Ryan McGuffey) will take viewers through the entire, never-before-seen process on exactly what it takes to make this team. From the initial mid-August tryouts featuring 200+ hopefuls (which was immediately cut down to 47 in one day) — to the grueling minicamp process that followed — to the moment the official 25-girl roster was announced, Comcast SportsNet showcases the amazing athletic skills, along with the raw emotions of these determined women every step of the way.

Additional highlights from the four-part series include extensive interviews/bio features with numerous women on the 2011-12 Luvabulls dance team including former Miss Illinois Ashley Bond, Luvabulls Director Cathy Core, choreographer Kim Tyler, along with many other women who participated in the process — including those who made the final cut — and those who didn’t. Viewers can also look forward to several “Day in the Life” segments, which follow the girls around for a day featuring candid interviews with their co-workers, roommates, friends and husbands/boyfriends. Plus — Comcast SportsNet will also showcase an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at the chaotic, yet ultimately sexy Luvabulls poster photo shoot.

“We wanted to provide our viewers with an honest look at what it truly takes to become a member of the Luvabulls, not just from a physical standpoint, but also from a mental one as well,” said Charlie Schumacher, Senior News Director for Comcast SportsNet Chicago. “We captured so many euphoric moments, but also numerous moments of heartbreak. Most importantly, ‘The Making of the Luvabulls’ showcases so many hard-working, determined women trying their best to make their dream come true.”

Viewers are also urged to visit a special “Making of the Luvabulls” page set up on Comcast SportsNet’s newly-enhanced website,, which currently showcases the teaser trailer for the series, along with behind-the-scenes commentary from producers Lauch & McGuffey. This page will also include a Luvabulls photo slide show and web-exclusive video excerpts from the series that will not be shown on Comcast SportsNet. Fans can also visit the official Luvabulls page at

Note the following episode-by-episode details and quotes for The Making of the Luvabulls, premiering Wednesday, November 2 at 7:00 p.m. only on Comcast SportsNet (schedule subject to change):

Episode 1: Wednesday, November 2 at 7:00 p.m.

(Additional replays: Fri, Nov. 4 at 12:30 p.m. & Sun, Nov. 6 at 9:30 p.m.)

Summary: The first episode takes a look back at the history of the Luvabulls, along with profiles of Director Cathy Core and choreographer Kim Tyler. Highlights include the initial tryouts featuring over 200 girls, with only 47 of them being asked to come back to the intense next phase of “minicamp.”

Episode 2: Wednesday, November 9 at 7:00 p.m.
(Additional replays: Fri, Nov. 11 at 12:30 p.m. & Sun, Nov. 13 at 9:30 p.m.)

Summary: Minicamp begins. Viewers will witness the physical/mental stress of a grueling choreography session that not only has to be learned quickly, but accurately. Additional highlights also take a break from camp with “Day in the Life” features with Ashley, Kafi and Jackie.

Episode 3: Tuesday, November 15 at 7:00 p.m.
(Additional replays: Fri, Nov. 18 at 3:00 p.m., Sun, Nov. 20 at 2:00 p.m. & Thu, Nov. 24 at 8:00 p.m.)

Summary: As minicamp concludes following countless hours of intense choreography routines, the final 2011-12 Luvabulls team is selected. The emotional highs and lows from this episode are not to be missed.

Episode 4: Tuesday, November 22 at 7:00 p.m.
(Additional replays: Thu, Nov. 24 at 8:30 p.m. & Mon, Nov. 28 at 7:00 p.m.)

Summary: We go behind-the-scenes for the orchestrated chaos that is the always-popular Luvabulls poster shoot, plus – now that the team is set, viewers will be treated to some additional practice footage that clearly indicates the pressure is now on for this year’s team to succeed.

Quotes from “The Making of the Luvabulls”

“This is show business… they should come in knowing what they are getting in to. You see those veterans when they come in for their audition… I mean, you can’t touch them.”
– Luvabulls Director Cathy Core on girls showing up to auditions

“It is a very difficult process and anybody that kind of makes it through that training process, kudos to you because I felt like it is one of the hardest things mentally, physically, that you will ever go through in life being challenged on both ends and have that balance to make it through to the other side.”
– Luvabulls choreographer Kim Tyler on auditions/minicamp

“We look for a lot more than just a pretty face and a good dancer. We look for the whole package. Somebody who can speak in front of crowds and interact with CEOs and the community and really be a great representation for us and for the Bulls.”
– Bulls Sr. Director of Game Operations Jeff Wohlschlaeger on what the team looks for in a Luvabull

“There are no guarantees. Every girl needs to try their hardest. You are just like a rookie. You have to learn the choreography, you have to stay on top of everything, you have to look like a Luvabull. As a leader, you have to be a leader.”
– Erika, nine-year Luvabulls veteran

“I love this city. I love sports. I love the Bulls. It all ties together. It is just truly amazing and I feel blessed that I got chosen that first year.”
– Ashley, five-year Luvabulls veteran

Take a Glimpse Within the “Open Book” of the Adrenaline Rush Dancers Coach, Gloria Esposito

Pro cheerleading can launch someone on a path from extremely shy child, refusing to dance on stage, to shooting off machine guns with the troops in Kosovo. This has been part of the journey of Gloria Esposito, now the Coach/Choreographer of the AFL’s Adrenaline Rush Dancers, and a former NBA Luvabull and Adrenaline Rush Dancer herself. Cheer and dance have been so impactful, as Gloria says, “No one thought I would make (the squads) because they said I was shy, but I honestly think that because of the Luvabulls and the situations I had to deal with, I came out of my shell and am the person I am today.” Recently, the Adrenaline Rush Dancers took time to reflect on their own history with a ten year reunion during the last regular season game of the Chicago Rush, and Gloria also took time out to share with UltimateCheerleaders her story of going from reluctant dancer to leading an entire squad.

Born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, Gloria shares her last name with some notable Chicagoans, from news anchors to athletes, most noteworthy, the Chicago Blackhawks’ legendary goalie Tony Esposito. “No, I am not related to anyone famous, although I could use it to my advantage if I was that type of person,” Gloria shares, “Because everyone’s first question is ‘Are you related to Tony Esposito?’ Nope, I am not, but my dad does have a signed hockey stick!”

Gloria (right) as the ten-year reunion performance gets ready to hit it

Gloria’s dance career started with, well, not really a start at all. “Well, believe it or not, I was EXTREMELY shy growing up,” Gloria recalls. “I mean, we would visit family and I would hide behind my mom. She put me in dance class when I was six because my friend was doing it, and they thought it would help me. Well, it came to my first recital and everyone paid to come see me. I took one step out on stage, and turned around and would not go out there. So my mom said I could never do it again. Then in Junior High, I wanted to be on the pom squad for our junior football team in town, and she said no, the only way would be if my sister would do it with me. So I convinced her to do it and we did it for a few years. When I got into high school, I wanted to try out gymnastics did that for two years and found myself back on the pom squad my junior and senior year. I went to college and continued.”

With the goal of making the NBA’s Luvabulls one day, Gloria’s first venture into pro dance was trying out for Chicago Condors dance team of the ABA basketball league. “Well, I tried out for the Condors because I wasn’t 21 yet, and I knew the girls running it used to be on the Luvabulls so I thought I could use it as a networking experience,” says Gloria. “One of the girls who made the Condors had tried out for the Luvabulls numerous times and didn’t make it, so that made me double-think it, but I thought, nope, this is what I want. I am going to do it.” The Condors ended up folding less than a year later, so the dancing for the Bulls was the obvious next step.

“I tried out for the Luvabulls because it was something I always wanted, and seeing them when the Bulls were winning made me want to do it even more,” recalls Gloria. “So when tryouts came around, I signed up, and on the first day I was nervous, and I am not someone who gets nervous. I do remember being one of the first girls there that day, and meeting four of my future best friends that morning! None of us knew each other, or knew if we would make it, but we clicked. We went through the audition process, and on that last day, we saw the five of us standing there together, looking shocked that we all just made the new team! To this day we are all still friends!”
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