The P-R-O Convention is the premier professional cheerleading convention and over 250 dancers from all over the country gather each year in Atlanta, Georgia for two days of intensive dance training and team building.
If you want to be a part of this wonderful weekend of dance, click here for more information.
Interviews by Ben Wright
Georgia Tech College of Engineering
They’re at every home football and basketball game, and countless other events, decked out in gold and white as they spread Georgia Tech pride. But the most common question they’re asked is if they actually go to Georgia Tech.
To set the record straight, yes, all 13 women on the Goldrush dance team are current Georgia Tech students, and they’re just as talented academically as they are athletically. Of the 13, nine are engineering majors, representing five schools and a range of intellectual interests – from Shelby, the aerospace major who has interned at NASA, to Heather, the team captain and President’s Undergraduate Research Award recipient.
We asked each of the engineering majors on the team about dancing with Goldrush, balancing hectic schedules, dealing with stereotypes, and passion for engineering. Here are some of their responses.
What is your favorite part of Goldrush?
The team is a great group of girls who are very close. It’s good to have that support group and I know I can rely on them. Having this family away from home has been really great. Then there’s the school spirit component – in high school I don’t think I even went to a football game, and then when I came here, being on the dance team forced me to go to all the football and basketball games. I’m really into it and I love it.
What do you like the most about your major?
I feel like I work with people who care about the major a lot. Being an IE I have met a lot of friends, and we study together, work together, and hang out together. I really like the major because not only is it very prestigious and the highest ranked program in the country, but it’s exciting to be among people who are so passionate about it. The professors really know what they are talking about and also care about what they are talking about.
Why did you choose Tech?
It’s such a great school and I really only applied to here and UGA, and I got accepted to both. And as much fun as I’m sure UGA would have been, Georgia Tech is such an incredible school, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go here.
What type of research have you been involved in?
I am working with Dr. Sven Behrens’ research group. I did that this whole past summer full-time with them and received the President’s Undergraduate Research Award for this semester, so I am working about 10 hours a week for them again. We are doing a project for BASF, basically tailoring double emulsions to encapsulate an active herbicide.
What is the biggest challenge of being on the dance team?
Time management. We practice between six and nine hours a week. On game days we have to be there anywhere between three and a half and four hours before the football game to do Yellow Jacket Alley, Campanile performance, stairs performance, and pregame, and then we’re there for the entire game. We perform at every men’s and women’s home basketball game too. It’s a huge time commitment and then you are expected to always be on top of your game and know your material.
How has dancing influenced your approach to engineering?
I feel like dance has really given me a unique perspective on engineering because I have thought creatively my whole life through choreography. I also think being a dancer has helped me with memorization, which comes in handy in engineering. I’ve had to memorize routines since I was a little girl learning routines, so it just comes naturally to me now.
What do you like the most about being at Georgia Tech?
There are so many opportunities to get involved and meet new people, and the people are so down to earth, but motivated at the same time. It’s inspirational to see what everyone is doing — if you have an interest there is something for you to do at Tech. I help MSE with recruiting. It’s a really cool way to get people involved in your major and meet potential new students, and it’s also a good way to get to know the administration.
Why did you choose MSE as your major?
I’m really interested in bio materials and the way they can be used in medicine to improve quality of life. It gives me the chance to work in the medical field and help people without having to go through med school and become a doctor. We can build the tools and materials that doctors use.
Has anyone ever stereotyped you because you’re a dancer?
When I was in high school I signed up for AP biology. The teacher, who knew I was on the dance team, came up to me and said, “Are you sure that you want to take this class? This is for college credit.”
I just looked at him, and I was like, “I can do it.” I was doing well in school and I knew I could handle one more AP class. I ended up being valedictorian, and it was nice to be able to show him that dancers can be great students too. Maybe I helped change his mind about some of the stereotypes.
How did you get into dancing?
When I was little I danced around the house all the time. I ran into furniture and stuff and my parents said, “We need to put her in to dance class, so she’ll stop hitting furniture.” I have been doing it for as long as I can remember and I love it. I feel like I wouldn’t be as happy if I wasn’t dancing in some way.
Have you been involved in any research?
This past summer I researched at NASA Ames Research Center in California. I worked on this project called the ADEPT, which is basically a mechanically deployable heat shield to be used on spacecraft. They’re going to use that technology to go to Venus in hopefully 2023 if it keeps getting funded. It would be incredible to be able to say something I worked on went to another planet.
What types of stereotypes have you faced as a dancer?
Proving you can dance is a little bit easier than proving that you are intelligent. Education is important to me, so it’s frustrating to me when people assume that I came to Tech just to dance and that I’m not smart enough for engineering. But it’s not like that at all. I came here to study aerospace. That’s my dream.
Why did you choose to study engineering?
I have always been more of a math and science person and I figured if I was coming to Georgia Tech that I’d study engineering. That’s what Tech is known for. I chose ISyE because of the emphasis on math, which suits me.
What’s your biggest challenge as a member of Goldrush?
Time management is a big challenge for all of us on the team. In addition to Goldrush and engineering I have a psychology minor and I’m director of Relay for Life. I’m also in a sorority and I work at the CRC. So it is safe to say I literally have no time. When we get to the point where football and basketball seasons overlap I run back and forth to everything. But I still manage; I still have my HOPE GPA. So it’s working out so far.
What is your favorite part of being a Tech student?
I love being surrounded by ambitious people and listening to them share their goals. It’s intimidating sometimes, but it also pushes you. We really can do anything, and seeing that potential is really cool.
How do you balance dancing and engineering?
Growing up a dancer was like living in two different worlds because both of my parents have Ph.D.s. There was a balancing act, but I did find out early on that you can have that analytical side and the dancer side. Both parts have been a part of my life for a long time.
Why did you choose Georgia Tech?
I wanted a school where I could be challenged academically, yet still be able to have fun, go to football games, and be involved in Greek life. I was very torn between here and another out-of-state school, but the HOPE scholarship was hard to pass up!
Why did you choose ISyE?
I didn’t even know what industrial engineering was until I came to FASET. I attended the IE information session, and I just felt that it was the perfect fit for me since I wanted to do something business related, but I like more of the analytical side, so I changed my major right away. My mom was very surprised when she came out of one of the presentations and I had already changed my major, but I think she has come to expect that kind of spontaneity from me.
Where are you co-oping and what are your thoughts on it?
I am co-oping at Manhattan Associates, a supply-chain software consulting company. This is my first semester, but so far I love it! I have already learned so much, and it’s awesome and very refreshing to see that what I have learned in the classroom is applicable in the real world. It’s also great because I now have confirmation that I am in the right major. I think everyone should do a co-op or internship because you learn so much that you aren’t able to learn in the classroom.
Why did you choose civil engineering?
Civil engineering has different tracks you can take, and I wanted to do something with design or construction that had an environmental basis to it. Civil engineering is absorbing the building construction program, so it was a perfect fit. After meeting some people in the industry, it really makes me feel like I made the right decision when it comes to my education and my career after graduation.
How would you describe your Tech experience so far?
Being here has been the most difficult challenge of my life. I’m not sure how I’m going to make it sometimes, but I know that Tech accepted me because they believe I can do it. Tech pushes you past what you think your limits are. I know that when I graduate I’ll look back and wonder how I did it all, but I’m going to be so proud of myself for meeting the challenges and doing things I never thought I’d be able to do.
How has being on Goldrush impacted you?
I’m such a nerd, and I have such an engineering mindset, but I really think dancing has allowed me to come out of my shell and be a more open person. I’m still very introverted, but when I’m in my Goldrush uniform it brings out a different side of me. I become all about school spirit and I become super outgoing. Then I go back to studying my dynamics homework and playing video games. It’s fun to have both sides.
Last December the Quinnipiac IceCats began an initiative that allowed us to purchase toys and gifts for children in the cancer unit of the Yale-New Haven hospital. We raised money by selling Santa hats at one of our games and then we visited a local toy-store with the needs of these less fortunate children in mind. Some members even got to personally deliver the gifts, an experience that won’t soon be forgotten.
Coming off a run at the NCAA National Championships in Pittsburgh the IceCats have truly grown with the team that we’ve been cheering for- and we don’t plan on stopping here. We want to outdo ourselves with this year’s toy fundraiser and we can’t do that without the help of everyone we know. Although we may not all be Connecticut natives we are lucky enough to call this place our home for most of the year, and for that we couldn’t be more grateful. “IceCats Fight Cancer” is an idea that we hope will serve our community and the children here in the best ways possible.
This season the money we raise will not only go toward purchasing holiday gifts, but a percentage will also benefit the St. Baldricks Foundation- a pediatric cancer charity focused on research. Worldwide a child is diagnosed with cancer every 3 minutes and nationally more children are lost from cancer than every other disease combined. With the help of the St. Baldricks foundation, scientists will receive research grants enabling them to explore cures and preventative medicines, a task that otherwise receives only 4% of cancer research funding from the federal government.
Please join us in fighting childhood cancer. If you are able to make a monetary donation please remember that we appreciate every single penny, and we can promise you that the children of the pediatric cancer unit do too. If you choose to donate we will add you to our mailing list, this way you can see first-hand the good that your donation has done. The money raised with this initiative, unlike some other large organizations, will benefit the organizations 100%- no money is taken out for fundraiser materials or administrative fees. With your help we can put hope in the research that one day might eliminate cancer completely, and we can also put smiles on the faces of those fighting it now.
In the midst of their second season, The Quinnipiac IceCats are the cheerleaders for Quinnipiac University Division 1 Mens Ice Hockey Team. The IceCats skate, perform, dance, and throw T-shirts during games, and also travel with the team to community events and hold many fundraisers and charitable drives.
Are there any other College “Ice Girl” Teams out there? I hope our knowledgeable readers can answer that question.
Even though you see the IceCats on a basketball court, they do only cheer for the hockey team. This was a one-time appearance at Midnight Madness where all the school’s cheerleaders performed.
Normally we are site dedicated to Cheerleaders and Dancers for Professional Sports Teams. But we do make an occasional exception.
The Georgia Tech Gold Rush Dance Team are under the Direction of former Atlanta Falcons Pro Bowl Cheerleader Brandy Kirschner. And since I went to Tech, oh so many years ago, that’s two good reasons to make an exception.
Thanks to reader EC who took these photos when the Yellow Jackets hosted Middle Tennessee State last month.
Good friend of the Blog, Brandy Kirschner retired from the Atlanta Falcons Cheerleaders after representing her squad at the Pro Bowl in February. But she’s still going strong as the Coach of the Georgia Teach Dance Team. She produced, shot and edited the latest of the Gangnam; this one featuring mascot Buzz, the dance team, the cheerleaders and others from the Tech community.
The UCLA Dance Team has a long and distinguished legacy. In the early eighties, the squad garnered notice at the NCAA Basketball Tournament with their California girl good looks and sexy NBA style dance uniforms. So noteworthy were the UCLA Song Girls, as they were called then, that Sports Illustrated featured them in an article entitled, “Eight Beauties and a Beat”. That squad featured a future Miss USA and a bevy of “10”s.
More recently, the UCLA Dance Team has rekindled that fire over the last few years when the squad became the subject of many rival teams’ message boards, in particular one Kansas Jayhawk message board. And perhaps more importantly, the UCLA Dance Team has begun to outshine even the more heralded USC Song Girl squad, which has been beset by a series of embarrassing controversies over the past few years.
So, it was no coincidence that this past Sunday I found myself over in Pauley Pavilion with camera in hand to cover the 2010 UCLA Dance Team Auditions for UltimateCheerleaders.com. In what is a rare event for west coast cheerleading squads, the auditions were open to the public. Transparency in any organization, even one as beloved as the UCLA Dance Team has become, is a welcome sight.
I was seated midway up the middle level of the arena, seemingly far away from the performance area at floor level. With an open audition, friends and family were present and I would presume we were kept at this distance to prevent the enthusiastic fans from influencing the judges’ decisions. I was seated next to the family of one of the hopefuls (#220) and in front of a group of blonde sorority girls from Delta Gamma, one of whom would have made an excellent dance team member (assuming she could dance). They were there to cheer on a few of their friends…loudly.
There were over 50 candidates who showed up for auditions this evening. At 5:00 p.m. sharp, the candidates were introduced to the judges and then performed the Fight Song, Drum Cadence and Performance Routine. Candidates are not evaluated at this time. This was an opportunity for the dancers to warm up and hear the music in the room, as well as for the judges to become familiar with the material. Candidates then exited the performance area and the auditions began in earnest.
A few weeks ago, I attended a UCLA basketball game and was fortunate enough to take a few snapshots of the incomparable UCLA Dance Team. Last Saturday, I made a return visit to Pauley Pavilion and thanks to StubHub.com, I was able to snap up a lower level seat for the game against the last place Oregon Ducks. This year, there’s not a whole lot separating the last place team from the first place team. Some pundits say that the PAC-10 is down, but I think it’s more accurate to say that there is parity in the league.
In truth, it’s a down year for UCLA basketball, no doubt. UCLA has lost Kevin Love, Jrue Holiday and Russell Westbrook to the NBA. All three of them would be starters on this team if they had not left school early. But that’s all water under the bridge. This team lacks star power and is very young, which means it is prone to turning the ball over at inopportune times…like in the last minute, with the score tied and a chance to take the lead. Alas, two turnovers in that last minute doomed the Bruins. The hot shooting Ducks torched the Bruins early before beating off a furious comeback by the Boys from Westwood. Final score, Nike U. – 70, UCLA – 68.
And speaking of star power, the UCLA Dance Team is definitely not lacking in this area. See for yourself.
Over the past few years, the UCLA Dance Team has made a name for itself, winning a national dance competition in 2007, impressing many March Madness attendees over the years, and becoming the subject of many blogs (all positive coverage, unlike that other school’s squad across town). All of this notoriety and renown is well deserved. Even venerable sportscaster Dick Enberg has taken notice.
Of course, Dick Enberg is well aware of UCLA, having been the school’s basketball broadcaster in the 1970’s before moving on to bigger assignments.
Here at UltimateCheerleaders.com, we tend to focus our efforts on the professional squads. I fear we do not cover colleges and universities as much as we would like. In truth, I believe I am the only one here that does. I suppose that’s because I occasionally catch a college game or two. In this case, college basketball and the squad, the UCLA Dance Team.
Last Saturday, I was able to score a lower level ticket at cost (no small feat) to UCLA’s game against the Cal Bears. As a UCLA alumnus, I was rooting for the Southern Branch of the University of California against our cousins from the North, but on this day the basketball gods did not favor the 11 time National Champions. The hot shooting Bears beat the Bruins, 72-58.
Well, the day was not a total loss. I was able to snap a few photographs of the renown UCLA Dance Team.
The UCLA Spirit Squad is under the direction of Mollie Vehling and the Dance Team coach is Nicole Cohen, a former Boston Celtic Dancer and current member of the Clipper Spirit Dance Team. Both Mollie and Nicole were former UCLA Dance Team members…well after my time at the University, when I was Second Vice Chairman of Rally Committee.
They do a fine job along with the other Spirit Squad coaches, Brian Yi and Greg Calvert. But with limited funding, maintaining this level of excellence is difficult. So, if anyone is interested in donating to the UCLA Spirit Squad, you can make a contribution here.
A few years ago, the UCLA Dance Team caught the eye of many in attendance at the Pacific 10 Conference Basketball Tournament with their good looks and inspired dance routines, no small feat when you consider the more famous squad across town.
I used to shoot for a weekly newspaper, so cheerleaders are not the only thing I am capable of shooting. And with these prime lower level seats, I took a few snaps of the UCLA basketball team.
Here, Freshman Reeves Nelson demonstrates the wrong way to shoot a basketball.
UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland lovingly offers some words of encouragement to his young student athletes.
Well, that’s all for now. Until next time.
Those of you who have been with us for a while know we rarely cover college dance teams. It’s not that we don’t care, it’s that there are SO many college teams in this country and we’ve already got our hands full with the pros.
However, when college teams start going retro, I’m all over it.
So that’s why this post is about the Louisiana State University (LSU) Golden Girls. I know next to nothing about Louisiana (except that the capital is Baton Rouge), but I can tell that it is a big deal to be an LSU Golden Girl. The Golden Girls perform with and are considered part of the marching band. From what I have observed, they dance exclusively to marching band music, and have that stylized, jazz-based choreography you find more often in a dance studio than on the field. (LSU also has a dance team, the Tiger Dancers, and their style is more like what you’d see in the pros.)
Every year, aspiring Golden Girls go through a rigorous audition process to join the group of 16 talented and beautiful dancers. There’s even an additional audition process to become team captain. From all I have read, the auditions are very competitive, and there is a lot of history and prestige that goes along with the position. Several former Golden Girls have gone on to join dance squads for NFL and NBA teams such as the New Orleans Saints, New Orleans Hornets, and Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.
I bring this team to your attention, because this year, the Golden Girls celebrate their 50th anniversary. Yep. The big five-oh. Their longevity exceeds that of any team in the pros. The current squad, on occasion, sports replicas of the uniforms worn by the very first Golden Girls in 1959. And where you find throwback couture, there you will also find Sasha.
Alas, there are no headbands involved. However, the outfits are very very very shiny, and that almost makes up for the bare foreheads.
This is the regular game day costume
At first I thought they were twirlers. But no.
This is what the very first Golden Girls looked like, back in 1959.
Back then, they didn’t have digital cameras, so you didn’t get to see photos until after they developed. I bet the girl 6th from the left was spittin’ mad when she realized her eyes were closed.
Just for the heck of it, here are a few videos of the Golden Girls doing their thang.
By Kimberly Bac
Brooke Griffin, formerly Brooke Johnson, is not only a Corbin native, but also a well-known fitness competitor. On July 19, 2009, while competing against contestants from around the world, the 27-year-old became the 2009 Fitness Universe Champion during a pageant held in Miami, Fla.
The Fitness Universe Pageant was designed to showcase the physical fitness of female competitors, while allowing them to keep their feminine appearance. Contestants were judged on numerous characteristics from showmanship to body shape. Brooke Griffin trained hard in preparation for the contest, which included scoring rounds on bikini and routine. This year, Brooke stole the show with her new “Braveheart” routine choreographed by Cathy Savage.
“I train very hard, simply because I don’t have a choice. My routine kicks my butt!” said Brooke. “I usually work out with weights and do cardio six days a week for about an hour a day. I then work on my routine five days a week for 1-2 hours each day.”
Despite Brooke’s training and focus, she was overwhelmed when she won the Fitness Universe Championships.
“The talent that surrounded me was amazing,” she said. “Any one of us could have won. It is truly a dream come true.”
Brooke’s modesty and gratitude go to show that even though she is an international fitness celebrity, and former captain of the Cincinnati Ben-Gal Cheerleaders, she never forgot her Corbin roots.
Daughter of Steve and Valerie Johnson, Brooke was born and raised in Corbin. She grew up surrounded by her close-knit family, including her two sisters Amanda and Cara Johnson. All of her family still lives in Corbin, and she has many friends that live in, and around, Corbin and London.
One of Brooke’s fondest memories of growing up in Corbin was when she went to the Root Beer Stand with her family.
“I can remember waiting all winter for it to reopen,” Brooke explained, “and then we would go with our mother and father to get root beer floats.”
Brooke Griffin was always an active child, so her interest in fitness began at an early age. She began gymnastics classes at age three, and trained at Damar Gymnastics and Baptist Family Fitness, both in Corbin. Brooke also competed in cheerleading and track and field. She said her West Knox Elementary School gym teacher, Leann Strunk, gave her the drive to succeed.
“She is the best gym teacher in the state… we have stayed in touch since the 6th grade.” Brooke went on to say, “…I really give her credit for where my life has taken me thus far in fitness.”
As a 2000 graduate of South Laurel High School, Brooke went on to attend the University of Kentucky, where she was a member of UK’s National Championship Cheerleading Squad. Brooke was interviewed as a UK Cheerleader for the NBC 20/20 news special called, “University of Kentucky Cheerleading Dynasty.” In 2004, Brooke earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from UK. Brooke said that going to college was the biggest break in her career.
“I could have never won the cheerleading championships, perform in the NFL, and now be a fitness champion without having attended college.” Brooke continued, “I think that getting an education is the single most important thing anyone can do for themselves and their future careers.”
Brooke has had an extensive fitness and performance career. She was captain of the Cincinnati Ben-Gal Cheerleaders after she made the team in spring 2006. Brooke said that being an NFL cheerleader was an amazing experience that gave her many opportunities.
She said of her cheerleading experience, “I made lifelong friends, and I still get chills thinking about performing in front of 60,000 fans during a Monday Night Football game.”
These days Brooke is working hard to achieve both her fitness and business goals. Even though Brooke is the Fitness Universe Champion, she already has her sights set on earning a Pro Card at the National Physique Committee (NPC) USA Nationals fitness competition in September.
“I will then have professional status and hopefully one day be able to compete at the Arnold and the Olympia with the pros,” Brooke said.
Brooke also has several business projects in the works. She plans to get more women involved in fitness competitions, write fitness and wellness articles, develop an online fitness program, create work-out DVDs, and start a fitness clothing line. Thus far, she has been featured in several magazines and print ads including, GQ Magazine, Oxygen Fitness Magazine, and Under Armour Fitness Apparel catalogs.
One of Brooke’s next projects is to launch a non-profit organization. The organization, which will launch in the fall, is designed to educate and promote childhood obesity awareness.
“I… want to reach out to local elementary, middle, and high schools,” Brooke said of her non-profit goals, “and to educate today’s youth on the importance of eating healthy and living an active lifestyle.”
Educating people about healthy living, and teaching them how to achieve their fitness goals is Brooke’s true passion. According to Brooke, beginning healthier habits is easier than it seems.
“Making one or two positive changes each day will eventually grow into a healthy lifestyle.” Brooke said, “It can’t happen overnight, but in time, you can make great strides.”
To encourage her clients, Brooke shares with them a simple and true quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson.
She said, “I tell clients that we are only given one chance at life, so ‘Make the most of yourself for that is all there is of you.’”
Brooke’s values of hard work, taking responsibility for your life, and always showing gratitude, are some of the lessons she learned while growing up in Corbin. These are lessons that she lives by every day, and she wants to teach them to her future children.
Brooke Johnson Griffin currently resides in northern Kentucky with her husband Chris, an attorney and former bodybuilder. She will soon be welcoming her parents to the area. After living in Corbin for 50 years, her parents, Steve and Valerie Johnson, are moving to northern Kentucky to be near Brooke and her sisters. Brooke Griffin is a true example of how a good upbringing can have a long-lasting, positive influence.
For more information about Brooke Johnson Griffin or view her winning routine, visit her website at brookegriffin.com.
Brooke will also be featured in the August edition of Fitness Plus Magazine.