One of the reasons why the P-R-O Convention in Atlanta has been so successful, year in and year out, are the instructors. They represent the very best choreographers in professional sports and are the reason why this event draws hundreds of participants each year.
So let us recognize this year’s instructors:
Jakene Ashford – NFL Atlanta Falcons Cheerleaders Tara Battiato – NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders Theresa Baugus – NFL Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders Jerod Fewell – Hip Hop Extraodinaire Denise Garvey – NFL New York Jets Flight Crew Katie Gibbons – NBA Cleveland Cavaliers Stephanie Jojokian – NFL Washington Redskins Cheerleaders Brandii McCoy – NBA Charlotte Hornets Honeybees & AHL Charlotte Checkers CheckMates Dres Reid – Industry/Hip Hop Tracy Rutledge – Former NBA Atlanta Hawks, AFL2 Georgia Wildcats Nicole Smith – NFL Carolina Panthers TopCats Toni Wall – NBA Cleveland Cavaliers Derric Whitfield – NBA Washington Wizards, Wizard Girls Marla Viturello – Philadelphia Soul/NFL Alum
As a general rule, UltimateCheerleaders.com does not publish negative or controversial articles on professional cheerleading. We know the lengths that these teams and their directors have gone to create a positive image and to become a source of pride and goodwill for the billion dollar organizations that they represent. Recently, however, professional cheerleading has come under some scrutiny for some unflattering and negative publicity that threatens the existence of the endeavor, if some pundits get their wish. In light of these recent events, Lara Travis, a former professional cheerleader for the Tennessee Titans and guest commentator for web site Outkick The Coverage, posted a thoughtful treatise on the topic, entitled In Defense of Cheerleaders and Cheerleading.
Here are a few excepts:
“In a former life, before three children and a husband who requires the care of a toddler, I was an NFL Cheerleader. That’s why recent attacks on cheerleading from many media outlets have struck me as particularly ill-suited; unlike the people writing the articles I’ve actually been on an NFL cheerleading squad and know exactly what the experience is like. And the truth is this, for the vast, vast majority of us, it’s a tremendous way to pursue our interests in competitive dance, team camaraderie and community involvement all while getting a front row seat to the best football in the country.”
“Over the past couple of weeks I have read several articles and watched the media cover stories about former NFL cheerleaders filing complaints against their former cheer organizations. I’ve thought a great deal about my own experiences, and talked with former teammates, both from college and the NFL…For whatever reason the mainstream media has decided to attack cheerleading and in so doing they are focusing on a small minority of girls who have had poor experiences and excluding the vast majority who loved every minute of being an NFL cheerleader.”
“One of these consistent story angles focuses on how cheerleaders are expected to maintain a certain weight or not allowed to change their hair. Really, this surprises you? This is professional performance. Maybe this does not seem crazy to me because I am familiar with the dance and performance world, but when someone tries out for a dance gig, and makes the cut, she or he is expected to look the same way throughout the performance season that they did when they tried out. No one forces extreme diets or eating disorders on the participants. This goes for hair, gaining or losing weight, piercings and tattoos, the entire make up of someone’s look goes in to a tryout selection – whether for dance, acting, modeling, singing, or any other type of performance role. This is not controversial, it is an integral part of the entertainment industry.”
“One of the consistent story angles also deals with the low pay. “But they are only paid $50 (or insert amount) a game!” these critiques typically argue. Yep, and all the women knew that when they tried out. In my own experience and those of everyone I’ve known or talked to, the actual pay is made very clear when you try out. When you read or hear how much money you will make for games and appearances, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to try out.”
“The attempt to compare cheerleader pay to the football player pay is ridiculous. There certainly is not a “gender pay gap” here. The two jobs are completely different and not even in the same stratosphere. One is a full time career, insanely dangerous and demanding, and drives the economics for a multi billion dollar industry. The other is football (ha ha. I couldn’t resist.)”
“When someone from USA Today says she thinks dance team, cheerleading, and especially NFL cheerleading should cease to exist because it is just fluff and eye candy for men, I know it’s an outdated and antiquated perspective rooted in dishonesty. First, because this seems to imply that the women who are part of these teams do not have the intelligence to think through their decision to be there. That they are being brainwashed by the wants and desires of men, and need to be saved from their own poor decision making to be cheerleaders, and the way to do this is to abolish the sport altogether. Furthermore that the revealing uniforms are demeaning to them, and there is no way a woman in her right mind would want to wear that. How insulting. And by the way, is there a problem with women looking good in skimpy clothes now? Is it 1950? If a woman feels good about how she looks can she not wear whatever she likes? Have you been to a beach lately? Women’s equality is about all women making the choices they deem the best, it isn’t about one woman telling another woman what she should be allowed to do.”
I applaud Ms. Travis for sharing with us her perspective and personal experience of being a former professional cheerleader. To read the full article, please click here. And check out the comments section in the article for some additional perspectives from some former professional cheerleaders.
On a personal note, in my experiences covering professional cheerleading, I am constantly in awe at all the impressive women trying out for these positions and the amazing directors and their assistants, who make professional cheerleading a positive experience for all sports fans.
A few days ago, I learned that the Ontario Fury has decided not to field a dance team this year. With the passage of the cheerleader minimum wage law in California, the economics of offering a dance team did not work for the Ontario Fury and I would imagine several other minor league sports are also feeling the pinch. I know that the San Diego Sockers came to the same conclusion last year and the Socker Girls were eliminated.
Fact of the matter is that although professional cheerleaders were egregiously underpaid over the years, dance teams are a significant expense for most franchises and in an era of increasing costs, they have become, in many cases, expendable. And that is truly unfortunate because I know first hand the value of the Ladies of Ontario Fury and the goodwill that they fostered for the organization with their public appearances, community outreach efforts and junior cheerleader programs.
For me, this loss is devastating because I have covered the Ladies of Ontario Fury and their predecessor organization, the Anaheim Bolts Dance Team, for several years. And the most impressive thing is that under the direction of Lynae de Leon, these two programs have been a hot bed of dance talent and a breeding ground for major league cheerleaders. Lynae’s girls have gone on to perform with the Laker Girls, Charger Girls, Clippers Spirit, Sacramento Kings, 49ers Gold Rush, Denver Broncos and the Los Angeles Rams Cheerleaders.
In this Flashback Friday post, we recognize the Lynae’s efforts in developing dance talent to fulfill their potential and achieve higher level success. So here are a few of Lynae’s girls from the past few years that have made it to the next level. We present: McKenzie, Sativa-Skye, Kellie, Lizzie, Krista, Courtney, Diana, Alex, and Madison.
I hope the Ontario Fury finds the resources to bring back the Ladies of Ontario Fury because they are an asset that cannot be described by mere dollars alone.
“Obviously we don’t put the girls in those uniforms to hide anything,” Suzanne Mitchell told Sports Illustrated in 1978.Credit Dallas Morning News
Suzanne Mitchell, who replaced a squad of high school bobby-soxers with a scantily clad chorus line that became a choreographed global brand called the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, died on Tuesday at her home in Fredericksburg, Tex. She was 73.
The cause was complications of pancreatic cancer, her brother and only immediate survivor, W. W. Mitchell, said.
Ms. Mitchell was an administrative assistant to Tex Schramm, the Cowboys’ original president and general manager, when the team office was swamped with calls after one of its cheerleaders was captured winking suggestively — and uncharacteristically — into a television camera during the 1976 Super Bowl.
Maybe, Schramm figured, there was more to cheerleading than met the eye. He decided to capitalize on the emerging synergy between television and professional sports by enlisting performers on the sidelines to complement players on the field.
He designated Ms. Mitchell, a former public relations executive from New York, to transform the team’s fusty cheerleader squad. She proceeded to more than double its size, from 14; gave them skimpy new costumes; recruited a choreographer, Texie Waterman; and staged a photo session for a pinup poster.
She had created what would become a pop culture phenomenon. A new era in sports entertainment, branding and marketing had begun.
Declared the “most famous group of cheerleaders in the world” by Edward J. Rielly in his “Football: An Encyclopedia of Popular Culture” (2009), the Cowboys’ revamped cheerleading squad kicked off the 1978 season of “Monday Night Football” with a television special titled “The 36 Most Beautiful Girls in Texas.”
They went on to appear on the television series “The Love Boat” and in a commercial for Fabergé shampoo. They inspired two TV movies and a 1978 pornographic riff, “Debbie Does Dallas,” which prompted a lawsuit from team officials.
Ms. Mitchell’s original roster of cheerleaders was collectively included among Esquire magazine’s “75 Greatest Women of All Time,” along with Joan of Arc and Marilyn Monroe.
Distinguished by their white hot pants, short blue vests, exposed midriffs and white vinyl go-go boots, the Cowboys Cheerleaders (as well as the raft of copycats they inspired) delivered to football fans what one commentator described as “a little sex with their violence.”
“Obviously we don’t put the girls in those uniforms to hide anything,” Ms. Mitchell told Sports Illustrated in 1978. “Sports has always had a very clean, almost Puritanical aspect about it, but by the same token, sex is a very important part of our lives. What we’ve done is combine the two.”
What the Cowboys Cheerleaders started, Bruce Newman wrote in Sports Illustrated, “has spread through the rest of the N.F.L. like a social disease.”
“Which, of course,” he added, “is exactly what a lot of people think it is. But as Vince Lombardi almost said, ‘Sinning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.’”
Up to a point: After all, this was the South, and, Ms. Mitchell said, “Tex wanted sexy ladies out there, but he wanted them, above all, to be classy.”
To guard against a backlash in the Bible Belt, applicants had to be 18 to 26 years old and respectable: a full-time student, or a wife and mother, or someone holding a full-time job. They were put through boot-camp training and Dale Carnegie personal development courses, originally paid $15 per game (before taxes), and barred from being seen in costume with alcohol, gum or cigarettes.
In the dressing room before each game, she told Texas Monthly in 2015, “we’d lock pinkies and say the Lord’s Prayer.”
The cheerleaders would also double as good-will ambassadors. Ms. Mitchell would accompany them on morale-boosting visits to hospitals and nursing homes, and to entertain troops abroad.
They were not without their critics. John Madden, when he was the coach of the Oakland Raiders, complained that the emphasis in sports coverage had shifted to “choreographers instead of coaches.” One reader complained to the advice columnist Ann Landers about the “older, sexier and more naked cheerleaders” being enlisted to energize spectators.
But Ms. Mitchell had ready responses.
“I would call after I’d get a letter and ask what the letter writer had been doing on Christmas Eve,” she was quoted as saying in “The Dallas Cowboys: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America” (2012), by Joe Nick Patoski. “Then I would tell them there were 12 girls who were in the DMZ in Korea performing in minus-20-degree weather serving their country.”
She continued, “When we’d go into a radar site or to a mess hall, I would tell the girls, ‘Now I want you to go and find the pimpliest, ugliest boy in this place, because he’s the one who needs you the most.’”
Suzanne Mitchell was born on July 7, 1943, in Fort Worth, to Willis Wilson Mitchell, a commercial pilot, and the former Nell Mitcham, a nurse.
She graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in journalism. She married after college and moved with her husband (they divorced after several years) to New York, where she worked for the magazine publisher Ziff Davis and an ad agency and did public relations for the United States Olympic Ski Team.
When Schramm called her in the mid-1970s (she had been referred to him), she was a New York Jets fan and had never heard of him. But she agreed to a job interview.
“He asked me what I wanted to be in five years,” she recalled in the Texas Monthly interview. “I said, ‘Well, your chair looks pretty comfortable.’ He slammed his fist on the desk and he said, ‘You are hired.’”
Ms. Mitchell remained with the Cowboys as director of the cheerleaders from 1976 until the team was bought by Jerry Jones in 1989. After that, she held other jobs, far from football, but remained in touch with some of her former cheerleaders, who would remind her that she had succeeded in transforming the aspirations of many a young woman.
“I understand,” she once said, “that where little girls used to dream of being Miss America, now they dream about becoming a cheerleader for the Cowboys.”
Autumn is my favorite time of the year. The hot temperatures of summer give way to the cool, crisp air of fall. My favorite non-Christmas holiday, Halloween, occurs during this time. Fall also marks the return of football and basketball and, correspondingly, the return of NFL and NBA cheerleaders, those lovely ladies who provide a bit of beauty and glamour at these mostly masculine sporting events.
And if fall is “showtime” for these beautiful and talented performers, it is summertime that dance routines are learned, teams bond and performances are refined. Individuals mesh together for a common purpose to form those perfectly synchronized, beautifully presented professional dance teams that we have come to love. They will entertain us, captivate us, and mesmerize us. And they will become Legends of the Fall.
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The P-R-O Convention is the premier professional cheerleading convention and over 250 dancers from all over the country gathered in Atlanta, Georgia for two days of intensive dance training and team building. This year, we celebrate the 13th year anniversary of the P-R-O Convention. And if you weren’t in Atlanta, keep on reading to see what it is like to be a part of this wonderful event.
The P-R-O Convention is the premier professional dance convention and the instructors represent the very best in professional cheerleading and dance. This year’s instructors included:
Jakene Ashford – NFL Atlanta Falcons Cheerleaders Tara Battiato – NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders Coach Alto Gary – NFL Houston Texans Cheerleaders, WCW Nitrogirls, Former NBA Atlanta Hawks & Charlotte Hornets Choreographer Kristina Ferdig -NFL Arizona Cardinals Cheerleaders Denise Garvey – NFL New York Jets Flight Crew Katie Gibbons – NBA San Antonio-Spurs Silver Dancers and AHL Rampage Stephanie Jojokian – NFL Washington Redskins Cheerleaders Stacie Kinder – NFL Nashville Tennessee Titans Cheerleaders Tami Krause – NFL Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders Brandii McCoy – NBA Charlotte Hornets Honeybees and AHL Charlotte Checkers CheckMates Courtney Moore – NFL Seattle Seahawks Sea Gals Tracy Rutledge – Former NBA Atlanta Hawks, AFL2 Georgia Wildcats Derric Whitfield – NBA Washington Wizards, Wizard Girls
UltimateCheerleaders.com was given exclusive access by the organizers of the event, All-Pro3. For our readers who have never attended a dance convention, the following report will give an idea of what goes on during a weekend of nonstop dance action.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – The Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal announced on Tuesday that Tami Krause, Director of Women’s Initiatives and Head Coach of the Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders, has been selected as a “Women in Business” winner.
“I was so excited when I got the email,” Krause said. “It’s just a huge honor to be part of that group of elite women. I’m also excited to represent the Vikings [through this award].”
A total of 51 women, including one career achievement award honoree, were recognized for their professional achievements, leadership and contributions to the broader Twin Cities community. The winners include industry-leading executives and entrepreneurs.
All the honorees will participate in a photo shoot later this month as well as being recognized at an upcoming luncheon and featured in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal released in late May.
“On behalf of the entire Vikings organization we are thrilled that Tami has been recognized with the 2016 Women in Business Award,” Vikings Chief Operating Officer Kevin Warren said. “Tami has been a dedicated and energetic employee of our franchise, and it is exciting to see her hard work, passion and talent recognized by the Twin Cities community.”
As the Director of Women’s Initiatives, Krause hopes the honor and subsequent events will raise awareness for the ways the Vikings organization is making an impact.
“My hope is that it will continue to reach the community and show them all the things we’re working to accomplish and starting to activate,” Krause said.
Since the award highlights both career achievements and community involvement, Krause’s background lends itself heavily to the honor. Having held a position with the Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders for 19 years, Krause has participated in and organized community outreach, military events and numerous appearances in the Twin Cities community. Personally, Krause has played an active role with the American Heart Association for more than 10 years and was named the 2009 AHA Volunteer of the Year after participating in 100-plus events on the organization’s behalf.
“It’s great – I feel like it’s all kind of tied together,” Krause said. “The Vikings have also worked with some of those great organizations, the cheerleaders have done some of that community outreach, and I’ve been able to be a part of all of it. Now with the Women’s Initiatives, it’s just elevating in so many different ways.”
Reservations are now open for the premiere professional cheerleading and dance convention, the P-R-O Convention in Atlanta. This year, the convention will be held at the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel Downtown on June 18th & 19th. Learn from professional sports leading dance instructors. Guest instructors for this year include:
Tracy Rutledge – Former NBA Atlanta Hawks, AFL2 Georgia Wildcats
Tara Battiato – NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders
Coach Alto Gary – NFL Houston Texans Cheerleaders, WCW Nitrogirls, Former NBA Atlanta Hawks & Charlotte Hornets Choreographer
Jakene Ashford – NFL Atlanta Falcons Cheerleaders
Derric Whitfield – NBA Washington Wizards, Wizard Girls
Stephanie Jojokian – NFL Washington Redskins Cheerleaders
Katie Gibbons – NBA San Antonio-Spurs Silver Dancers and AHL Rampage
Tami Krause – NFL Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders
Stacie Kinder – NFL Nashville Tennessee Titans Cheerleaders
Brandii McCoy – NBA Charlotte Hornets Honeybees and AHL Charlotte Checkers CheckMates
The Tennessee Titans recently hosted the NFL Cheerleading and Entertainment Directors meetings for their annual three-day League Conference.
For the second time over their nearly two decade history, the Tennessee Titans hosted the NFL Cheerleading and Entertainment Directors for their annual three-day League Conference from February 22nd to February 24th.
“I was thrilled and proud to showcase our incredible town and our team to the rest of the league,” said Kinder. “It was an honor to be nominated as the 2016 host, and the city of Nashville proved again why we are the hottest place in the country right now!”
The conference began with the Vendors Showcase in the West Club at Nissan Stadium. The evening included presentations from 19 different companies, with products ranging from apparel to jewelry to photography. The night also included a surprise Writers in the Round with performances by multi-platinum recording artist Tracy Lawrence, ABC “Nashville’s” Charles Esten and Titans Cheerleader/country music artist Heidi West. Additional dance performances by the Tennessee Titans Cheerleaders and DC Dance Factory took place throughout the evening.
The second day of the conference was held at the Hilton Downtown Nashville. The day included a number of guest speakers discussing topics ranging from dermatology to the psychology of coaching. Additional breakout sessions included sponsorships, social media and junior cheerleading programs. The night concluded with a fantastic dinner in The Gulch at Sambuca and a visit to Broadway’s famous honky tonks.
After conference meetings concluded the morning of the 24th, attendees boarded the Big Pink Bus for an unforgettable tour of Nashville by the Jugg Sisters on their Original NashTrash Tour. The final day ended with Directors enjoying a memorable performance by songwriter Lance Carpenter at The Listening Room.