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SI.com: Timberwolves Dancers

Click here to check out Sports Illustrated’s photos of the Minnesota Timberwolves Dancers in action!

Dancing Through Life

By Ellen Newkirk
The Record

Students struggle with managing sports, clubs, jobs and a social life, all on top of a full class load, but 2011 CSB graduate Tiana Woitas knows the balancing act doesn’t stop at graduation.

A social work major originally from Mankato, Minn., Woitas works as a full-time program specialist with the Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin River Valleys. However, her dream job was to be a part-time member of the Timberwolves dance team.

A dream many years in the making

“I’ve been dancing since I was in fifth grade,” Woitas said.

She danced competitively for eight years and was a member of the St. Ben’s Platinum Dance Team during her junior and senior years at CSB.

“I was actually scouted by the coach my senior year at St. Ben’s,” Woitas said as she got involved with the Timberwolves.

At first, Woitas turned down the opportunity because she knew it was something that just wouldn’t fit into her schedule as a student. But after talking to a friend who had been a Timberwolves dancer for two years, she decided to attend some prep classes to get a feel for the team.

“A big part of the reason I would choose to be on this team is I have to like the coach,” Woitas said.

After participating in a few classes, Woitas felt the team would be a good fit. She auditioned in August and was selected as a member of the 2011-2012 Timberwolves dance team.

“One of my favorite things about being a Timberwolves dancer is I am one of 12 girls who gets to experience this,” Woitas said. “I see that as a true blessing.”

Dancing through life’s balancing act

Woitas’s two jobs keep her constantly on the move. Her day starts early as she heads from her Minnetonka home to her job with the Girl Scouts by 9 a.m. At 4:30 p.m., she is off to practice or the Target Center for a game by 5 p.m.

“My work schedule is very flexible. It really accommodates the Timberwolves,” Woitas said.

On game nights, the team starts practice by marking their dances on the court and performing a few run-throughs, all while dodging players and loose basketballs.

“You are literally feet away from professional basketball players,” Woitas said.

The dancers greet and take picture with fans before joining the team on the court for the national anthem, introductions and the first dance performance of the night. After a quick costume change, Woitas and her team are back on the court for their first quarter dance.

“We learn a new routine for each game,” Woitas said. “Any time there is a timeout, it’s our time to go out on the floor.”

She also loves that she has been able to reconnect with people she hasn’t seen in years on Facebook after they see her at games.

“You never know who you are performing for every day,” Woitas said.

Returning to “roots of success”

While at St. Ben’s, Woitas worked as a Team Aerobics instructor and is excited to return to CSB on Monday, Feb. 20, to work with current instructors, as well as teach one of her favorite classes, Hip Hop Cardio.

Woitas is currently working on a new routine for the class and encourages all students to attend at 5 p.m. in Alumnae Hall %u2014 no dance experience is necessary.

“I don’t want people to be intimidated,” Woitas said. “These classes are for everyone, and we appreciate anyone who can come out and give it a try.”

Woitas attributes much of her success to lessons learned both inside and outside the classrooms at CSB/SJU. After having no post-college plans at graduation, she realized she underestimated just how far she could go when everything fell into place only a few months later.

“St. Ben’s was the roots of my success,” she said. “One of the most important things I learned throughout my experiences at St. Ben’s is how to reflect. Being able to recognize how outside surroundings and circumstances affect you internally is absolutely essential in regards to being able to maintain balance.”

[Minnesota Timberwolves Dancers]

Minnesota Timberwolves Dancers Calendar

The Timberwolves Dancers are releasing their first ever calendar! The Timberwolves Dancers 2012 calendar is available for order online beginning tomorrow, Dec. 1 for just $20.00.

[Timberwolves Dancers on Facebook]

Three local ladies on Timberwolves dance team

By Eric Hagen, Staff Writer
October 5, 2011

Of the 12 members on the Minnesota Timberwolves Dance Team this season, two are from Andover and one is from Coon Rapids.

Alisa Hetrick

Mayem Metzger

Amanda Zulegar

Alisa Hetrick graduated from Anoka High School in 2008 and is now a senior at the University of Minnesota working on a major in communications.

Mayem Metzger graduated from Coon Rapids High School in 2009. She is attending the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul and is majoring in psychology and minoring in sociology and family studies.

Amanda Zulegar graduated from Andover High School in 2010 and is now a full-time student at Anoka-Ramsey Community College. She plans to transfer to either St. Cloud State or University of Minnesota and major in psychology.

This is the third year for Hetrick and second year for Metzger on the Timberwolves Dance Team. Zulegar is a rookie.

The team practices every Tuesday and Thursday evening for two to three hours depending on how productive the sessions are, Hetricksaid. The 12 ladies make multiple appearances at promotional and charitable events. Some were at the Minnesota State Fair. There are upcoming marathons they will be attending.

But they will not be performing at any NBA games in the foreseeable future until team owners and players can reach a collective bargaining agreement and end the lockout. The first game they performed at was Sunday evening (Oct. 2) in Game 1 of the WBNA Finals between the Minnesota Lynx and the Atlanta Dream.

The team’s coach Natalie Alvarado was a dancer for the Houston Rockets during the 1998-99 season, which was shortened by the last lockout, so she knows that the season could begin at any moment. Therefore, the team continues to practice and will be ready for a game whenever the lockout is lifted.

“It’s obviously discouraging to know that they have not come to an agreement, but we’re all optimistic,” Metzger said. “We still have practices and appearances and hope that something will be worked out.”

They all noted that outreach in the community is as much a part of their job as are dancing routines at NBA games. Each of them are expected to sign up for as many appearances as possible during the season.

Metzger said she always had a passion for dance, but one of the reasons she wanted to be on the Timberwolves dance team is to be able to do outreach in the community. She liked being at any event last year where there were kids. Fund-raising events for cancer research such as the Relay for Life in Blaine were also very important to her because her uncle died of pancreatic cancer in 1998.

One of Hetrick’s favorite events was when the team performed at a half-marathon at Lake Nokomis this past August. The runners and their families were very receptive and energizing throughout the event, and the team was able to dance on the stage to the music the band played.

Metzger and Hetrick were two of six dance team members who traveled to China for two weeks in early September. This was part of an eight-week outreach cosponsored by the NBA and the China Mobile Communications Corporation. The Timberwolves dancers made appearances with the Washington Wizards mascot at three universities. They danced four routines they had learned during the week-long tryouts just before the China trip, and they signed autographs.

The team was able to do some sight-seeing at a Buddhist temple, Family Temple, a historical garden and a tomb. They also were able to dine on the local cuisine. What stood out to Hetrick and Metzger was how fresh the food was. Hetrick tried a bunch of different foods and was not always aware of what she was eating, but she did not try the food if she recognized it as something she would not willingly eat.

“If it had a head on it, I didn’t eat it,” Hetrick said.

Hetrick loved seeing the culture of China as well. American culture tries to modernize everything, but the Chinese hold onto their rich traditions, she said. A Moon Festival was going on while the team was in China, which is a popular lunar harvest festival celebrated by the Chinese and Vietnamese.

The team made an appearance in Paris, France, in the fall of 2010 when the Minnesota Timberwolves played an exhibition game against the New York Knicks, but the team did not have the chance to do a lot of sight-seeing on that trip, so Hetrick was happy to be able to get out of the gym and see the country for the trip to China.

“It’s a great experience,” Hetrick said. “I obviously love to dance and perform, but to get to travel around the world with the dance team and friends is completely different than any other teams I’ve been on.”

How they got here

Any dancer must try out every year, including returning veterans. Zulegar estimated there were about 75 people when the tryouts began. After two rounds of cuts, the group got down to about 20 dancers.

The remaining dancers went through a week of boot camp to learn new routines for the upcoming season. Throughout the week, the coaches kept an eye on each of the ladies to see who could be a valuable member of the team. The week culminated with a performance at the Treasure Island casino.

Even though Zulegar was mindful that this performance was a key part of the audition, she was not very nervous because the dancers’ friends and family were able to see the show, which made it feel like less of an audition.

Zulegar was confident in her abilities after going through a few of the prep classes the Timberwolves Dance Team put on before auditions began, she was still shocked she made the team and was brought to tears.

“There was a lot of competition, a lot of girls on the same level of skills,” Zulegar said. “I honestly had no idea whether I’d make it or not.”

There have been 16 dancers for most seasons, so 12 is a low team number, Alvarado noted. Most dancers are from the Twin Cities, but there is a dancer from Orlando, Fla., one from Iowa and one from Wisconsin. Alvarado said it is not rare to have three team members who grew up in the same area.

Hetrick and Metzger had known each other before trying out for the Timberwolves Dance Team last year. Both danced at Stage Door of Performing Arts in Coon Rapids.

Zulegar was at Dance Fever in Andover and Studio One in Ramsey, so she never met Hetrick or Metzger. She attended the same high school as Hetrick — Andover High School — but they were separated by two years. Zulegar danced on the high school dance team during football season only during her freshman year. Hetrick never joined the high school team because she wanted to concentrate on the dance studio work.

Zulegar later found out that Hetrick’s parents live close to her parents. It is pretty cool for Zulegar to think that three of the 12 Timberwolves Dance Team members grew up so close to each other.

“It shows that this area has some pretty good dancers,” Zulegar said.

BHS grad named to T-Wolves dance team

By Brian D. Bridgeford
News Republic
August 18, 2011

Baraboo High School graduate Markee Huinker likes a challenge, so she feels a particularly proud this month after winning one of 12 spots on the dance team of the Minnesota Timberwolves professional basketball team. It is a dream come true, she said.

Huinker is a member of the BHS Class of 2008 and the daughter of Baraboo residents Renae and Joe Huinker. This fall she begins her senior year working toward a degree in kinesiology, the study of human movement, and dance at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities campus.

In a video of the selection process on the Timberwolves’ official website, Huinker’s is the first name dancers Head Coach Natalie Alvarado calls out as she names the Timberwolves Dancers for 2011-2012.

Huinker said the selection process began Aug. 1 with an open audition that winnowed about 60 young women down to 19 finalists. Everyone who wants to be on the dance team must compete, including women who won a spot in previous years.

“The 19 finalists went through a week of boot camps and rehearsals and learning choreography,” she said. “We did a production and final audition on Aug. 9.”

Huinker said it was immediately after their final performance that Coach Alvarado announced she was among the dancers selected for 2011-2012.

“We were in poses at the end and they said the names,” she said.

Renae Huinker said she is extremely proud of her daughter and happy for her.

“She sets her mind to something and she definitely succeeds,” she said. “That’s the way she has always been.”

Joe Huinker said he also is very proud of Markee. He read a quote she once put on paper that shows what a determined person she is.

“You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have,” he read.

Markee Huinker said she has studied dance since age 3 or 4. She began with the Penny Imray Dancers of Baraboo and then Kris Pickar’s School of Dance in Sauk City.

In high school, Huinker began traveling to Madison four or five times a week for three hours of rehearsal with a competitive dance team, West Side Performing Arts. She also was a member of the BHS pom-pon squad and its captain in junior and senior years.

“The dance I’ve done outside of school has been more ballet, jazz, tap, modern, lyrical, contemporary, hip hop,” she said. “In Madison it was with a team that traveled. It was very intense and there was a lot of discipline.”

Huinker said the discipline she learned in competitive dancing has served her in other aspects of her life.

Huinker said her kinesiology studies at UM-Twin Cities have an emphasis on exercise and health sciences. She already works teaching fitness to groups and wants to move into personal training, lifestyle and weight management coaching.

“Lifestyle and weight management coach, that’s like all around changing your lifestyle, providing you with resources to try and achieve optimal health,” she said. “It’s not just about how you eat or how you exercise, it’s also about stress management and your emotions.”

However, Huinker said she also is studying dance with an eye on a second bachelor’s degree. Winning a place on the dance team allows her to follow that love in an elite, professional environment.

“For me to be able to entertain and share my passion for dance on a professional level, that is a dream come true,” she said. “This is an absolute perfect fit because I’m also into sports and fitness.”

Huinker said being with the Timberwolves Dancers is a paid, part-time job and she hopes to be there for several years. When she looks out at the world she feels optimistic and sees many career paths open to her.

“I hope this is a stepping stone for bigger things, bigger opportunities in life as well in my dance career,” she said. “This is one opportunity that will help me grow and push me forward.”

New Timberwolves Dancers Shine at Finals

Minnesota Timberwolves: With the lights down low and the suspense at an all-time high, the audience waited anxiously as Timberwolves Dancers head coach Natalie Alvarado took to the stage at Treasure Island on Tuesday night to announce the members of the 2011-12 Timberwolves Dancers. Emotions ran wild as Alvarado called out the names one by one of the dancers who made the final cut. Tears of joy and congratulatory hugs filled the stage as the 12 new teammates stood together for the first time in front of all their family and friends.

Now, rewind to the beginning of July to fully understand the moment of happiness and relief the new Dancers felt as they learned their hard work had paid off. The whirlwind road to the Final Auditions started in the beginning of July with Dancer Audition Prep Classes, then Open Auditions, followed by a rigorous week of preparation for the Selection Show and finally the big night at Treasure Island. Head coach Alvarado took a moment following the naming of the 2011-12 Dancers to talk about her experience assembling her first professional NBA dance team.

[watch the video]

[photo gallery]

Click to view full size

Natalie Alvarado
Timberwolves Dancers Head Coach

The 2011-12 Timberwolves Dancers have finally been chosen! After Open Auditions on August 1 at the Graves | 601 Hotel, 19 dancers were chosen to move forward to the final Timberwolves Dancers Selection Show. The week prior to the show the finalists went through rehearsals, personal one-on-one interviews and an intense workout with the Timberwolves Dancers trainers, before finding themselves on stage for the final round of auditions at Treasure Island Casino on Tuesday, August 9.

It was an honor working with all 19 finalists! They were a great group of young women with so much passion and drive, but as we all know, there comes a time in the process when decisions have to be made, and this year myself along with a panel of guest judges deliberated on the final roster for over an hour. We decided this year’s team would consist of 12 strong performers who are passionate, intelligent, beautiful and hard working young women. I am beyond excited to begin working with the new team. Joining the Dancers we have five returning veterans and seven rookies. Their talents, image and personalities, along with their level of dance and performance is inspiring and I just can’t wait for the fans to see them represent the Timberwolves at games and in the community!

For the 12 dancers that were chosen their dream of becoming a professional dancer, better yet, a Timberwolves Dancer has finally come true! The talent that showed up at Dancers Auditions was stupendous and so strong this year. The girls should be very proud of themselves for accomplishing this goal, and the finalists who weren’t selected should be proud for making it as far as they did in the audition process! The new members of the Timberwolves Dancers should know they definitely earned their spots on the team.

It was a great feeling to know that each new member of the Dancers attended all or a majority of the Audition Prep Classes in July. That told me these girls wanted it, they wanted to know the key details, my style of coaching and choreography and every bit of information they could soak up to better their chances at Dancers Auditions. Even the returning vets had to step it up and prove themselves at prep classes, because the competition was TOUGH! This shows that the prep classes can really play a big role in preparation for auditions.

Seeing the hard work and dedication from 19 finalists in the week following Open Auditions made the process much harder for me – I had no clue who would make the team! It was neck and neck among the girls and going into the Selection Show it was anyone’s game. During the deliberation process it was finalized that 12 girls would make up the 2011-12 team and I felt so sure about it. I knew it, this was my team – I was so happy and my heart was satisfied!

At the Selection Show all of the finalists had the support of friends and family who drove miles to watch them give it all they had for one last time on that stage at Treasure Island, and that support will continue. Announcing those final names and numbers Tuesday night was incredible. I felt for the other girls whose numbers were not called, but to be able to see the faces of the new team members, my 12 girls, was priceless. It was meant to be – their moment, their time! I for sure know I’ll see the other girls returning next year for the second shot at becoming a Timberwolves Dancer. Although they didn’t make it this year I know they won’t give up and they’ll be back. For the new team of Dancers the night of Tuesday, August 9 is one they will never forget and neither will I! They realize that their lives are about to change and now the hard work begins.

Now that the Selection Show is over all 12 girls are ready to work! There’s nothing like seeing your daughter, granddaughter, girlfriend, friend or family member dance out there on that court representing one of the best basketball teams in the league. The Timberwolves Dancers are headed to the top and each girl has what it takes to get to that national level, which is a highly recognized elite group of NBA dancers!

Get ready fans, the Timberwolves Dancers are coming full force with a new dance style, a new look and 12 talented dancers with heart and passion! We’ll see you at the Target Center!”

Road to Timberwolves Dancer Auditions (Part 3)

Lauren Lang
Minnesota Timberwolves
July 29, 2011

Timberwolves Dancer hopefuls have been waiting all summer for Monday August 1. For many it’s an opportunity to perform their incredible talent and for others it’s a chance to be one step closer to fulfilling a dream of being a dancer for a professional sports team.

The Timberwolves hosted six Dancer Audition Prep Classes for potential new talent and returning veterans to come in and experience head coach Natalie Alvarado’s style of dance and brush up on their skills. Alvarado couldn’t have been more thrilled with the classes’ turnout, “With our last two classes last weekend we had over 150 prep class participants! This is a new record for the organization and there will be a lot of talent at auditions on the 1st of August.”

Girls showed up to the last two prep classes ready to work and Alvarado put them to the test with a grueling, fast paced hip-hop routine set to M.I.A.’s “Bamboo Banga.” “The girls and I were already sweating within just the second eight-count!” laughed Alvarado. “The routine was hard, fast and called for a lot of hard hitting moves! It was also the longest combo the girls learned so far and I told them that this specific routine was probably the closest in style to the audition routine.”

Throughout the prep classes many fresh new faces walked through the doors and some of the veteran Timberwolves Dancers couldn’t have been more impressed by the mass turnout of new talent. “I am so impressed by how many girls are here consistently,” said Shannon Mlsna, who just finished her rookie year as a Dancer. “As far as I’ve seen there are a lot of awesome girls, a ton of new faces, people from all over the place, which is awesome and everybody seems really excited to be here.”

Mlsna went on to add the importance of attending the offered prep classes, because she attended them last year before making the squad. “It’s really great that there were six classes, because it showed the different variety and styles – it’s not always going to be just one style.”

With the Dancer hopefuls having a better understanding of their potential head coach’s style it was easier for them to come into the last prep class both physically and mentally prepared. “Sunday was our last class and the dance was choreographed to a custom mash up of Rihanna’s “S&M” vocals over LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” beat,” explained Alvarado. “I wanted the girls to dance to a song they were more familiar with, have some fun and release any audition anxiety!”

The participants may have been familiar with the songs the choreography was set to, but some of the dance styles were foreign to them and Alvarado decided to have some fun with it. “We did a little housing footwork and this took the girls out of their comfort zones. It was very fun to watch them release and just go for it!”

[ ] Mlsna along with many of her teammates pushed themselves during prep classes knowing they will have to re-audition and fight for their spot on the team. Recent Orlando, Florida transplant Jessica Blanton made her way to the final four classes. “I missed the first two because I was driving here from Orlando, Florida, just now two weeks ago, so I’ve been to every class that I could go to and they’re so much fun.” Blanton, a former cheerleader for the USL Orlando City Soccer noted that not all leagues are the same. “Every kind of pro team is different. I’ve never danced for an NBA team, so I know that there is a higher demand and there’s always a ton of girls.”

Sunday’s class finished with even more energy than it started with. After the dancers wrapped up the final steps of choreography Alvarado led groups through each of the routines that had been taught throughout the six classes. At the conclusion of each prep class more and more dancers that didn’t initially plan on attending auditions left with a different plan. “It is great to know that majority of the girls who attended prep classes will be auditioning for the 2011-12 Timberwolves Dancers!” exclaimed Alvarado. “They learned everything I could possibly squeeze into these classes: some of the do’s and don’ts of auditioning, how to perform, and most of all, the importance of just going out there and giving it their best!”

Take it from the head coach who has been there first hand after being a member of the Houston Rockets Power Dancers for seven years. Alvarado understands the pressure of heading into auditions, seeing as she had to re-audition each year in Houston. “Bottom line is, they have to remain confident and let their personality shine. Potential goes such a long way! They have to remind themselves how bad they want this and really understand why they want this.”

Prep class attendees hope that all of their hard work and dedication pay off as they head to Timberwolves Dancer Open Auditions on Monday August 1 at the Graves | 601 Hotel. Alvarado dished some last minute advice to those auditioning, “Remember to always smile and when all else fails, ‘freestyle!'”

Timberwolves Dancer Auditions are set to start promptly at 6:00pm. For more information, or if you’re interested in auditioning to be a member of the 2011-12 Timberwolves Dancers check out the Dancer Audition page.

Road to Timberwolves Dancer Auditions (Part 2)

Timberwolves Dancers Director, Choreographer and head coach Natalie Alvarado weighed in on the third and fourth Timberwolves Dancer Audition Prep Classes that were held on Friday July 15 and Sunday July 17 at Target Center Life Time Fitness.
Natalie Alvarado
Timberwolves Dancers Director
Minnesota Timberwolves
July 20, 2011

Wow, the audition prep classes are just flying by! We’re having so much fun and I know that the girls are gaining more than they even expected in these classes. This past weekend we held our third and fourth prep classes and again, it felt great to see the returning participants who have been to every class thus far, as well as a few fresh new faces!

Friday: The third class focused on an across the floor, short combo, to Beck’s “Milk & Honey” – this combination called for more of a technical style of dance. The technique was very sexy and advanced, but it also contained a lot of the NBA style of traveling across the floor (the “Beyonce confident power walk) – that’s what I like to call that kind of traveling. This particular short combo gave me a chance to see the dancers who are more comfortable with this type of dance style shine, but it also gave the girls who weren’t very comfortable with it an opportunity to try something new, as well as be challenged a little bit!

Sunday: The fourth class was unique, as I asked our former Timberwolves Dancers captain Gina to come in and teach a sideline routine set to Chemical Brothers “Galaxy Bounce.” Sideline routines are short routines performed with pom poms during the 4th quarter of a game, hot time outs and on the sidelines during 20 second and regular game time outs. These sidelines are quick choreographed routines, which are versatile enough to be performed to any piece of music whether it’s an up-tempo song, an oldie or even NBA basketball classics such as “Mony Mony” and “Shout!” It is very important for me to see the girls who are already strong dancers and performers do the cute, sassy, easy and energetic movements with a set of pom poms! So, it was fun to see some of the girls dance with poms poms for the very first time, and have to be bubbly, where as the previous prep class routines called for more attitude and aggression. In this class I decided to split the girls up into groups of five to perform the sideline routine in front of one another. This definitely turned the pressure on and helped them realize just how quickly the auditions are approaching! They were also all made aware that they’ll be auditioning in groups of four to six at opening day of Timberwolves Dancer Auditions on August 1.

Overall, the participants are keeping up with the choreography and more importantly, getting what they came here for – the “one-up” on the audition competition! As I explain to them at the end of every class, I’m really here for them and these prep classes are 100% THEIRS! Whatever it is they need, want to know, want to ask…I’m all theirs. They’re doing great and I’m happy to see the talent and potential of these young and talented women!

There are only two classes left and they’re by far the two most important ones! I’m going to go above and beyond everything that we’ve done in the first four classes and gear more towards the new hip-hop, aggressive, sexy dance style of the latest Timberwolves Dancers. We’re going to make magic happen and I want and am looking for the best of the best, and hey, I’ve even seen some of the best in these Timberwolves Dancer Audition Prep Classes!

The final two Timberwolves Dancer Audition Prep Classes are Friday July 22 and Sunday July 24 from 6:30-8:30pm at Target Center Life Time Fitness. Click here for more information on Timberwolves Dancer Auditions and we hope to see you there!

Road to Timberwolves Dancer Auditions (Part 1)

Lauren Lang
Minnesota Timberwolves
July 15, 2011

With the 2010-11 NBA season in the review mirror, Timberwolves Dancer hopefuls have marked and circled August 1 on their calendars in preparation for the 2011-12 Dance Team auditions at Graves/601 Hotel. Leading up to the big day, Dancer head coach Natalie Alvarado created a six-class dance workshop for young ladies who are interested in becoming an NBA Dancer.

“For any dancer out there that wants to audition to be a Timberwolves Dancer for the 2011-12 season we recommend it,” explained Alvarado. “It’s not mandatory, but strongly suggested that you come out and get our official workouts, our official dance style and so much more that you will only receive in these prep classes.”

Over 30 prospective dance team members participated in both classes on Friday and Sunday night at Target Center Life Time Fitness, with many of the current dance team members returning to brush up on their skills. During the intense two hour workouts the style of dance was and will continue to be different for each of the six classes, with Alvarado at the helm creating one unique routine after another. During Friday night’s class the girls were taught a sassy and sexy routine set to Adele’s “Rumor Has It” followed by a stylized hip-hop routine on Sunday to a custom remix of Katy Perry’s “E.T.”

“As the new coach, I was anxious to see the talent and the potential from the girls,” exclaimed Alvarado. “I was just blown away by how fast they learned and how eager they were to get my style down, and It felt great to see how much fun they were having with both routines!”

Alvarado just wrapped up her first season as the Timberwolves Dancers director and choreographer and was very pleased to see some returning members who are still hungry for their spot on the team, seeing as they do have to re-audition. “They were working, sweating and showing “Coach” they still want to be here!”

The featured choreography has been anything but easy two classes into the workshop.

“As far as the dance goes, what they’re also learning in these classes is that each routine needs a character…an alter ego…a performer,” described a passionate Alvarado. The girls worked hard all the way to the end of each class and had the sweat and bruises to prove it. After nailing the steps the dancers were able to perform the routine for their potential new teammates, as their possible head coach cheered them on. “I’m definitely having fun working them out of their shells and comfort zones, and I love to see them become a different person once that music starts!”

Alvarado, a former NBA dancer with the Houston Rockets, was beaming after wrapping up the first two prep classes, “I’m here to push them, motivate them, inspire them, and although I don’t know them personally, I want them to know and realize I believe in them and they are one step closer to possibly becoming a Minnesota Timberwolves Dancer!”

There are still four remaining Timberwolves Dancer Audition Prep Classes: July 15, 17, 22 and 24 from 6:30-8:30pm at Target Center Life Time Fitness. If you’re interested in attending a prep class or auditioning to be a 2011-12 Timberwolves Dancer click here, for more information.

Miss USA – Who to Watch For (Updated with Miss Illinois USA and Video)

The Miss USA Pageant is this Sunday and there are a trioquartet of former NBA Dancers competing for the title.

Check out Miss Georgia, Miss Illinois, Miss Minnesota and Miss Pennsylvania in this clip at around the 6 minute mark where the ladies teach Kelly on Regis & Kelly how to do a signature NBA dancer hair flip.

Kaylin Reque - Miss Georgia USA is a former Atlanta Hawks Cheerleaders (and member of the Thrashers Blue Crew)

Kaylin Reque - Miss Georgia USA is a former Atlanta Hawks Cheerleaders (and member of the Thrashers Blue Crew)

Miss Illinois USA Angela Sparrow is a former Indiana Pacemate

Miss Illinois USA Angela Sparrow is a former Indiana Pacemate

Miss Minnesota USA Brittany Thelemann is a former Timberwolves Dancer

Miss Minnesota USA Brittany Thelemann is a former Timberwolves Dancer

Miss Pennsylvania USA Amber-Joi Watkins is a former Sixers Dancer.

Miss Pennsylvania USA Amber-Joi Watkins is a former Sixers Dancer.

Miss USA airs this Sunday Night on NBC.

Natalie Alvarado is the Timberwolves New Dance Team Director

The Timberwolves Dancers have always strived to be one of the elite performance teams in the NBA and this year they introduced their new coach Natalie Alvarado. Alvarado has over 15 years of professional dance experience, including seven years as a dancer and assistant coach with the NBA’s Houston Rockets where she also split time as a professional back-up dancer and choreographer. Additionally, Alvarado toured the nation as a music performer with Universal Records and her self-titled debut album (“Natalie”) premiered at No. 16 on the Billboard Top 200 Charts. After all of these experiences, Alvarado was determined to return to her greatest passion: dance. With her vast experience and knowledge of the entertainment industry, Alvarado looks to take the Timberwolves Dancers to the next level with jaw-dropping performances and hard-hitting choreography.

Previous posts on Natalie’s recording career here, here and here.

[Timberwolves Dancers]

Frazee native Emily Kallis brings A-game to professional dance team

by Barbie Porter
The Frazee Forum
May 25, 2011

Emily Kallis made her professional dancing debut in front of a stadium full of people Oct. 27, 2010.

The Sacramento Kings visited the Minneapolis Target Center (which has a capacity of 20,500 people) to open the professional basketball season against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Before the ball was tossed for tip-off, Kallis and the Timberwolves dancers took the floor to put pep in the crowd and players.

“I just remember being so incredibly excited to dance for the first time in front of the entire stadium,” Kallis recalled. “The crowd was so energetic and it was a night I won’t ever forget.”

During each home game the dancers perform a main piece during the player intros, then throughout the game they do several shorter routines.

“Over the course of the year we learned about 25 actual dances,” Kallis reported, noting throughout they didn’t repeat a routine more than twice.

There were 47 home games last season, but Kallis said she never became completely comfortable with performing in front of a packed stadium – which she said was a good thing.

“It keeps you on your A-game,” she explained. “You just never know who might be coming to a game for the first time, and we wanted to make sure every night was just as special for the audience no matter if it was the first game of the season or the 41st.”

Kallis added the dancers’ head coach Natalie Alvarado also pushed her out of her comfort zone and kept her from becoming complacent in her dancing abilities.

“Natalie has already had an incredibly successful career as a professional dancer and singer, so she really knows what it takes to thrive in this business,” Kallis said. “This season, she constantly pushed me to come out of my shell as a performer, and I know that I wouldn’t have grown as much as both a person and as a performer, if it wasn’t for her. Not only do I look up to her for her professional accomplishments, but also for her positive and motivating personality; she always has an encouraging message to share with the team to keep us motivated.”

Outside of dancing during games Kallis said being part of the Timberwolves team has opened the doors to many exciting and fun experiences.

“We made tons of really fun appearances throughout the year,” she said. “Some of my favorite times were just before the game when we would meet and greet the fans. We would split up around the Target Center to sign our posters, take pictures, welcome fans, and my personal favorite, interact with kids!”

Outside of the wolves den, Kallis also visited elementary and middle schools with the team mascot, “Crunch.”

“He focused a lot on encouraging kids to lead active lifestyles which I loved!” Kallis said. “I am currently studying to take my personal training certification exam, and my platform as Miss Frazee is entitled “Game On: Let’s Get Fit For Life!” I’m really passionate about improving the health and fitness of our nation’s youth, so it was great that I got the chance to incorporate two very important aspects of my life when I would make those appearances.”

Crunch wasn’t the only celebrity she rubbed elbows with. When Kim Kardashian attended a game to watch her boyfriend, Minnesota native Kris Humphries play in a Lakers and Wolves match-up, the dance team took time for photo opportunities.

“It was just one of the fun little things we got to do this year,” Kallis said.

In addition to being a professional dancer, Kallis has continued her education as a full-time student at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

She is a sophomore working towards earning a degree in communication and journalism with a minor in community health education.

Much like her hometown high school in Frazee, Kallis reported her college also offers small class sizes.

“So I have the luxury of knowing a lot of the people in my classes, as well as having great relationships with my professors, while still getting to enjoy the big-city atmosphere,” Kallis said.

Balancing the world of a student and professional dancer hasn’t been easy, she said.

On game days Kallis would typically end class around 2:40 p.m. But an hour later she was off to the Target Center, oftentimes not returning to campus until 10 p.m.

“It was definitely tough finding time to get everything done,” Kallis noted. “Those days were always fairly stressful. I learned how to make the most of every moment this season, and I believe one of my strongest skills I’ve learned from this entire experience is time management!”

Dance auditions set Aug. 1

The Timberwolves professional dance team will hold open auditions Monday, Aug. 1 at the Graves 601 Hotel on First Avenue North in downtown Minneapolis.

Registration begins at 5 p.m. with auditions starting promptly at 6 p.m. Finalists will be announced that night.

There is a $20 registration fee.

Dancers must:

• Be 18 or older by Aug. 1. A photo ID is required.

• Have a high school diploma or GED.

• Be able to attend home games, rehearsals and other appearances and fulfill a year-long commitment if selected for the team.

• Provide a full-body shot and dance resume.

• Be able to pass a drug screen.

Several prep classes will be offered prior to the auditions.

Class dates are July 8, 10, 15, 17, 22 and 24. Each class costs $10.

Registration for each class starts at 5:30 p.m. and the classes are from 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Those who participate in the prep classes will also receive $5 off the audition registration fee.

“I know we have many dancers in the Frazee area, and it would be great to see some hometown faces at auditions this year,” said Frazee dancer Emily Kallis.

2011-12 Minnesota Timberwolves Dancers

The Timberwolves have updated their dance team page. Click here to check it out!

Former Timberwolves Dancer is Miss Minnesota USA 2011

by Molly Reuter

A Plymouth native is the next Miss Minnesota USA. Brittany Thelemann was crowned Sunday night at the Burnsville Performing Arts Center during the 2011 Miss Minnesota USA and Miss Minnesota Teen USA pageant.


Thelemann, a former NBA dancer with the Timberwolves and a graduate of St. Thomas University, was also named Miss Congeniality at the pageant finals. This award was voted on by other contestants.

The competition, which is held annually in Burnsville, consists of three proportional segments: evening gown, swimwear and interview. Eligible young women must be between the ages of 14 and 26 and be unmarried residents of Minnesota in order to compete in the pageant.


Hannah Corbett of Excelsior was crowned Miss Minnesota Teen USA. Both titleholders will now advance and compete next year at the Miss USA and Miss Teen USA national pageants.

NBA Dancers on Fox Sports

Fox Sports has a small collection of photos of NBA dancers on game day. Click here to go there now.