Last season’s 25th anniversary Orlando Magic Dancers included veterans that have become big fan favorites over the years. Fifth-year veteran Victoria was a Team Leader, and as I witnessed last March, worked hard to prepare the Junior Magic Dancers for their halftime performances. One could see the organization and discipline of being a self-proclaimed “Army brat,” born in Killeen, Texas, then years in Germany, as Victoria took charge of the practice sessions with the young dancers. Victoria was also seen on the big screens at the game, in sketches with that crazy mascot Stuff, who is always up to something!
Heather finished her fourth season with the Magic Dancers, and according to her best friend Emmy, is someone that has really blossomed during their four years on the squad, not only as a performer, but also being much more outgoing than she was three years ago.
And if you would like the chance to experience the wondrous opportunities that Victoria and Heather have been part of, the process to become part of the 26th edition of the OMD is right around the corner. All the information is at this link, and some of the key dates are….
2014-15 Pre-Audition Class schedule updates and instructors – ONLY 2 CLASSES REMAINING:
July 21 – Hip-Hop/Jazz with Guest Choreographers April and Nova Jay aka ‘Crossbreed’
July 23 – Theme Jazz taught by Assistant Manager Cherie LaRosa
All classes held at RDV Sportsplex (8701 Maitland Summit Blvd, Orlando, 32810) from 7:45p-9:45p. Instructors and class style subject to change without notice. Registration open and walk-up registrations accepted!
ROUND 1: Saturday, July 26 from 9a-5p
– 9am – Registration at the RDV Sportsplex (8701 Maitland Summit Blvd, Orlando, 32810 * 407-916-2442 if lost) in the Orlando Magic Gym
– 10am – First round begins
– NO LATE applicants will be accepted and this is the ONLY open audition of the year! Plan to be there and don’t be late if you want to potentially be a part of the action this season!
– Note – All audition participants must be prepared to stay until the end, NO EXCEPTIONS! · What to bring:
– $25 application fee (reduced to $15 if you have attended any of the 5 summer pre-audition classes, waived if you purchased the full pre-audition package)
– Full Body shot
– Resume (dance and/or business)
– Snacks, water bottle, towel and items to freshen up between rounds
•FINALIST INTERVIEWS: Monday, July 28 and Tuesday, July 29 by Appointment
•FINALIST BOOT CAMP: Sunday, July 27 through Tuesday, July 29
•AUDITION FINALS: Thursday, July 31 from 7p-9p in the Disney Atrium at Amway Center
It is almost time for the next squad to emerge, and you could be part of it!
It’s quite a nice ritual. During the time before the gates open, NBA arenas have a building hum that transitions eventually to the intense buzz of game time. Some of the world’s greatest athletes are on the court getting some repetitive jump shots in, the audio and video equipment are getting their testing, and all the while, a young woman reads a book, sitting in a prized seat a couple rows behind the basket. This is Orlando Magic Dancer Emmy’s pre-game ritual, during the time between OMD court practice time and the time to prepare for the game.
This past year was a momentous one for the Orlando Magic Dancers, under the direction of Jeanine Klem-Thomas, as they celebrated their silver anniversary 25th season. Emmy completed her fourth season with the Magic Dancers, and it was a wonderfully eventful season for her. In addition to the festivities surrounding the 25th anniversary of the Magic Dancers, Emmy also was selected to be part of the NBA All-Star game. Emmy embodies so much of what OMD encompasses: she was a Junior Magic Dancer as a young girl, her dad has been a performing Dancing Dad for all of her four seasons, she eventually became a captain, and Emmy traveled to faraway continents and experienced all that being a Magic Dancer can be.
Emmy’s ritual looked like such a nice way to spend some time, reading a book during the quieter time before the she and her teammates felt the heat of the spotlight and the noise of the Amway Center, on the biggest stage in a entertainment region full of stages. Last March, Emmy graciously bookmarked her spot, and took time to share with UltimateCheerleaders her pro dance journey to All-Star games, Rome, Italy, and beyond.
Emmy is an Orlando native, and started dance class at age eight. “My mom claims that I danced around the house all the time so she put me in class, so a natural step,” smiled Emmy.
And another natural dance step was becoming part of the Magic Dancers. “I wanted to do it forever. My dad has been a season ticket holder since 1990, so I used to come with him and watch the Dancers and (mascot) Stuff,” recalled Emmy. Also, Emmy was a Junior Magic Dancer as a tween, and laughed, “Jeanine’s known us forever; she can’t get rid of us.”
For four years, Emmy left Orlando, to attend the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, receving a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, minoring in Psychology, graduating Summa Cum Laude, top in her class. In addition, she was part of a UT dance team that dominated the College Dance Team National Championships during that era.
Growing up in central Florida, moving back to Orlando after college surprised Emmy. “Orlando is a lot more fun than I thought it would be as an adult,” Emmy explained. “I went away to college, and I loved it. And then when I was graduating, moving back to Orlando, I thought it’d be all kid stuff. But I’ve been here for almost four years now after I graduated and I love it. There’s a lot to do. It’s fun. It’s beautiful. Very glad I moved back.”
After returning from college, the journey to being an Orlando Magic Dancer started right away, with try-outs the next month. But the really excited family member who was rooting for Emmy was a future Dancing Dad. Unlike some of the Dads, who perform their own style of dance routines to the uproarious reaction of the Amway Center, Emmy’s dad needed no coaxing to make his own way to center court. “Before I tried out for the team, he said, ‘If you try out for the Magic Dancers, I could be a dancing dad,’” remembered Emmy. “It took no convincing.” So Emmy’s dad has been a Dancing Dad also for four seasons.
Emmy dad is an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat surgeon), but according to Emmy, “He takes his dancing just as seriously as he takes his medical practice.”
So, a natural question, did Emmy inherit her dancing skills from him? “Gosh no, bless his heart,” heartily laughed Emmy. “He has a lot of fun and he has gotten better since the first year, but no, the natural rhythm is not there. You know who is the best, is Kriza’s dad. Her dad is a really, really good dancer. He works it. He’s got his face going. She definitely got it from him.”
What was it like being a member of the Original Magic Dance Team?
As one of the Original Orlando Magic Dancers we started as an NBA promotional dance team that help build this organization from the ground up. We asked for nothing and gave everything. Every dancer that has come after me has worked just as hard as I did and continued to evolve into what the Orlando Magic Dancers are today. I am proud of each and every one of them who continue to represent the Orlando Magic.
What are you looking forward to during Reunion Weekend?
Performing with my peers and catching up with everyone.
What is your favorite memory during your time as a Magic Dancer?
Dancing at the NBA All-Star Classic Weekend held here in Orlando in 1992.
It was an honor to be chosen for 5 consecutive years while managing a full-time career, a marriage, game, rehearsals and promotional events schedule.
Tell us more about the inaugural season…
We were chosen one year before our 1989 NBA Season Debut. We marketed the team to the Orlando fans to sell the 10,000 season tickets we needed to be awarded the franchise from the NBA. We did promotional events at car dealerships, radio stations, golf tournaments, restaurants – you name it. The Orlando Magic Dancers worked in tandem with former Globetrotter Curly Neal and Stuff the Magic Mascot. Inspired by Pat Williams, we went everywhere across the tri-county area promoting the Orlando Magic. We were part of the foundation of a most wonderful organization and were priviledged to watch it grow. We rehearsed at an empty office building on Livingston Avenue with a jam box, one mirror and an unfinished concrete floor. It was bare bones but we loved it and made it great! Once the arena was built, players were chosen from the expansion draft, fans bought their tickets and the 1989 Inaugural Season began. We won our first game in that arena defeating the NBA Champions – the Detroit Pistons. The arena was electric, the fans were on their feet and the Orlando Magic was on their way!
Is a reunion put together every year for the OMD or is this the first year doing it because of the 25th Anniversary Season?
This is actually the 2nd Official reunion! I coordinated a Reunion during the 20th Anniversary Season and we had 110 Dancers in attendance (90 Alumni and 20 on that season’s team) that year including 14 of the Originals and every Coach/Asst. Coach from across all 20 years!
If it’s put together every year, what has been your best memory of the OMD Reunions?
N/A ** This is too much of a beast for me to do every year, my hair would be bright gray
What are you looking forward to the most about this year’s Reunion?
The part I anticipate the most is catching up with old friends and reminiscing about some of the best years of our lives dancing together at Center Court! It’s amazing the PRIDE everyone has about their team and the lifelong friendships that were created while they were dancing together!
Having been here for 19 of the 25 years as an OMD and as the OMD Manager, in what ways has the team changed?
I think the biggest visual change you will see is the evolution in style, hair, costuming, music and dance trends in general!
What is your favorite OMD memory as a dancer or manager during the 19 years you’ve been here?
Wow – so many!
As a Dancer…I remember at my very first audition in ’95 my # wasn’t called in the final cut so I gathered my things and walked out to the parking lot…I was starved and was actually excited to finally go eat J I got in my car, had started backing out of the parking space, and all of a sudden from my rearview mirror I spot one of the Judges running and screaming out of the building like a mad woman “Come back in, there’s been a mistake, come back in…you’re supposed to be in there…”. So while still starving, I was thrilled to go back in and ultimately secure a spot! While on the team quite a few things stand out…cheering loudly for Michael Jordan the first time we played the Bulls and getting yelled at by my Captain “Jeanine…you’re cheering for the wrong team” (whoops – but it was MJ), pre-season games in Tokyo 1996…at this point in my life I had only been out of the country twice and both times to Tokyo (what are the odds), being 1 of the first dancers in the NBA to rappel from the rafters to ‘Mission Impossible’.
As a Coach…every single Dancer that has ever worked for me and every single moment they’ve made me feel like a Proud Mom, securing our first overseas Armed Forces tour (and then 3 more to follow), creating the first Dunking Dancers team in the NBA, the 2012 NBA All-Star Game, and I could probably go on for an entire novel on this topic!
Most recently seeing my daughter as a member of our Jr. Dance Team, the Magic Minis, has been surreal…she says she wants to take my job when she grows up
(We’re always happy to pass along news of what alumni are doing now. Hope Donnely cheered/danced for the Tampa bay Buccaneers, Orlando Magic and Tampa Bay Storm, as well as coaching/directing the TB Storm Dancers, TB Lightning Girls and the University of Tampa Cheer and Dance Tams)
Hope Donnelly started this year with a mantra: “If you’re not scared, your dreams are not big enough.”
Her dream? To create a place that provides a sense of community, self-preservation and exploration of arts and creativity in a safe, supportive environment.
Donnelly’s dream is one step closer to reality as she begins renovations on the Rialto Theatre on north Franklin Street between Interstate 275 and Palm Avenue. Under the business name 8-Count Productions, the 10,500-square-foot space will soon be home to art galleries and other space for small businesses, two dance studios for private lessons and group classes, and event space for up to 300 people.
An Eckerd College graduate, painter and former professional dancer, Donnelly teaches art at Jefferson High School in Tampa by day.
She first had the vision for the space five years ago and has had her share of typical entrepreneurial challenges — finding the right real estate, obtaining funding, and general fear of the unknown. After contacting numerous banks, she found that most tried to make the business plan fit within their parameters. She finally obtained funding through a Synovus Bank’s Small Business Administration Loans program loan officer, who believed in the vision and found a product to fit her needs. Additional grant funding is being sought from arts and historical organizations, including the City of Tampa Historic Preservation Department. All in all, $500,000 is anticipated in renovations alone.
She credits her success thus far to the learning opportunities she has experienced in different professional environments, as well as the support of friends and mentors. The tipping point was when she met her fiance and business partner, George Carter II, who supported the vision with his heart and soul and is now an equal part of the creation. Carter will also provide choreography and photography services in the new building.
“It’s easy to get run down by the challenges, because there will be challenges,” says Donnelly. “But, having other people getting excited about the project helps keep me going. The sense of community has been amazing.”
Donnelly and Carter closed on the building October 15 and celebrated with a rooftop sunset toast with those who played a part in making it possible. Next steps include obtaining permits from the city that will allow the interior work to begin.
Donnelly was adamant about finding space in or near downtown Tampa, feeling that the area has so much talent and vision that it just hasn’t connected yet. She was also looking for walkability and a neighborhood feel in an urban environment. “We’re building a lifestyle, not just a business.”
The theater was constructed in 1925 and first opened its doors in 1926. It has been vacant since 2005, at which time it had been used as an auto repair shop. The renovation plans are to keep the historic nature of the theater in tact while adding a contemporary feel.
With dance classes and events mainly taking place after hours, small businesses will be able to use the space during the day for studios, galleries, video shoots, photo shoots and the like. This multifaceted approach challenges the typical dance studio or event space business model, which can be tough to maintain because of unused space during daytime hours.
“There is no right business model,” says Donnelly. “There is no right profession or business concept. What makes you happy can find its way into a lifestyle, making an income, generating enough to support yourself.”
Renovations are scheduled to be completed by Thanksgiving, allowing the space to be open for holiday events. The business will be fully functional in January 2014.
As for conquering fears, Donnelly recommends a mind over matter philosophy: “Talk about it often. The more you talk about it, the more likely it’s going to happen.”
The Orlando Magic Dancers have wrapped up shooting their latest swimsuit calendar, and there is tons of coverage on their website! Click here to check out the extensive photo gallery, and click here for video.
Whew, time flies! It seems like it was just smack dab in the heart of the NBA season. But it is time to think ahead to next year, already! If you go to the Orlando Magic Dancers website, you will see the clock ticking down until the start of auditions for next season’s team. The Magic’s basketball future appears bright with some good young talent, including the selection of Victor Oladipo with the number two pick in the NBA Draft. So, Magic Dancers got next, as they will soon select the veterans and rookies that will make-up a dance team marking 25 undefeated seasons of successfully entertaining Magic fans.
So for those of you a bit curious about trying out, the Magic Dancers are a close knit group of supportive teammates, with a wide range of interesting careers. In the middle of her rookie season last year, I asked Magic Dancer Elyse if she was enjoying the experience. “Absolutely!” Elyse replied. “Because all of the girls are so nice, the veterans have taken us all under their wing, and taught us the ropes. So it’s been a really good experience. Then again, I am a Magic fan because I am from Orlando, so it’s been nice to be able to watch the team up close. I would have been at the games anyway, I just get to dance now, which is always fun.”
Once upon a time, Elyse actually was a Junior Magic Dancer, and also taught dance and was part of the dance team when she attended Auburn, then transferred to Florida State where she received her degree in Sociology with minors in psychology and child development. After Florida State, Elyse enrolled in nursing school at the Florida Hospital College at Adventist University, with the goal to eventually work in pediatric oncology.
Elyse was one of seven Magic Dancers last season that was part of Darlene Cavalier’s Science Cheerleaders program. This group also includes high flying Ashley, who works as a contract specialist for NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. “I manage engineering services,” Ashley explained. “I can see the launch pad from my office right across from the Vertical Assembly Building.”
Ashley said of NASA’s activities these days, “There are a bunch of different programs that are starting up, the commercial crew, they are redoing the VAB and the launch pad so they can adapt to all of the different rockets, the commercial companies are already launching. There are still rockets and satellites, just no manned flights at the moment.”
So would Ashley, who has flown through the air as a Magic Dunking Dancer, be interested in some space flight time if given the chance? “Yes, it would be so cool,” answered Ashley. “I would definitely. They have a bunch of simulators. I just need to get in with the right people so I can get into it,” Ashley laughs.
Ashley has been part of the prep classes leading up to this season’s OMD auditions, but not as a participant, but as one of the instructors. After I talked with Elyse and Ashley last December 23rd, Ashley became engaged, and after last year’s fifth season as Team Leader, she will not be trying out for the team this season. Last December, Ashley reflected on her fifth season, saying, “It has become part of life, I cannot imagine not doing it. I’ve grown up on this team since I was nineteen.”
Asked about her advice for rookies, Ashley said, “It sounds really cheesy, but cherish every moment because five years has flown by so fast. And it is so crazy how fast it goes by. (As far as advice), just to be involved and active in every opportunity and take advantage of it.”
During Ashley’s five seasons, she had seen a lot of changes on the Magic roster, but last season she liked how the fans responded to the young team. “It’s been great this season, despite the changes that have happened,” Ashley said. “The fans have been great, and have been very supportive, and it has actually been very high energy. The players are definitely hustling, the games are so much fun because you can tell they are fighting for it and they want it. So it’s good.”
And like the Magic, Ashley had to deal with some setbacks, tearing two ACLs, one during performance and one during a Dunking Dancers practice. But Ashley never let it get her down, as she said, “It hasn’t held me back from anything else, I came back as soon as I could.”
During the 2011-2012 season, Ashley was part of the compacted schedule of games due to the lock-out. “It was just constant, it was crazy,” recalled the Titusville native. “It was like a blur, kind of a whirlwind, because we went from nothing to full blast. And then we had the All-Star Game, so that was a whole new experience, a whole new set of challenges, and a whole new set of craziness. It was awesome!”
Reflecting on what it must have been like for that compacted year before she was on the squad, Elyse commented, “I already feel like we are so busy, I couldn’t even imagine, living and breathing basketball,” as Elyse pauses to rethink. “That must have been really fun!”
And 2013-2014 will be a really fun season for the Orlando Magic Dancers as they celebrate their 25th anniversary season. Also, Jeanine-Klem Thomas, the Orlando Magic Dancers Manager and Appearance Coordinator, also has the Dancing Dads (fathers of former and current Magic Dancers) that will be celebrating their tenth season, with her senior dancers, the Silver Stars, right behind on their way to season number nine.
So the young women that try-out Saturday at 9 am at the RDV Sportsplex Orlando Magic Gym will have a chance to be part of the silver anniversary team of the renowned Orlando Magic Dancers. Just as the Orlando Magic Dancers countdown to a new season like they do down the road at NASA for lift-offs, the young woman that make the team are in for an exciting ride!
Thanks to Ashley and Elyse for sharing the their insights with me last season, and of course to Jeanine Klem-Thomas for all of her invaluable assistance. And if you want to see some more photos of the Orlando Magic ancers from back in December click on this link.