Former BlazerDancer Builds Powerhouse Dance Team

By Sandra Colton
Dance Spirit Magazine

blaz1When talking with dancers, I’ve been known to say, “Make your mark, don’t just stand on it!” Allow me to introduce you to a dancer who made her mark and is staking her claim in the world of dance: Sara Anderson is the coach of the Lincoln High School Dance Team in Portland, OR. The Cardinal ladies under Sara’s direction are the proud champions of the 2010 Oregon State Dance Team Championship. Sara began dancing at age six, danced on the Rex Putnam High School Dance Team and performed as a BlazerDancer for the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers for four years. Committed to the community and her passion for dance, Sara interviewed for the dance team coach position at Lincoln High School, and 13 years later she says, “The rest is history.” History is right. Sara and the Cardinals Dance Team have won eight Oregon State Dance Team titles!

Sara is also the owner of Elite Dance Studio (which has been open for seven years), co-coach of the Junior BlazerDancers for the last six years and coordinates competitive teams outside of the studio along with the Cardinals Dance Team. I sat down with Sara to learn about some of the challenges and positives aspects she finds while coaching the team and how she has time to do it all.

“My biggest personal challenge is juggling my schedule,” she says. “Between my own family with two kids ages 7 and 4, my demands at the studio and the studio competitive teams schedule, as well as coaching the Junior BlazerDancers, and our rehearsal schedule at Lincoln… Whew… Everyday is a busy one! Thank goodness I’m surrounded by wonderful, helpful and supportive people. There are so many positive aspects I love about coaching. The sense of accomplishment and pride I get when I watch the dancers perform. I love watching them grow not only has dancers but as young women. I am still very close with many of the girls that have gone through my program over the years.”

Sara believes that as a coach you have to “lead by example and bring a strong work ethic and dedication for the program. A united team is a successful team,” she says. Sara creates a positive atmosphere for the girls and says, “We take time for team bonding and do fun activities outside of practice, like bowling, movie nights and team dinners. I remind the dancers we are all here for the same reason, with the same goals. I always try to finish every rehearsal on a positive note. Keeping your dancers inspired and motivated is important not only for the teams’ success but for the overall experience the dancers have in your program. Our team is rich with traditions and the dancers love that! Most importantly, help them believe in themselves, their teammates and their dance.”

After winning eight dance team titles (2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010), Sara emphasizes that “your dancers will take cues from you about how to respond after a big win or an upsetting loss. We talk about winning and losing gracefully and we talk about respecting what the judges say and the scores we receive. If we are happy with our performance then we graciously accept the outcome. We talk about the will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win.”

With more than 30 dancers on her team, the audition process can be competitive. Sara suggests that dancers “do their research before auditions. It is always good to come into an audition well trained, but some of my best dancers have started their training later in life. It is all about how bad you want something. If I select a dancer who shows raw potential, I will encourage them to get outside training as well as provide them with more guidance during rehearsals. Before auditions I always remind the dancers to show me how much they love to dance when they hit the stage. I say, ‘I can fix your feet, but I cannot fix your attitude…passion comes from inside!’”

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The 2010 Oregon State Dance Team Champions are the Lincoln High School Cardinals consisting of members Alaina, Ali, Alyssa, Amanda, Andrea, Ashley, Aubree, Caroline, Casey, Cassidy, Catalina, Clare, Dorie, Emma, Eri, Hannah, Judy, Kayla, Kristy, Lexi, Lyndsey, Mackenzie, Maddie, Maddy, Maggie, Malia, McKenzie F, Mckenzie T, Natalie G, Natalie M, Rachael, Serena and Shaina. (Head Coach Sara Anderson, Assistant Coach Shelly Misevch and Team Manager Phyllis Zeck). Congratulations, ladies!

[Elite Dance Studio]

BlazerDancers Abroad

Ni Hao — BlazerDancers in China: Day 1
Portland Trailblazers
8/28/2009

Our once in a lifetime journey started at 8:00 am at PDX. BlazerDancers Caitlin, Cristi, Taren, Eri, Mari and Mary Ellen and I began our trip to NBA Madness 2009 in Taipei, Taiwan and Hong Kong!

So much excitement in the air as none of us have ever been to China. This is the first International trip for all of the ladies as BlazerDancers. Our journey took us through San Francisco, directly to Tokyo and finally about 20 hours later to Taipei, Taiwan! Of course through customs and the challenge of finding our way to correct baggage claim area. Luckily we have Eri who understands some of the language and was able to guide us through the airport. Or first challenge – Caitlin’s luggage with all of her uniforms, shoes, accessories is missing! Our first event is in the morning and Caitlin has nothing to wear! Luckily each dancer packed one uniform and shoes in their carryon just in case of emergency! Thank goodness for that last minute idea. Always be prepared!

We were greeted at the exit by our fabulous escorts Doris and Zeno who will be with us for our stay here in Taiepei. The nicest two people we could be lucky to work with. The second we exit the airport we’re overwhelmed by the heat and humidity! It must have been 90 degrees but it felt like 110. Our Rockstar Energy Drink Sweats were perfectly comfortable for the long journey here but it was time for a quick little adjustment to survive the temperature. As we traveled for an hour by bus to the fabulous Shangri-La hotel in Taipei, we were able.to see the city by night. It never sleeps. It’s like New York City. What stood out most…..the Vespas1 They’re everywhere. We were later told there are 22 million people here…..and……22 million Vespas! One of our hosts says he has three of his own. Just imagine New ork City cab drivers on Vespas, weaving in and out of traffic and serious speed. Everyone rides them, adults, kids and familes, yes we saw three people on one Vespa! We’re hoping to rent some for a tour of the city while we’re here.

Once checked in at the Shangri-Lal we had a late dinner at one of the many bar/restaraunts here at the hotel on the 38 floor. We were able to see the beautiful city of Taipei by night and for the first time, the tallest buidling in the world, Taipei 101. Amazing! Can’t wait to see it up close.

Time to nestle in and try to get some sleep. NBA MAdness 2009 begins tomorrow!

Wan an – good night!
Caitlin, Taren, Cristi, Eri, Mari, Mary Ellen

2009 -2010 BlazerDancer Team Announced

2009-bda-finals

Thirty five finalists took to the stage at the Winningstad Theater in Portland’s Center for the Performing Arts for the final round of auditions to determine which 16 ladies would grace the Rose Garden floor as BlazersDancers during the 2009-2010 Trail Blazers season. Hundreds of family members and friends packed the theater to support the dancers and were treated to a fantastic show.

Comcast SportsNet was also on hand again this year to record the auditions for a reality TV show set to air this fall, adding to the excitement for both the dancers and their fans.

The dancers came prepared to perform the two group routines that they had learned the previous weekend along with a solo routine. However, when the dancers arrived they were surprised with an additional dance to perform and only one hour to prepare for it. Luckily, this was a free-style “hot time-out” dance that didn’t require any choreography, but instead was meant to test the dancers’ ability to have fun and play to the crowd.

Once the show was underway, the finalists danced their hearts out for an expert panel of judges and an enthusiastic crowd. Four routines and five hours later, the auditions were over and the dancers could breathe a sigh of relief. But now came the toughest part of the audition process for the dancers, waiting until the following day to find out the results.

The next afternoon, when the dancers arrived at the Rose Garden they were anxious, nervous and excited to find out if they had captured one of the 16 spots on the team. Each dancer was led one by one into the Trail Blazers locker room where they found a locker with their name on it covered by a curtain. Behind the curtain they would find either a BlazerDancer uniform – meaning they made the 2009-2010 BlazerDancers, or an empty locker – meaning their quest to become one of the final 16 was over, at least for this year. For some, the wait was well worth it, for others the day ended in disappointment.

The lucky 16 who found uniforms in their lockers greeted each other with excited screams, hugs and tears. This season’s team has familiar faces with eleven returning dancers and two dancers who were on the team in previous years, as well as three rookies.

The Trail Blazers are happy and proud to introduce you to a group of young women the fans will come to know very well.

CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS OF THE 2009-2010 TEAM

[Click here for photos from the BlazerDancer finals