BlazerDancer Rookie Firsts: Countdown to Opening Night
For Rip City fans, the 2017-2018 season may have begun last October, but your BlazerDancers started preparing for Opening Night long before—since auditions last July, we have completed a BD mini-camp, a poster shoot, and put in countless practice hours. For the BD’s, October 24th couldn’t come fast enough!
Though Opening Night always has an air of excitement to it, for me this one was special because it was my first home game as a BlazerDancer instead of a fan! My rookie year on the team has come with a lot of exciting firsts that all led up to that first incredible moment on the court together with my 16 teammates and I’m excited to share some of those firsts here with you!
First: Making the TeamMy journey to Opening Night began back in July at auditions. In one fun, challenging 8-hour day we learned choreography from the incredibly talented Shandon Perez for the three preliminary rounds: technique, jazz, and hip hop. By evening, the panel of judges had narrowed it down to a group of finalists who would compete in final auditions the following weekend. That audition week I spent every day practicing my small group routines and perfecting my solo. By the day that finals finally rolIed around I had so much fun dancing on stage and getting to know the other girls auditioning I felt much less nervous than I expected!
After leaving it all on the dance floor, all that was left to do was wait for the night of team reveal. When the evening came, all the finalists dressed up and met Coach Michelle in the Moda Center party suite. One by one, dancers’ names and pictures flashed across the Jumbotron, announcing that year’s team members. Seventeen spots, seventeen names. Seeing my photo as a BD on that screen for the first time was a feeling like no other—I couldn’t believe that the dream I had been working towards for the past three years had finally come true; I would get to spend this next season dancing with the amazingly talented women I watched perform for years. Once the full team was announced, the vets gave us rookies a warm welcome by sharing with us the first BD tradition we would do together: we all put in our hands and cheered “BD4L!” After our first chant as a new team, we took team photos, had a group meeting and got our season prep started!
First: BD Mini Camp
The BlazerDancers kick off every practice season with a four day mini-camp where we learn a large chunk of our routines for the season. We are truly fortunate to have such amazing choreographers bringing us seriously innovative choreography, specific to our team’s style! During camp I had a blast getting to know each choreographer—it was amazing how welcoming they all were to the new girls on the squad!
This season we perform routines by Mina Ortega, Oscar Hernandez and Shandon Perez. Mina taught us a handful of super sassy jazz numbers and Oscar brought some funky hip hop routines. We put in some serious practice time with Shandon, who taught us my favorite (and the most challenging) routine of the season so far: our Opening Night halftime Beyoncé routine. This routine was a blast to learn because not only was it a Beyoncé medley and a range of different styles packed into one super-routine, we also each got our own 8-count solo to be introduced to Rip City!
Aside from dancing, mini-camp and the start of the season is also jam-packed with fun team bonding activities. From team dinners and themed spirit days to a karaoke night at Voicebox and pedicures to cap off a long weekend, it was easy to become fast friends with all of my new teammates!
First: In Uniform
I didn’t even have to wait for the first game of the season to get a taste of what it felt like to be a BD-I got to dress the part at our team poster shoot! After all seventeen of us arrived on set, first order of business was getting our individual shots. As a rookie, I was thankfully able to take notes from some of the vets for posing ideas and what to expect when it was my turn in front of the camera. Having Coach on the other side of the lense with our photographer was another huge help—her keen eye was always attentive to what looked best for each dancer and made sure our personalities came through in our photos.
After finishing the solo shots it was time for the full squad photo—important to get right, since it would be used for this year’s poster! After taking time to arrange the team in the right pose and shooting some smiling shots we made sure to get a few goofy ones in there just for fun. This shoot was especially fun for us rookies because we finally got to don our brand new uniforms and really feel what it’s like to get dolled up like a BD!
First: On the Court
The last major first, and by far the most memorable new experience I’ve had so far on the team, was Opening Night—what we had all been patiently awaiting and working so hard for! I am completely serious when I say the whole team (coach included) was acting like kids on Christmas morning for the 24 hours leading up to game time. Our group message was a nonstop stream of excited memes and bitmojis!
When the night finally came, we arrived at the Moda Center hours before tipoff and were greeted by a dressing room dripping in Blazer-themed gear, lights and streamers (even bowls of our favorite team snack—Hot Cheetos!), and our coach and most senior veterans cheering and dancing to “Run the World” by Beyoncé (perfectly fitting for the supersized halftime number we would perform later that evening). Walking into that party set the tone for the season ahead and goofy dressing room antics are now one of my favorite things about game day.
Once the initial dance party calmed down we continued practicing and primping as game time grew closer, but the surprises weren’t over just yet. Right before we headed onto the court to perform our first regular season routine, our coach walked through the door with our choreographer Shandon, who had flown in from out of town just to see our team debut live! The whole team screamed—we were so pumped to be reunited with Shandon just before hitting the court, since the last time she saw us dance her routine was in camp right when we first learned it. We were ready to impress!
After all of the excitement and anticipation, we finally got perform our halftime routine, which clocked in at just under five minutes. Those five minutes fly by when we are out there on the court, dancing our fullest; we are always pumping each other up and yelling to one another to keep up the energy. Once the game ended (three hot timeouts and a Blazer WIN later!), we all returned to our dressing room to celebrate and toast to the upcoming season with our performance squad teammates, the Blazers Stunt Team.
Performing my rookie season’s Opening Night game will always be a highlight for me and luckily it was just the beginning of what is turning out to be an awesome Rip City season! Thank you for following my countdown to opening night Blazer fans and I’ll see you at the next home game!
Let’s go Blazers!
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