Thursday, August 09, 2007

OC Goddesses sizzle up the sidelines 

Posted by Sasha at 10:39 PM ET

The newly formed dance team will cheer on the OC Gladiators
By Amanda Pazornik
The Orange County Register
Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The bass moves through the paper-thin walls and rattles the scuffed wood floor of the dance studio where the OC Goddesses hold their late-night practice.

Sweat glides down the dancers' faces as they throw their heads from side to side, allowing their long hair to fly wildly in every direction.

Tonight, learning a hip-hop routine is the agenda, and the team must work until it's perfect.

Kenndra Alvarez, dance director for the OC Goddesses, wouldn't have it any other way.

"The girls are here to bring family fun and entertainment to Orange County. Each one has to have strong technique and dance quality, in addition to a great appearance."

Meet the OC Goddesses, a talented mix of 11 dancers who will perform at every home game for the OC Gladiators, one of the newest teams in the American Basketball Association (ABA).

The OC Gladiators call the basketball gym at Aliso Niguel High School home and so does Devon Barnes, a recent Aliso Niguel graduate and former song leader.

"I always wanted to be back in the gym and cheer," Barnes, 18, said. "I've always had a lot of spirit, and this is my way of letting it out."

Barnes plans to major in dance at Saddleback College this fall, a natural progression from high school considering she's been dancing for 16 years.

She's trained at the Ballet Conservatory and Jimmie DeFore Dance Center and was a member of South Coast Freestyle, a competitive travel dance team.

Teammate Tracie Griffin was a Jimmie DeFore scholarship student before joining the OC Goddesses. The 28-year-old from Laguna Niguel comes with 15 years of experience, which includes stints with the Long Beach Ice Dogs and the Long Beach Jam.

Griffin's extensive resume didn't automatically secure a spot for her on the OC Goddesses team – in fact, she struggled to keep up at the tryout because she had her second child six weeks earlier.

"I was a little rusty, but I gave it my best," Griffin said. "I was out of dancing for a couple of years and was wondering if I could do it again. Being able to come back and be a part of this team makes me feel like myself again."

The age diversity of the OC Goddesses is one aspect of the team that Gloria Martinez admires. The Lake Forest resident was initially surprised that dancers with such different ages and backgrounds could get along so well.

"So far we're all working together really nicely," Martinez said. "It's great because there are so many unique personalities entertaining our audience."

Martinez, a former El Toro High School song leader, prefers to dance jazz and hip-hop, a perfect combination for the OC Goddesses' routines.

The 18-year-old plans to use her experience with the OC Gladiators to obtain a career dancing for a professional athletic team.

"I'd love to be a Laker Girl or a Charger Girl," Martinez said. "Dance is just so fun, and I can't imagine not having it as a part of my life."

Sarah Housepian and Sarah Ellman, both of Lake Forest, danced with Martinez as El Toro song leaders and were honored to move up to the minor league level.

"Dancing for the OC Gladiators is a great place to start," Ellman said. "It's big-time coming from a high school dance team."

At 17, Ellman is the youngest member of the OC Goddesses. She will be attending Cal State Fullerton in the fall with Housepian, 18, who coaches the song team at El Toro in her spare time.

Housepian uses coaching to expose her to different styles of dance, but admits she enjoys performing one specific style.

"I really like hip-hop," she said. "I love performing the routines at basketball games, and it's an amazing honor to be doing what I love."

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