Monday, August 13, 2007
by Gary Herron
Rio Rancho Observer
Rio Rancho Observer
After a season of chasing storms, a Rio Rancho girl will soon starting chasing the Suns.
Octavia, who prefers that her last name not be used, spent the last basketball season as a part of the Storm Chasers, the cheer and dance unit for the New Mexico Thunderbirds of the NBA's Developmental League.
In the "D League," players chase their dream: Playing in the NBA.
So, too, do their cheerleaders, and Octavia, 19 and a member of the Rio Rancho High School Class of 2006, learned Wednesday she has been chosen to be one of 16 dancers for the Phoenix Suns for the coming season.
The Suns' dancers perform at the team's 44 regular-season home games, appear at charity and team-sponsored events and even have an opportunity to travel abroad; last year's squad went to Korea.
Two other Storm Chasers made the jump to the pro ranks, she said, one winding up with the NFL's San Diego Chargers, the other with the NBA's Denver Nuggets.
Although she wasn't "one in a million," Octavia was one in 225, which were how many girls headed to the Valley of the Sun this summer for "prep classes" and tryouts.
That number was whacked to 45, Octavia said,
"Then they had interviews and the photo shoot, then I waited a week ... Then I found out last night I made the final cut," she said. "Some of the girls called me."
Now she's one in 16.
It wasn't the only pro team Octavia tried out for this summer.
"I wanted (to dance for the) Dallas Cowboys - I didn't even make first round, which is crazy to not make first round and then make a team," she said, happy now to know she's not too far from home.
"It just feels like where I want to be," she said, planning to take classes at the University of Phoenix and still aspiring to someday own her own dance studio.
"I'm taking classes in management," she said. "I leave Sunday - we start right away, get ready for preseason, and there's a tournament in Las Vegas.
"Performance-wise, it'll be a lot bigger (than being a Storm Chaser)," she said. "There's so many similarities, even going to prep classes and talking to the coach, it's like the same. (Storm Chasers coach) Leslie Chant taught me pretty much everything I need to know."
She also knew she had to make some calls, once she heard the good news.
"I called my sister; she lives here but was in Canada (for her job); she took me to the auditions, so I had to call her first; of course," Octavia said. "Then, my parents; they were both working, so I couldn't get hold of anybody."
She figures she'll be missed.
"It's going to be different because I'm the baby of the family," she said, adding, "It's going to be the best experience of my life."
Octavia hedged her bet; not sure if she'd be selected to dance for the Suns, she said she auditioned for the Storm Chasers last weekend.
So, goodbye, Storm; hello, Suns. (Whose dance choreographer's name is Maggie Cloud, Octavia said.)
"Leslie knew where my heart was," she said. "Dancing for them was one of the best experiences"
Born in Albuquerque, Octavia attended Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary, Lincoln Middle School and the Mid-High before spending the next three years at RRHS.
"Octavia was a member of the Master Dance Company for three years," recalled Fine Arts Academy head Lois Moreno. "Her leadership skills were so strong that she was a class mentor last year, coaching younger members and lending support to the company.
"Octavia was an outstanding member of the company both as a strong performer and also as a blossoming choreographer," Moreno continued. "In fact, we missed her so much this year, we invited her back to choreograph two numbers for our show 'Urban Beats.'"
Now, Octavia said, she knows the drill: practice, practice, practice.
Plus, she continued, "always maintain professional relationship; always be personable and approachable, especially with kids around.
"(Cloud's) favorite word is 'go to the gym.' And not only to stay healthy, but always eat, eat, eat. And maintaining a good relationship with our teammates - having her around was a great example," she said. "We're still role models.
"Seriously, it was one big healthy family; everyone wanted a spot. I never had a veteran be so nice. ... .Even the coach made me feel at home."