Saturday, August 04, 2007

Sullivan sparks NHS Diamonette dancers 

Posted by Sasha at 9:53 AM ET

By Steve Snyder, editor
Navasota Examiner

She's not just a dance teacher, she's a professional herself.

Dana Sullivan, who instructs the Diamonettes of Navasota High School, has also been a Houston Texans Cheerleader and Houston Rockets Power Dancer.

Sullivan, who is 26, began dancing at what she says is the late age of 14. She began dancing in Crockett, while she was a cheerleader at Latexo ISD.

"My parents said that I used to watch "Solid Gold" when I was 2 years old and that I was totally mesmerized," she said. "They also tell me that my favorite songs to dance to were 'Come on Ilene' and 'Whip it Good.'

And, she was determined to get into dance school.

"Between the ages of 7-10 I annoyed my parents until they finally put me in dance. It was mostly a social thing at first, but once I had my first class, it was as if something inside of me came to life forever," she said.

Her dance focus carries over into entertainment; she said her favorite show right now is "So You Think You Can Dance?" She said it can even bring her to tears.

After high school, she danced and choreographed for the Angelina Pom Squad in Lufkin. Then, at the age of 19, she opened a dance studio in Crockett called Dana's Dancers.

She said business flourished, with her students winning many awards on local and national levels. During this five-year period Sullivan went to school at Sam Houston State University.

It is here that she performed as a member of the Sam Houston State University Dance Company for two years; she also performed in the Huntsville Dance Network for one year.

From there, it was on to the beauty contest world.

In July 2002, Sullivan was in the Miss Texas Pageant, held in Fort Worth that year.

But, even bigger and better things were to come in her future.

In 2004, Sullivan performed in Super Bowl XXXVIII, where she did back-up dancing for the musical sets of Beyonce, Josh Grobin and Aerosmith.

Sullivan talked more about that.

"The Super Bowl audition was crazy! It had 6,000 women and men auditioning and only 600 people were picked," she said. "I literally had 10 minutes to learn one dance. After I made the gig, we had another audition at our first practice. This audition was based on levels, and I made the advanced Latin section."

She also graduated in May of 2004 with a bachelor of fine arts degree in dance from Sam Houston.

In May 2005 she and her husband moved to Houston and Sullivan auditioned for the Houston Rockets Power Dancers and made the team.

Sullivan talked about her audition in detail.

"The Rockets audition was really emotional for me because I had just shut down my studio of 5 years just to pursue my dreams. More importantly, my mom was unable to be there because she was taking care of my grandfather who was sick with cancer," Sullivan said.

That obviously added to what would have been normal audition performance nerves.

"I was extremely nervous. It's nerve racking auditioning because you are literally as close as you could ever be to your dream," she said. "I was just trying to do my best and hopefully stand out. There were over 300 women that auditioned and that was what made me the most nervous. I knew that they were only going to choose 22 women."

Sullivan said the audition process was also physically grueling as well as being nerve-wracking.

"There were three rounds where the judges made three cuts. We learned three dances and each dance was a different style," she said. "The final night we auditioned two at a time."

She said that people at the tryout had already been with the team for two weeks, so they already felt like a part of the team, helping the nerves a little bit.

But, she still had to wait for word of whether her audition was good enough.

Finally, I got a letter and all I did was focus on the part that said "Congratulations, you are a member of the 2005-2006 Houston Rockets Power Dancers." I called my mom and cried and she said, 'All right.' That will always be my all-time favorite dance moment."

The Rockets Power Dancers were then asked to perform in the 2006 NBA All-Star Game. There, Sullivan said she did back-up dancing for Carrie Underwood, Jamie Foxx and John Legend. Sullivan also did dance choreography for the Houston Rockets Power Dancers as well as being a performer.

That, in turn, led to another round of national-level sports exposure.

Between having worked at the Super Bowl, and danced for one professional sports team, a shot at the NFL seemed like a logical next step.

So, in April 2006, she auditioned and became a Houston Texans Cheerleader. As with the Rockets, she did choreography as well as dancing.

"With the Texans it was even harder to make because more than 800 woman turned out for the audition," Sullivan said.

And, it was a longer, more in-depth audition process.

"We had six rounds, where the judges made cuts each round. So, we had to learn six dances, which meant six different styles. The hardest part about this audition is that we literally got 10-20 minutes to practice before each round."

With experience under her belt, Sullivan said she was more relaxed for this audition, even though it was longer than the Rockets audition.

"Thank God I'm a fast learner," she added. She also said she liked to audition early.

"I always like to go in group No. 1 so that I can get it over with. If I do make the team, my number is one of the first numbers called. When my number was called, I literally collapsed my face into my lap. I picked up my cell phone and called my husband.

"He, my mom and my aunt were sitting together. I said "Put me on speaker phone,' and then I said 'I made it.' They screamed with excitement," she said.

Sullivan said choreography, as well as performance, had come naturally to her.

"The first time I choreographed I was in the seventh grade. I didn't feel like my and my duet partner's dance was long enough, so I just took it upon myself to make it longer. It's crazy - even at that age I knew that I needed to choreograph the same way my teacher did. I didn't want it to be obvious that the dance was choreographed by two different people," she said.

Along with all the pro sports gigs, Sullivan has also danced on MTV, the Today Show and BET.

But she said she really missed her dance studio. So she decided to open a new studio in Huntsville, called "Hot on Your Heels Dance Productions."

That, in turn, led to her getting her job teaching the Navasota High School Diamonettes.

"One of my students' grandmother works at Region 6 (of the Texas Education Agency) and told me about the position," she said. "Navasota High School principal Brent Rumbo called Region 6 to see if they knew of anyone who would be interested; she gave him my name. So I went in for an interview and was hired on the spot."

Sullivan said she loves teaching the Diamonettes.

"They work so hard and make me so proud," she said

Between the studio and her Diamonette work, she decided not to audition for the Texans again. She did not audition for Texans again this year because she and her husband are moving to Huntsville. She teaches children age 3 and up, in the styles of jazz, tap, ballet, hip-hop, modern and pointe. For more information, call 936-546-6097.

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