Saturday, September 22, 2007

Celtics Dancers - Jen’s London Blog 

Posted by Sasha at 1:34 PM ET

Celtics.com knows you always want to know what the Dancers are up to. Thankfully, Jen is keeping a blog as the girls turn London on its ear over the holiday weekend to promote the NBA Europe Live tour. The Celtics and Timberwolves will battle in London on Wednesday, October 10 in a preseason matchup during training camp.

In the meantime, Jen gives an inside look at the highlights and hijinx of the Celtics Dancers' trip as they perform for fans, see some famous landmarks, drink plenty of coffee and much more.

Thursday, August 30 - "I see London, I see...Dance?"

Greetings from London! We have had quite the day of excitement, and are completely unhindered by the fact that we are now approaching two days without sleep. Though I must confess, we have sampled about six different types of local coffee so far, definitely a fun experience in itself. But on to the more important events...

Our adventure started the second we stepped off the plane and discovered that our hotel driver was nowhere to be found! Due to a typo in the itinerary, our driver had been told to pick us up at 6:30 in the evening, instead of in the morning. Seeing as how we weren't able to use our cell phones, it was a task to coordinate our new pick-up arrangements. However, everything was soon resolved, and we set out across Heathrow to begin our first day in London. Let me just insert here that yes, we did all bring the infamous matching suitcases, and yes, due to the crowded quarters of the airport we had to walk everywhere in a single-file line. Make way for (lime green) ducklings.

When we got to the hotel, we were greeted by the most amazing staff I have ever come across in my entire life. You'd think the Queen was part of our group; we were treated like such royalty! Speaking of the Queen, our first stop of the day was Buckingham Palace. This is the one time during the year when the Royal Family goes to Scotland, and the inside of the Palace is open to the public. Thanks to Alexis, the Queen of Google, we had our tickets weeks ago and were able to walk through rarely-seen parts of the Palace. If anyone out there is getting married any time soon, I suggest you check out my personal favorite display: the wedding attire, gifts, and jewelry of the Royal Family. The word "astonishing" doesn't even do this display justice!

After an amazing tour at Buckingham, we walked to some more London must-sees: Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the Parliament Building. I think I have a good 30 pictures of Big Ben alone, so if you would like to see what the largest clock in the world looks like between 2:25pm and 2:55pm, I have a picture of each minute passing. I know, maybe overkill. But when else are you going to be that close to the clock from Peter Pan?

Our final outing of the day came as a complete surprise to us: complementary tickets to see Wicked. Even after a long day of site-seeing and not sleeping, we are always in the mood to watch great dancing and singing! Time to rest up for tomorrow when we get to do some dancing (but let's hope no singing...yikes)

We miss you, Boston. But we aren't quite ready to come back yet.

Friday, August 31 - "These Boots Aren't Made for Walkin'"

Well, friends, let me start off by saying that all of that bragging about our lack of sleep came back to bite me in the...well, let's just say I spoke too soon. If you know me, you know that there is really only one thing in life that will ever stress me out, and that is being late. I hate tardiness, and I pride myself on being not only prompt, but hyper-prepared and annoyingly early to all events. When Day 1 of London turned into 24 hours without sleep, and a 2 a.m. bedtime the next night, I knew I should cover my bases and set not one but two wake-up calls. Day 2 was supposed to be our busiest day of appearances, and we had to be out the door and in the car at 8 a.m.

I answered the first wake up call, but decided that I could sacrifice a bit of my complimentary breakfast time for a few extra minutes of sleep. I sank back into my cloud-like bed, completely content to relish 15 minutes of shut-eye before call #2. I soon dreamt that there was knock at my door, and that one of my friends was coming by to visit. It was a friend all right, but it wasn't a dream. It was Alexis, fully dressed in Celtics attire and anxiously pacing outside my room. 8:10 a.m. Wonderful.
Radio Appearance

The Dancers squeezed in a radio appearance between a photo shoot and a Prince concert.

Long story short, I hit the ground running in my white patent leather boots (I think you know the ones), and took a separate cab to the first radio interview appearance. We hit traffic, closed roads, and almost took a wrong turn, but somehow I made it to the station just after the other girls had arrived and didn't miss a thing! I'm not sure how we made up all that lost time. Maybe it was the boots...

Though my morning was off to a rocky start, I soon forgot my troubles due to the rapid pace of the rest of the day! After the initial radio interview, we did a photo shoot around town; pictures near Big Ben, the Buckingham Palace grounds, on top of bridges with spectacular views of London in the background, etc. We opted to walk from location to location, just in case we saw other photo opportunities. Though long, the shoot was a complete success, and was marred only by the perplexing aches and pains we were experiencing as we made our way back to our bus. Are we that out of shape? Or was our footwear not conducive to skipping across cobblestones? Had to be the boots...

Our next destination was a promotion/performance for London's top "Lad's Magazine". We danced in the middle of the small office building, and were very well-received. (Though I'd say it wasn't the boots alone that drew the response of "encore, encore!" from the crowd). From here we stopped by the Soccer AM TV show, a sports coverage show with a comedic twist. The hosts were highly entertaining, and allowed Melissa and I to tape a teaser advertising tomorrow's show, which will feature more quality Celtics Dancer performances! We had a quick dinner break around 7 p.m., and welcomed the chance to relax, eat, and yes, peel off the boots for the first time in 11 hours.

The final stop was one of the most fun, BBC London radio! We advertised tomorrow's "London Madness" kick off, and were able to relive the glory days a bit when asked about our past year as inaugural Celtics Dancers. But overall I think it was our excitement over this coming basketball season and team that most impressed BBC listeners.

Just when we thought our busy day would come to an end, we were offered the chance to see a very famous royal body, the Prince! No, not William or Harry, but rather the Artist Formally Known as Prince, who was wrapping up the London leg of his 3121 tour. Garbed in the same outfit as we were at 8 a.m., we caught the tail end of the show, the beginning of the VIP post-show, and were even able to review all of our dances and information for our performances tomorrow! How's that for multi-tasking, coach?

All in all, the day was non-stop action, but was an amazing time.... to boot!

Saturday, September 1 - "Under the Influence"
Please don't get any crazy ideas. I'm not going to talk about what you think I'm going to talk about! But rather, I want to give you a brief insight into what it is like to be completely consumed by the culture over here in London.

I have this friend named Emily, who is probably one of the most intelligent people I have come across in life. She was an English major in college, and thus has a phenomenal grasp of grammar and an astounding command of the English language. She comes across as the all-American girl, equipped with brains and beauty, and rightfully so!

When we first got over here to London, Emily seemed highly amused with the British vernacular, as were the rest of us. You don't often hear people in the US use phrases like, "Blimey! I'm supposed to meet for snooker at half-nine, and this stroppy bloke ahead of me is holding up the queue!" Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, we figured it was OK for us to incorporate these new phrases into our daily routine. For example, "Courtney, could you lend me a pound for the loo?"

Emily, however, became so intoxicated by the culture, that she began to slip in and out of the foreign accent without realizing it. For instance, when a fan approached her in the middle of one of our rehearsals, she sweetly called out to him "Hello they-ah! I am so saw-ry, but we ahh about to practice at the mow-ment. Could I grab a pho-tow with you a bit lay-tah?" The rest of us stood there in a bit of shock as our new "English" teammate continued dancing, but her change in nationality seemed to go unnoticed by everyone around us; her accent is that good! And what's more, the rest of us have been able to pick up many fun phrases due to the fact that Emily uses them with ease and regularity. But in all seriousness, there is something really amazing about being immersed in a culture so different than your own, and we are learning so much about daily life out here on the other side of the pond!

This morning (with Emily of England already spouting off a cheery dialogue), we headed back to the taping of Soccer AM. Courtney, Alexis, Cherie, and Emily performed on the indoor set in front of the Liverpool "footballers", then we all headed outside for an outdoor performance of an old crowd favorite, Give it Away. It was hard to pull ourselves away from the hosts and crew on this set, who dedicated themselves to keeping us very comfortable and VERY entertained. We hope to come back and visit! But today was also the official kick-off of "London Madness", so off we went. We spent our day outside the O2, the spectacular arena that was built out here for the millennium. We performed routines on the outdoor court, posed for fan pictures, and cheered on the basketball contests and tournaments. I think we have successfully done our job of putting London under the Boston influence; the European fans are eagerly anticipating the preseason games, and are bursting at the seams as they discuss our starting lineup. Go Celts!

Back at the hotel and itching to drink in more London culture, we wandered to an outdoor cafe for cheese plates and cappuccino, and to admire the quirky architecture. Then as a close to the evening, we went with Alex, Constantine, and Damian (our favorite NBA UK gentlemen), to experience some local cuisine. Thank you, guys, for your company and generosity.

Now as I sit here reflecting the day, I am struck by how surreal these past few days have seemed. I feel very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to represent both the Celtics and the NBA in Europe, and to have been able to do so in the company of such amazing people. It almost doesn't seem real! But I guess that's what being under the influence of London culture will do to you; everything sort of seems like a dream.

So until tomorrow, cheers.

Sunday, September 2 - "Fly Me to the Moon...and then to Boston"

Frank Sinatra said it best when he sang, "Fly me to the moon, and let me play among the stars. Let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars."

No, Frank didn't really want to be an astronaut. And I'm guessing he didn't really want to trade in springtime on the East Coast for one on Mars. But Frank knew about love and adventure, and what he was really singing about is this: give me a love that is so completely wonderful that it takes me to a whole new place; a journey that is unlike any other that I have ever been on. Let me skyrocket past everything that is mundane and normal in life, and let me embark on an exhilarating adventure with you. This is what London has been for us; an adventure so out of the ordinary that it cannot even be compared to past travels in life. We blasted through four days of non-stop action and experiences. And even though we will have to return back to Earth soon, I think it will be a while before we stop seeing stars.

For our final day in London, we headed back over to the O2 for more performances, pictures, and pre-season pump-up! In addition to the activities that we had been doing the day prior, there were two more that we got to be a part of. The first was a competitive slam-dunk contest between eight different gentlemen. Three judges sat half-court and evaluated each dunk by holding up a score card. The players with the top two scores advanced into the final round, and the winner of this round received a hand-held TV from the NBA. So basically, if you wanted to advance into the finals and have a shot at the prize, you had to wow the judges with creative slam dunks and crowd enthusiasm. Did I mention that the judges were Stacy, Cherie, and Myself? Not a bad job to have!

The second activity was one of the highlights of our trip, a dance clinic for kids! We weren't sure of the kind of turnout we would get, so we prepared classes for different levels of dance. We were pleasantly surprised to see a large group of participants in the middle of the court at clinic time. They were energetic and drew the biggest crowd of the day...and were almost all under four years old! They obviously weren't ready to be taught one of our routines, but they were great dancers nonetheless. One of the fun parts about working with kids is that after five minutes of being in your company, they have already inducted you into their circle of best friends. So I would like to say a special thank you to my new friend, Sophie, for being such a great part of our clinic! I didn't know it was possible to have so much energy at three years old. A Celtics Dancer in the making!

After the clinic, we left the O2 in our matching electric blue London Madness t-shirts and headed back to the hotel. Two hours later, accompanied by all of our NBA UK and NY friends, we hit the town for a farewell celebration. It was an absolutely unforgettable evening, and I know I speak for all of us when I say another huge thank you to our NBA hosts. This has been a wonderful experience, and definitely an adventure that we are not ready to be done with yet.

Now, in a matter of hours, the time has come to return back to Boston. And we are pretty darn excited about coming back to see everyone at home! However, our London travels are not over yet. The Celtics Dancers will be back in London and Rome in October to kick off the pre-season game versus the Timberwolves. This is when the real action begins, and we will be courtside to witness the victory!

So until October, London, don't change, and don't forget us. Keep up your contagious enthusiasm for the Celtics. "In other words, please be true. In other words, I-Love-You."

*And to my flight crew: Alexis, Cherie, Courtney, Emily, Melissa, and Stacy, much like Sinatra's rocket journey "to the moon", this trip has been a BLAST!

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