Sunday, September 09, 2007

PCB Field Trip: ProDance 2007 - Part 1 

Posted by Sasha at 1:43 AM ET

It’s been a month, since ProDance and I am finally – FINALLY putting this up. I know it’s been a long time coming, but there have been extenuating circumstances. I won’t bore you with the details. All I will say is that technology has not been my friend of late, and so my writing, blogging, and emailing activities have been significantly curtailed. I think I'm back in business now. Hopefully.

I would appreciate it if the mysterious evil forces inhabiting my computer and peripheral devices would kindly take themselves elsewhere. I have had quite enough, thank you.

Before I begin, I should tell you that many of the photos here were taken by Scott Campbell, a professional photographer on the scene to capture all the action. I took lots of photos, and several of them are in here, but for the most part, Scott’s are way better, so I’m using his. Rule of thumb: large photos = mine. Medium photos = his.

PS: Those of you who don’t know what ProDance is might want to click here first and catch up with the rest of us.)

ProDance 2007 took place at La Quinta Resort and Club in Palm Springs, California. It’s in the desert, two hours south of Los Angeles, and – at this time of year – HOT HOT HOT!

Registration was scheduled to start at 11am, so I headed out bright and early on that Sunday morning. The high point of the trip was the drive through the wind farms. So…many…windmills... I’d never seen so many windmills. Hundreds of them. Spinning around and around and around. Covering the hills on both sides of the freeway.

Charlie Brown once said "There are three things in life that people like to stare at: a flowing stream, a crackling fire, and a Zamboni clearing the ice." Clearly Charlie Brown had never seen a wind farm. Otherwise there would’ve been a fourth item on that list.

If I had some poetry in my soul, I’d say something about how La Quinta is an emerald jewel sparkling in the heart of a vast, featureless desert. But I’m not at all poetic. So all I’ll say is that it is truly startling to drive through miles and miles of dusty brown hills, then exit the freeway and bam! The greenest grass you’ve ever seen. It’s like that scene in "the Wizard of Oz" when everything goes from black and white to color.

The next thing about the La Quinta Resort is that it is BIG. So big, there are maps everywhere in case you get lost. There were "casitas" stretching out to the horizon in every direction. Even the maps themselves are big. When you check in, they give you one of those maps. (And a little packet of breadcrumbs. Just in case.)

Lucky for me, after I parked, I spied a trio of women in matching green and white outfits. Since they didn’t appear to be wearing La Quinta staff uniforms, and they clearly weren’t triplets, I figured the four of us were probably headed to the same shindig. So I followed them to the registration counter in Fiesta Del Sol.

Registration was scheduled to go from 11 to 4 to accommodate the participants' different flights, so registration was a nice, leisurely process, and not 300 people storming the counter en masse.

The first friendly face I met was that of Cheryl Lawson, Chief Chick in Charge of making this entire event run smoothly. Cheryl told me to stick with her, so I followed her over to the director’s luncheon in the Frank Capra room. Who is Frank Capra? I don’t know. But he must’ve been important.

The director’s lunch is where I met the aforementioned Scott the Photographer. One thing I have learned over the past several months is that photographers are good people to know. I’m telling you, they know things. I was much relieved to know that he would be taking photos also.

People were milling around in the Frank Capra room when I got there. A nice buffet was laid out and there was some mixing and mingling going on. There was also a cart of mysterious pink and blue goodies. Boy oh boy, I can smell Free Stuff a mile away! Somebody was getting some goodies. If I’d been in that room by myself, I gar-ron-tee you I would’ve cracked one of those things open to see what’s inside. I don’t care if it’s a bottle of water and a pack of gum. I just want to know what’s in there. I didn’t even get to pick one up and shake it.

Cheryl introduced me to Rosalyn Jones, the heart and the soul behind ProDance. Rosalyn Jones is one of those people who is small in stature, but brings big energy into every room she enters. Also she was wearing leopard print pumps with 4” heels. Raowr!

Also present in the Frank Capra room where two dancewear companies. On the right, we had our friends from the Line Up. I recognized the Vikings new uniforms (but not at the time), Redskins new Jackets, Brigade girls white one piece, Sixers Dancers uniforms, and Colorado Crush Girls uniforms. They also had a rack of what looked like studio and college dance team costumes.

I was all up in that rack of clothing. I know very little about sewing, but some reason, I am intensely interested in seeing how these outfits are made. What kind of fabric is that? Does it wrinkle? Are the trunks sewn into the skirt or are they separate? Could you fit the whole entire outfit into a ziploc bag? (The answer to that is no, by the way. You’d need at least two ziploc bags. Three if there’s a jacket.)

On the left was a company I’d not heard of D.A. Designs Dancewear. I recognized the Sonics Dancer warmups on one side of the table. They also had a powder blue and white outfit with yellow thunderbolts on it and I was over there with a quickness. Could it be – new Charger Girl uniforms? Well, yes…and no. They were a prototype for the team. Cute though. Tie front top and skirt with a matching jacket and shorts.

This brings me to something I’ve always wondered. Well, maybe not ALWAYS. Maybe just for a little while. Here’s what I want to know: where do the costumes go when their time is up? The girls don’t get to keep them. So where do they go? Do they destroy them? Auction them off? Give them away? Does Donald Wells have closets and closets (or baggies and baggies) of burgundy and gold leotards and whatnot stored away somewhere? And what about the boots? And the poms? Great scott! What about the poms?

Rosalyn kicked things off at noon, welcoming everyone to the start of this year’s event. She explained that this was the 8th annual ProDance convention and she was excited to start off with this luncheon and opportunity for professionals in the field to share their knowledge and experience and learn from one another. Everyone went around the table and introduced themselves. There were representatives from all sorts of teams and organizations – collegiate, NBA, D-League, AFL, NLL - even the Ontario Hockey League. It was pretty darn cool.

Kim and Nora. Kim is Director of the NLL Chicago Shamrox. Nora, a former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader, is the Director of the brand new NBA D-League Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

Choreographer Luam in a hoodie designed by her clothing line Wild Child Nation especially for ProDance 2007

Amy Woodard, retired Carolina Panthers Cheerleader, now editor of the brand new Pro Cheerleader Magazine.

The first guest speakers were Todd and Amy from MAC cosmetics.

They talked about some of the company’s most popular products for professional dancers (read: waterproof, sweatproof, and long-lasting.) As it turns out, MAC has sponsorship relationships with many pro teams, including Orlando Magic, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, and Washington Redskins.

The people at MAC LOVE doing those kinds of sponsorships. They’ll design a unified look for your team, provide the core products, and give you mega discounts on other products. They’ll also come out and teach your team how to get their game day face together. It seems like a great arrangement to me, so I encourage any team that isn’t taking advantage of this, or hasn’t heard about it to call MAC with a quickness. At the very least, they can point you toward some helpful products.

I got some good info out of it, anyway. Thumbs-up on the waterproof face and body foundation. MAC paint is great too. Doesn't budge at all.

Next up was Yaa Whitmore. Yaa danced for a number of years – with the Atlanta Hawks Dance Team, Knicks City Dancers, and Sixers Dancers, among others. She also created the Charlotte Bobcats dance team. This is a woman with credentials. Yaa has since started up her own consulting firm and she travels the country, helping different franchises get their dance team together. Her basic message is that there’s a lot more to being a dance team director than picking out the music and some cute outfits. She has a real understanding of the industry and her advice is invaluable. I’ll leave it at that, since I’ll be telling you more about her later. But I encourage you to see what she has to offer at Your Own Way Consulting.

Let’s see…who else was there? Steve from “Sounds Like That” talked about mixing tracks for performances and tailoring music for the individual team’s needs. Good stuff. Next up was Jani McGuire, former actress turned life coach. Jani did an exercise with the group to get everyone thinking about their individual strengths and bringing their own power to the positions they are currently in. More good stuff.

Jani with the three green-and-white ladies I'd followed in the door. Turns out they're from the Ottawa 67s Ice Girls. One is Jenny, one is Laura, and I didn't get the third one's name. Which sucks I know, but I was writing as fast as I could.

After that, the choreographers arrived and were introduced to everyone.

There were intros and some Q&A, and then it was time for a bit more mingling. That was also when the gals from the Line Up, opened up the trunks and invited everyone to take a free outfit.


That’s when I made my exit and went to check in at the front desk. My hotel room was a lovely room in casita #12. Or maybe it was #14. There was a fireplace. (As if!)

I went back to Fiesta del Sol for the big ProDance welcome session. They weren’t quite ready to open the doors, so everyone was gathered around waiting. Some of the lucky ones crowded into the lobby to wait. And I DO mean crowded. Every square inch of air-conditioned space was occupied.

Everyone else waited outside. I took advantage of the opportunity to take a few photos. I'll try to get as many of the names right as I can.

Sacramento Kings Dancers Heidi, Camille, Becca, Carly, and Krystal

Philly Sixers Girls. Director Adrienne, Chenelle, Amber, Melanie, Nina, Kirstyn, Erica, and Kim.

Here are a few Honeybees: Angelle, Christian, Christina, and Ashley
The Hornets are back in New Orleans full-time this year!

The ladies from the Edmonton Eskimos Cheer Team

The girls from Japan, representing the Cranes, Skyliners, Phoenix, and a couple of other teams I didn't quite catch. Pro sports dancing is HUGE in Japan. Huge.

One of them showed me her ProDance temporary tattoo. Check out those guns!

AZ Cardinals Cheerleaders
(Dangit! Which twin is that?)

Two Dallas Desperados Dancers.
Shannon and Tamara (I think)

Colts Cheerleaders Shonica (left) and Jennifer (right) with Yaa Whitmore (center)

Connecticut Sun Solar Power Dancers

Three of our favorite Falcons Cheerleaders: Sandra, Joie, and Brencia

Orlando Magic Dancer Director Janine, with three girls from the team, Cherie, Megan, and Kim.

Soon enough, it was time to get started. The doors opened and everyone went in to grab a seat.

The choreographers came in and took a seat on the stage. They had their mysterious pink and blue gifts with them. What's in there???

Cheryl came in to get everyone settled and ready for the day's events.

Rosalyn welcomed everyone to the 8th annual ProDance meeting, explaining that everyone was there to meet one another, learn some great choreography to take home for the season, and have some fun.

She also explained that this is a family affair for her. All her family is there every year to help with registration, offer support, and just about anything that needed doing – Rosalyn’s mom, Aunt Rose, Aunt Bert, Aunt Ettie May, and Aunt Steve from Riverside.

The kids were a big help too – Austin, Keyonna, and Omari. (I’m sure I spelled a few of those wrong)

Next up, Rosalyn read a passage from The Secret. It’s a best-seller, so I’m sure most of you have at least heard about the book. I haven’t read it, but if I understand correctly, the main idea is that surrounding yourself with positive thoughts, actions, and people, causes you to attract even more of the same into your life. Excuse me if I’m oversimplifying, but I thought it was a great message to kick off the conference.

Next, it was time for one member of each team to stand up and tell everyone where they were from. I didn’t catch all the teams, but I got as many of the teams as I could:

OHL (Ottowa 67s ice girls), NBA (Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Connecticut Sun, Philadelphia 76ers, Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings, New Orleans Hornets, Houston Rockets), NBA D-League (Tulsa 66ers, Rio Grande Valley Vipers, Ft. Wayne Mad Ants, Albuquerque Thunderbirds), NFL (Atlanta Falcons, Arizona Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, Tennessee Titans), AFL (Tampa Bay Storm, Georgia Force, Dallas Desperados, Utah Blaze, Nashville Kats), AF2(Albany Conquest) MISL (Philadelphia Kixx), NLL (Chicago Shamrox), CFL(British Columbia Lions, Edmonton Eskimos)

All I'm saying is there were a whole lotta people there.

After intros came the goodie bags! Hot pink ones, at that.

Inside was a plethora of interesting doodads and a schedule for the next few days.

The bag also included a length of red fabric, a symbol of this year’s charitable cause.. Every year, a portion of ProDance fees are donated to a charitable cause. Last year it was breast cancer awareness. This year, it was the Red Campaign for AIDS research. Rosalyn invited the attendees to tie on the fabric and incorporate it into their choreography.

This was another interesting item in the bag, the 12-ways Top. The manufacturer says there are 12 different ways to wear it, so Cheryl challenged the dancers to see if they could come up with all 12. The most ways I saw was six. It reminded me of those thingies the people wear on Survivor wear. You know what I’m talking about. Those thingies…Each tribe has a different color thingie.

Never mind. It’ll come back to me

Next, they walked us through the schedule for the next couple of days. There were two master classes scheduled that evening. (Master Class = everyone attends). Each day, there was a morning warmup, a master class, morning and afternoon breakout sessions, and an evening master class. It was going to be a busy time.

And I'm going to stop right here for now. Hard to believe I'm not even halfway through the first day! Stay tuned for Part 2, where we meet the choreographers and get to a little dancing!