Thursday, October 04, 2007
By Vicky Hallett
Some of the finest athletes at a football game spend most of their time on the sidelines. Sure, cheerleaders might not score touchdowns, but they perform impressive feats with a lot less padding (at least of the external variety) than the big guys.
Just check out the Redskins Cheerleaders, 40 gals who can rile up a crowd with a single hip bump. In the past, to score their moves, women would have to sign up for audition prep classes. But this season, members of the squad are taking their show to local Washington Sports Clubs for a handful of workshops where anyone (female or male) can learn the secrets of their struts.
"So many people are interested in what we do," says Tiffany (not revealing last names is a policy of the Redskins Cheerleaders), a captain and six-year veteran who, with fellow pepster Melani, led a class in Bethesda last week.
Their revealing gear — tight white hot pants, knee-high white boots and skinny black T-shirts — shows the stunning end result of at least two grueling, four-hour practices each week. "What we’re going to do today is similar, but scaled down," Tiffany chirps. And, no, assures Melani, they won't be forcing the gym-goers to try the squad's trademark drop split, where the ladies leap in the air with arms intertwined, shoot their legs apart and keep them that way as they land together on the grass.
The beginning is reminiscent of a regular aerobics class — a warm-up, some flexibility work — but while instructors often act a bit like cheerleaders, none of them is as convincing as this pair. "Good work, guys! Good stretch!" Tiffany exclaims while jumping in place and clapping.
Their spirit stays high during a vigorous core segment, and then they get even more enthused: It's time to learn the NFL walk. It sounds deceptively simple — just put one foot in front of the other while keeping your chest as tall as possible and "being flirty with your upper body." More advanced walkers can add turns if they feel so inclined. "We do this all of the time when we go out to the field. We always have to add a little flair to everything we do," Tiffany explains.
After a few struts across the studio, the class segues into actual game-day dance routines. Tiffany and Melani make the arm-swinging, tush-shaking and head-popping look easy, but everyone else quickly works up a sweat.
The hour flew by for student Marsha Scherbel while she enjoyed the show. "They’re fun to watch. I was just wondering how they manage to look that good and be that flexible," she says. The one man in the class, Jean Roayaei, similarly liked what he was seeing. "No French guy would pass up this opportunity, even if I am making a fool of myself," the Nice native notes.
There’s no reason to be embarrassed, says Tiffany. After all, they do this stuff in front of thousands of people.
How to score a place on the roster: If you rocked your first attempt at the NFL walk during one of Washington Sports Club’s classes (see Mysportsclubs.com for dates and locations), you may be a candidate for the Redskins Cheerleaders’ audition prep classes, held in February and March to gear up for April’s auditions.
Redskins.com/cheerleaders features an extensive FAQ, but here’s most of the skinny: You can take the classes even if you don’t want to try out, and you don’t need to take the them even if you’re going to audition. But woe to those who skip — they miss out on "important information," says the site. If you plan to go all the way, make sure you fit the other criteria. There are no maximum height, weight or age limits, but you have to be at least 18, have a high school diploma or GED and hold down responsibilities beyond dancing (a job, school or a family). Have a tattoo? Make sure it’s masked with makeup. And you’ll need a doctor’s note confirming that you’re in excellent physical condition and can work out strenuously at least four times per week. Then you, too, might just get to do a drop split next season.