Friday, November 30, 2007

DCC 11th Annual Thanksgiving Day Halftime 

Posted by Sasha at 6:36 PM ET

Pamela Jagger Purcel
DallasCowboys.com Staff Writer
November 22, 2007

IRVING, Texas - For 11 years the Dallas Cowboys have been dazzling audiences with their elaborate Thanksgiving halftime productions. In those 11 years some of the hottest performers in the industry have collaborated with the Cowboys Organization by headlining what is known as the Annual "Salvation Army Red Kettle Kickoff Concert". Clint Black, Destiny's Child, Sheryl Crow, Carrie Underwood and Toby Keith are just a few of the elite performers to have been featured on stage at the Cowboys 50-yard line.

The 2007 live concert continued the tradition of serving up first class entertainment with two-time Grammy winning artist Kelly Clarkson as the featured artist. When announced in October that Clarkson would entertain the Thanksgiving crowd, the Cheerleaders were excited.

DCC veteran Kandi Harris said, "Kelly Clarkson comes to the Cowboys games and is really supportive. She's energetic and a lot of fun and so we're excited to have her here as our guest at Texas Stadium."

The excitement didn't stop with the DCC however, because the popular Junior Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders were also invited to take part in the extravaganza. When dark-eyed beauty Dayton Bramhall, a member of the Junior Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, was asked what her friends thought about her upcoming appearance in the nationally televised halftime she said, "They are going to be so excited. They're going to be jumping up and down."

This season's live concert featuring Clarkson served to officially launch the 2007 Salvation Army Red Kettle Christmas campaign, which is the longest-running annual fundraiser of its kind in the country. The Red Kettle tradition, which originally began in 1902 in San Francisco, runs from Friday, November 23rd through Christmas Eve, December 24th. During that time, more than 25,000 volunteers will ring bells to raise money for those in need.

A performance with so much importance attached doesn't happen over-night. Shelly Bramhall, associate choreographer for Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders explains.

"Countless hours go into creating the annual production," she said. "In August we start the process of putting the Thanksgiving halftime together; then the schedules are created and then invitations are offered to the area's top studios to perform with the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders."

That's just the beginning.

Bramhall continues, "Before we ever come to the stadium for field rehearsals there are a number of dance studio rehearsals with the various students that are five hours long. Of course, before that can happen, there is the process of choreographing to the music."

Judy Trammell, Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Chorographer, said that the choreography process begins just after the artist is selected.

"We choreograph the dances after the artist picks the music they'd like to perform so that we can adapt to the various styles of music we'll be working with," she said.

Preparing a field performance that looks great both on television and inside Texas Stadium isn't simple. This year's show includes members of local marching bands, studio dancers, Junior Cheerleaders, and of course, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

Trammell said, "The hardest part of the process is having six different groups doing six different things and rehearsing at six different locations and then hoping on the day you put them all together on the field that no one is crashing."

Of course, with Trammell's experience there is certainly skill and maybe a crossed finger or two.

Trammell continues, "You find yourself just hoping it works at the end of the day. It's intense pressure up until the day of the game. I am just a nervous wreck until the performance but then I am excited."

(For the record, at Wednesday's first run-through on the field there was only one small collision - so they were off to a good start.)

The day before Thanksgiving the halftime production crew arrives at Texas Stadium at about 6 a.m. to make sure the sound and structures are all set and ready to go. Then the DCC and performers get started on the field at 9 a.m. and work until 6 p.m. There is a full dress rehearsal at the end of the rehearsal day which includes Kelly Clarkson and then the whole crew starts over again on game-day at 9 a.m. - just about six hours before kickoff.

The long hours can be a challenge for such young performers. Harris explains, "The hardest part is keeping the attention of all the different performers during the long practices."

One particular dancer, 18-year-old Cassie Trammell is no stranger to the tough rehearsal schedule. She's currently a collegiate cheerleader who has performed at all 11 Thanksgiving halftimes, starting when she was just a tiny Junior Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader. Having built a lengthy r�sum� of celebrity performances, she recalls one particular show as a stand-out.

"My favorite was Destiny's Child because I like hip-hop a lot and it was a lot of fun," she said.

If Cassie's last name seems familiar it's because she is the daughter of DCC Choreographer Judy Trammell. With mom and daughter dedicating 11 Thanksgivings so far to the Cowboys' halftime production, where do her dad and brothers figure in?

She said, "They come to the games; sometimes they help with props but Mom tries not to put them to work on Thanksgiving."

Since that very first Dallas Cowboys' Kettle Kickoff Concert in 1997 featuring Reba McEntire, the combined efforts of The Salvation Army and the Cowboys have raised upwards of $1 billion, which were used to provide food, clothing, money for heating bills, rent and a variety of other social services. The Salvation Army serves more than 6 million people during the Christmas season and more than 30 million annually. All money raised stays in the local community with 83 cents of every dollar going directly to people in need.

Judy Trammell sums it up, "The best part of the whole thing is the final product on the day of the game when you realize all the hard work was worth it . . . It's a great moment to know it's being watched all over the world and really that the cheerleaders get to perform for such a worthy cause."

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