Tuesday, April 15, 2008

For the Love of Dance 

Posted by James at 6:52 AM ET

By Samantha Stockman
The Bismarck Tribune
There are three rounds of cuts, an interview and a photo shoot. There are 80 women who are pretty, talented and physically fit, who all want to pass the audition as the Target Center in Minneapolis fills with spectators and judges. The women all want to be Minnesota Timberwolves Dancers and only 15 will make the team.

"I thought, 'I'm just a girl from North Dakota; what am I doing?'"
Chrissa Miller said. "I knew I had to have a certain something, so they couldn’t not take me."

Miller started dancing at age 10 with an elementery dance team called Dynamics.

"My parents were really big into sports and were puzzled with why I wanted to dance," Miller said, "but it started as a little girl and I fell in love with it."

Miller hasn’t stopped dancing on teams since then. She was a choreographer for the Bismarck High School Demonettes for two years before becoming the captain her senior year. She graduated from BHS in 2003 and moved on to dance with the North Dakota State University Dance Team for three years. She became the captain her sophomore year. Her senior year, she coached the West Fargo High School dance team.

"My husband (Chad) and I just let her go with it," Miller’s mother Shar said. "We followed her to events and competitions and grew to love it also."

In 2005, Miller became Miss North Dakota USA and competed in the Miss USA Pageant in Baltimore.
Chrissa, Miss ND USA
"My experience as a dancer really helped me gain confidence to compete in the Miss USA Pageant because I was so used to being on stage," Miller said, "and the pageant experience of public speaking events and interviews helped me prepare for the life of a Timberwolves dancer."

Miller graduated from NDSU in 2007 with a major in mass communications, with an emphasis on public relations and a minor in marketing.

"The classroom is the number one priority in our family," Shar Miller said. "We want to make sure she does well in school and gets an education."

Miller auditioned for the Minnesota Timberwolves in August.

"It was so nerve-wracking," Miller said. "I found out I'd made the team from my picture posted on the Web site."

The Timberwolves Dancers learn 30 to 50 dances a season, so the team meets at 5:30pm six to seven days a week to review material together before practice begins. At 6pm, a fitness company trains the dancers to build endurance through cardio and lifiting. The dancers then learn new choreography and review the dances they’ll perform at upcoming games. They head home at 9pm

"How we look is a big part of the job, so we have to keep in great shape," Miller said.

The Timberwolves Dancers perform for 42 home games during each full timeout. In addition, they do multiple promotional media and event appearances, as well as personal interactions with the Timberwolves fans.

"Fans come to watch the games and be entertained," Miller said. "You definitely need to have charisma as well as great dancing ability to make the team."

Coming from a strong drill team backround and having little technical training from a dance studio, Miller said it is unusual for her to make it as far as she has.

"Technique is so important in the dance world," Miller said. "After I worked so hard to make it on the NDSU dance team, my technique really blossomed."

Miller credits both her sharp, drill team background with the Demonettes and her more lyrical, technical backround with the NDSU dance team for the stylistic versatility she needs as an NBA Dancer but she said that her strongpoint is her ability to perform.

"People will tell me, 'I can see how much you love this. You show it in your face,’” Miller said. "And that’s how I communicate with the crowd."

Shar Miller talked excitedly of watching for glimpses of her daughter on the TV when she watches Timberwolves games.

"We’ve had the privilege of having a suite at a game, which was fantastic and a lot of fun," Shar Miller said.

Chrissa, Timberwolves Dancers

In addition to dancing with the Timberwolves, Miller has a full-time job that does retail marketing for the Target Corp.

"She has a good head on her shoulders; she knows what she can and can’t do," her mother said.

Most women on the team are either full-time students or have full-time jobs, said Miller.

"We don’t get paid like the players," Miller said, "but even if we didn’t get paid a cent, we’d do it because we love it."

The 15 Timberwolves Dancers have become very close, said Miller.

"When I tried out, I wanted to dance for the Timberwolves, dance on court for the NBA," Miller said.

"Now I get to do what I love and the 14 other girls are my best friends."

Miller plans to try out for the Timberwolves Dance Team again next year.

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