Monday, September 08, 2008

Hopeful Dancers put Best Foot Forward 

Posted by Sasha at 11:24 PM ET

OKC Thunder

Riene has never tried anything like this before. Crystal was a member of the Hornets Honeybee Dance Team. Those two young women joined 178 others from the Oklahoma City area in trying to achieve a dream. They each want to be part of the first Oklahoma City Thunder Dance Team.

"I was on the pom squad at my high school," Riene said. "But I've never danced professionally...so it's a little intimidating but I think I'm doing OK."

Crystal has been through the drill before. She tried out for and made the Honeybees when the New Orleans Hornets had tryouts for Oklahoma City dancers. But even she was surprised by the number of women who showed up for the first round of auditions Sunday at the Cox Convention Center.

"There are a lot more girls here than I was anticipating," she said.

Even though Crystal sees familiar faces and knows some of her competition, she said she will not spend much time catching up. She will also not offer much advice to the newcomers.

"I'm in my zone. If anyone wanted to ask me a question they would have had to to have asked earlier in the week," she said. "Today I've got to think about my own choreography, my memory and of course presence. It's not like cold shoulders or anything but you're just kind of cheering each other on with a friendly smile and that's it."

It was different for Riene. She wasn't distracted by friends or familiar faces.

"I don't really know anyone," she said. "But that's cool; I can just concentrate on what I'm doing."

Did she practice any routines to get ready for her big day?

"No, I probably should have," she said. "I've just been working out a lot, trying to eat the right things so I'd be in shape."

Dance Team manager and choreographer Sabrina Ellison can relate to the pressure the women are facing. Ellison danced for the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks before becoming coach of the Seattle SuperSonics Dance Team. It wasn't that long ago that she faced the rigors of trying out to try to achieve a dream.

"This morning I had butterflies," Ellison admitted. "I know exactly what they're feeling. I was just there a few years ago. They're nervous, they're excited, so much energy, so much adrenaline. They want to make this team. This is the biggest thing, this is the first pro team out here in Oklahoma City and so they want to make it, to realize their dream. I'm excited for them."

Looking good and being able to dance are of course top requirements for any young woman hoping to make the team. But Ellison also places a lot o fempahsis on another area.

"Interviewing, to me personally, is a very big thing. Because these women are going to be dealing with the media," Ellison said, facign a group of cameras and reporters herself. "It's important that they're friendly and easy to talk to. We're not looking for someone that has the perfect answeres. We're looking for someone who's just natural within themselves."

Of the 180 trying out on Sunday, only 18-20 will be chosen as members of the Thunder's first dance team. About 140 of them didn't make it past the two cutdowns on Sunday. The 40 or so who are still in the running will go through the interview process on Wednesday and then it's on to a public final round on Thursday evening, Sept. 11 at Toby Keiths's I Love This Bar & Grill in Bricktown. The event begins at 6 p.m.

After seeing the talent on display at tryouts Ellison thinks anyone who comes out to Toby Keith's on Thursday will be impressed.

"I've been absolutely blown away by the women who've come out," she said. "Not only are they beautiful, they're charismatic, they're very talented so I'm just excited to train them to be ambassadors of our Thunder organization."

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