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Friday, September 19, 2008

Midwest City dancer thunders 

Posted by Sasha at 11:05 AM ET

By Jeff Massie, Sun Staff Writer
The Sun

For Erica Hatchell of Midwest City, the timing of Oklahoma City earning its own professional basketball team couldn’t have been any better.

She had always dreamed of being a professional dancer, but that’s a future that can often be elusive. Only two and a half dozen NBA teams exist in the U.S. and Canada and ever since it was announced that the team previously known as the Supersonics was moving to Oklahoma City, it has been a whirlwind of tryouts and excitement for Hatchell. She knew right away that she would pursue a spot on the squad, something she was unable to do because of a busy schedule when the Hornets played in Oklahoma City.

Last December, Hatchell earned a degree in dance from the University of Central Oklahoma. Since pirouetting across the stage, she has worked as a member of the Yard Dawgz arena football dance team, and she has also taught classes at DMC School of Dance in Midwest City. Her students range from ages 3 through 18 and her instructions focus on tap, ballet and lyrical dancing.

So without school to get in the way, and a schedule that offered a little more freedom, Hatchell took her turn center stage and showed that she had all the right moves.

An estimated 180 girls tried out for the 20 available roster spots. The different dancers’ backgrounds ranged from gymnastics to hip hop. Hatchell was “running on adrenaline” as she advanced through the first few rounds of competition. Dozens of girls were cut before it was finally announced at Toby Keith’s I love This Bar and Grill in Bricktown that she had made the team.

Hatchell was overjoyed.

“It was unbelievable, surreal, it all happened at once,” Hatchell said about becoming an elite professional dancer. “That’s the highest point a dancer can reach.”

Often overlooked by many fans is the time commitment it takes to be a part of one of these teams. An NBA team has 41 home games each year and that number can rise if the team makes it to the playoffs. So with only a few weeks remaining before the season tips off on Oct. 29 when the Milwaukee Bucks come to the Ford Center, the team has a lot to learn. Dance team practices run from Monday through Thursday as this brand new squad has many routines to learn.

Other NBA dance teams have the luxury of pre-existing chemistry due to years of dancing together, but just like the inaugural basketball team, the dance team will have a lot to do to build the franchise.

Hatchell is backing off her studio lessons and instead focusing more on her own routines. She admits that she doesn’t know all the intricacies of basketball, but with a view from the sidelines, she’s sure she’ll pick it up quickly.

The dance team is said to be working on its own name, but it hasn’t been disclosed yet. Hatchell said she has asked her new coaches if they know what it will be called, but in this aspect the Thunder has kept quiet.

Expect loud booms when Hatchell and the other 19 members of the Thunder Dance Team first perform on the court in a little over a month.

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