Sunday, January 25, 2009

An Uplifting Spirit 

Posted by Sasha at 1:12 PM ET

Clippers’ Spirit dance team member, Lynae Hashimoto excites and thrills the crowd every home game, despite a dismal start to the season.

By Sebastian Scott, Intern
The Rafu Shimpo
January 24, 2009

STAPLES CENTER- As the fans sat anxiously waiting for the tip-off between the Clippers vs. Atlanta Hawks on Jan. 14, you couldn’t but notice the sense of defeat and prior let down even before the Clippers were defeated 97-80 a few hours later. The Clippers, who currently own a 9-32 record and are last place in the Pacific Division, do not have much hope for their current season or fans, but there still is and always has been one major bright spot: The Clippers Spirit Dance Team.

“There is nothing like performing in front of all the fans,” third year veteran Lynae Hashimoto told the Rafu. “Getting a chance to see all the games and meet all the season ticket holders is great. Once you are a Clipper fan you can never go back. Once you’re there you’re there.”

Even though there might not be much to cheer for on the court, the Spirit Dance Team excites the crowd night in and night out. It’s not only their beauty that has the fans smiling, but also their energy and overall charm.

Lynae, a graduate from the UC Irvine with a sociology degree, is having the time of her life. An experience she will always remember and cherish.

“The lasting impressions are the girls. Each year it is so different and never the same team,” Hashimoto said. “It’s hard sometimes because girls that tryout and don’t make it, I am really close with.

But there are other great girls who are coming in. They aren’t replacing them, but it’s a different team, group, and each girl has something unique to offer. Each person is different and that is something special that we all share.”

Just like any major professional sports team, the Clippers Spirit acts as one unit and team chemistry away from practices and games is essential to their success.

“Despite all the gossip,” said Hashimoto with a big smile, “we all do get along great. We are a family and we go out to movies together or go on trips together.

Last year we all went to Phoenix to see the Clippers play the Suns. We don’t really get bothered or too much attention put on us unless they find out who we are.”

Although every member of the dance team may look flawless on the court, there is constant hard work and practice off it.

“It is really challenging to make the squad and you are constantly preparing and working hard. Even in the summer you are preparing and working long, hard hours,” said Hashimoto.

“Working out, getting your hair done, practicing your dance moves, and classes. Then once you get to that important tryout date, there are hundreds of girls who are equally as talented and equally as beautiful. You just try and have that extra ‘X-factor’.”

Hashimoto, who has been dancing since she was three years of age, maintains that dancing and working out is only half of the job.

“You are doing the job every single day. It’s not just the single aspect of you being a good dancer, but you have to be the whole package,” she said. “You have to be able to have a great conversation, be entertaining, and carry yourself in a positive manner. Because every single person who knows you are on the Clippers Spirit, knows you represent them in every single manner, whether it is online or the local theatre.” In addition to the huge commitment and effort put forth by these women as members of the Clippers Spirit, most of them have busy secondary lives. “It gets really tough at times because most of the girls are also either full time students or have full time jobs. It is hard to find balance.”

Hashimoto, who sorts data at Fletcher Jones Mercedes, says she doesn’t have much time for herself. However, when given the opportunity she really likes to cook and enjoys watching the Food Network.

Otherwise her free time is spent relaxing and taking a second to rest.

Because it would be a challenge trying to find many Japanese American athletes in professional sports today, it makes it that much more meaningful to Lynae and the Japanese American community for her accomplishments.

“I am very involved in the Japanese American community in my hometown,” said Lynae. “I played in a JACL basketball league all the way through my sophomore year of high school.”

Hashimoto, who laughingly admitted that her Japanese language skills could be summed up as sukoshi or a “little,” really enjoyed her visit to Japan her senior year of high school.

“I loved it because I got to meet a lot of my family,” she said. “I went during the winter so it was a little cold, but I otherwise loved it. There was a little trouble with the language, but I absolutely loved the food and the culture.”

Lynae, who is currently one of two Asian Americans and the only Japanese member of the Clippers Spirit, said that dancing has been a life long dream.

“It is very hard to make the squad every year and I am enjoying every second of it with the fans and the girls,” said Hashimoto. “I have danced since I was three. I always wanted to dance professionally.

When I came down here from northern California, my mom and I were looking at their websites and I found out when the auditions were. I tried out my first year after college and from then on it was continuous.”

Just like many people today, Lynae doesn’t necessarily know what the future holds for her. However, she says with a deep breath, that she will “play it by ear and look at all her options.”

No matter how many more seasons Lynae represents the Spirit, her legacy as a member of the dance squad, the entire Clipper Nation, and the Japanese American community has been deeply impacted and her accomplishments will never be forgotten.

She found a goal and passion in her life from a young age and went for it with a full head of steam. It is apparent that after spending time with her, it wasn’t the money or stardom that she was seeking.

It was the long lasting friendships and impact that she could make on people’s lives that pushed her to her physical and emotional limits. She truly does it for the love of dancing.

“I actually just got a letter back from my high school last year showing me that one of my goals within five years of graduating was to be a professional dancer,” said Hashimoto. “I had forgotten what some of my goals were, but it was real cool to see that I had accomplished this one.”

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