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BlazerDancers Return From China

It's been a busy offseason for the BlazerDancers.

Fresh off of a week long trip to The Philippines for the 2011 NBA Madness tour, the BlazerDancers hit the road again for a nine day excision to China as a part of a NBA Events and Entertainment junket.

The specific purpose of the trip was to help promote events at Boshiwa Stores in Qingdao and Taiyuan, but the excursion also functions as an opportunity for the BlazerDancers to increase the international interest in the Trail Blazers.

"It's really to just promote the NBA, but we are also BlazerDancers," said Michelle Woodard, the team's Performance Teams Manager. "And as part of the Trail Blazers, we're going to promote the Trail Blazers brand as much as we can. With that comes being very gracious and kind and showing our competitive side, that we're very talented and passionate about basketball."

Woodard was joined on the trip by dancers Cristi, Veronica, Rea, Leisel, Michelle and Lisa. Champ, the Dallas Mavericks mascot, also make the trip. BlazerDancers Rea and Michelle also recently returned from the team's tour of Manila.

Below are Q & A's, photos and videos from the team's trip to China. Enjoy!


BlazerDancers Q&A: Back Home





Michelle, Performance Teams Manager

What were your general thoughts of the entire trip and the Chinese culture?
"The whole trip was such a unique and special experience. I travelled to China for an a couple NBA Madness events in 2009 and this was a completely different experience. I expected the people would be extremely kind and NBA fanatics and that was certainly the case. But this trip also allowed us an opportunity to explore the rich history and culture of China by visiting the Great Wall, Forbidden City and Tiananmenís Square. Our guide shared so much of the history and tradition with us as we walked the grounds. Really it was an amazing honor to visit China, work for the NBA and learn about their culture."

What was your most memorable moment from the trip?
"My most memorable moment was probably going to the Great Wall with the dancers. It was amazing by itself to be there in person to see such a labor of love but even more special to share it with the dancers. Their faces were in complete amazement the entire time and they were so excited to be there. Itís fulfilling to have a new experience like that and to share it with people who are special to you and I am thankful to have the memory of the Great Wall and walking along it with Veronica, Leisel, Michelle, Cristi, Rea and Lisa. Thatís something weíll never ever forget."

How many souvenirs did you bring back with you, and which is your favorite and why?
"Why do you ask???? No seriously, I brought some small gifts for my family and friends. I found some cool Hello Kitty stuff for my daughters who are Hello Kitty Crazy! I did a lot of Christmas shopping actually. Small things here and there that I think will be more special because I found them in Beijing or Qingdao. We also brought back some small gifts for the rest of the team who wasnít able to travel with us to China. I was only able to take six girls on the trip so we wanted to bring some small things back to share the experience with our teammates. Crossing my fingers they like their little goodie bags. My favorite purchase though, hmÖÖÖthatís a tough one. I think the little handmade make up bags we got for the dancers. Theyíre made of silk and beautifully embroidered."

How did you communicate with your family and friends back home?
"I kept in touch mostly by email. It felt like a long time to be away from home. I also had a chance to call home a couple times but the best way to connect was Skype. We Skyped with Casey for the Just Casey show on trailblazers.tv at 3:00 in the morning our time. We may have looked like zombies but I thought it was a pretty cool way to connect with home and organization while we were away. I think a lot of the dancers families tuned in to see what we were up to."

What did you learn or what were you most surprised by?
"I learned too much to write here. I learned so much about Forbidden City Ė home to Ming and Qing emperors, their families, eunuchs and servants for 600 years! This place was the most intricate and incredible place Iíve ever been. I was lost simply walking through from building to building and to hear the stories of each part of the palace down to the tiniest of details was incredible. So much to learn and Iím looking forward to reading and learning more about the history of China."



Veronica

What were your general thoughts of the entire trip and the Chinese culture?
"The people were so warm and I loved the family/community style dining. They have a very rich heritage and everyone we came in contact with knew that history and shared it with pride."

What was your most memorable moment from the trip?
"Seeing the Great Wall for the first time."

How many souvenirs did you bring back with you, and which is your favorite and why?
"A bunch! I had a Chinese scroll made for my sister and her husband to hang in their home. I have a crazy sweet tooth so I also found some candies to bring back ;0)"

How did you communicate with your family and friends back home?
"Mainly through email and occasionally via phone."

What did you learn or what were you most surprised by?
"The architecture was so unique and very intricate. The food was fantastic and I love dumplings!! I have a greater appreciation for my teammates and have learned a great deal about each of them as women and as performers "



Cristi

What were your general thoughts of the entire trip and the Chinese culture?
"It was so cool to learn about Qingdao, Beijing and Taiyuan from our tour guides. They shared so much with us about the cuisines, sights and language. Visiting somewhere much different from the US really opened our eyes to recognize how many aspects of our culture we are accustomed to and unknowingly rely on."

What was your most memorable moment from the trip?
"The most memorable day was definitely when we visited the Great Wall of China! The view up the lift was incredible and the mountains looked as if they went on forever. The architecture of the wall itself is amazing... you can see how much work must have gone into its construction. The towers and detailed stones are beautiful!"

How many souvenirs did you bring back with you, and which is your favorite and why?
"I brought back candy and gifts for my family. The panda backpacks for my nieces are the cutest, and I'm excited to see the girls wear them. :-)"

How did you communicate with your family and friends back home?
"We were able to call home during breakfast to catch our families before they went to bed. Thanks to an amazing iPhone, I e-mailed back and forth with family and teammates and sent some pictures, too!"

What did you learn or what were you most surprised by?
"The weather changes in each location surprised us. It felt a little like Portland with some chill, blue skies and rain on different days! "



Leisel

What were your general thoughts of the entire trip and the Chinese culture?
"AMAZING! First word that comes to my head! Not only did we get to experience the fanaticalness of China's NBA fans but we were able to see some amazing sights such as the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City. The Chinese culture was, of course, nothing shy of different. Everyone was very welcoming to us. "

What was your most memorable moment from the trip?
"I have to say the most memorable moment was visiting the Great Wall of China. It was incredible. However, another memorable moment was visiting the NBA China office. We brought signed Blazer Dancer posters and fun Blazer give aways for everyone. They loved it! It was exciting to see what goes on behind the scenes and very fun to see the past Blazer Dancer posters that were hung throughout the office. Rip City always knows how to make a mark no matter where we go!"

How many souvenirs did you bring back with you, and which is your favorite and why?
"I brought back a handful of gifts for my friends and family. However, my favorite souvenir was the gift Boshiwa employees presented us at our performance for the store's event. They were beautiful traditional ornaments that represent prosperity, happiness and wealth. "

How did you communicate with your family and friends back home?
"I was able to Skype from my laptop to say hi to everyone. My family tuned in to watch the "Just Casey" Show that we were able to Skype and say hi to at 3:00 AM China time! So, they were able to hear some fun stories of our adventures before we came home."

What did you learn or what were you most surprised by?
"I was most surprised by how excited everyone was about how diverse our group was. Even when we weren't in Blazer gear people would ask for pictures on the street corner. People wanted to pet my hair and ask if it was real or not. So funny! We had such a diverse group of girls that our group couldn't go anywhere without drawing attention to ourselves."



Rea

What were your general thoughts of the entire trip and the Chinese culture?
"This trip was an awesome opportunity to meet new people and learn about a culture I knew little about previously. I am thankful to have had such an opportunity."

What was your most memorable moment from the trip?
"Visiting the Great Wall on a beautiful sunny day!"

How many souvenirs did you bring back with you, and which is your favorite and why?
"I actually didn't buy myself any souvenirs, but I did start and finish my Christmas shopping in China. :)"

How did you communicate with your family and friends back home?
"The NBA was kind enough to provide us with an international phone and a computer so we could contact family and friends."

What did you learn or what were you most surprised by?
"I learned quite a bit about Forbidden City and its historical importance when we had the chance to visit."



Michelle

What were your general thoughts of the entire trip and the Chinese culture?
"The entire trip was such a great experience, we met some really nice people and learned some really interesting and fun facts about the Chinese culture. Did you know there are 310 different types of noodles?? lol."

What was your most memorable moment from the trip?
"My most memorable moment from the trip was being able to walk on the Great Wall of China. I don't know many people that have been able to experience The Great Wall of China. It's something I'll never forget."

How many souvenirs did you bring back with you, and which is your favorite and why?
"Quite a few!!!! I bought some early Christmas presents and of course a couple things for myself. My favorite souvenir is a Chinese scroll that I had made after we were done walking the Great wall. "

How did you communicate with your family and friends back home?
"Telephone. I was able to call my family about every other day in the mornings, which was about 5:30 pm at home."

What did you learn or what were you most surprised by?
"I learned about Forbidden City and the History behind it. Before this trip I didn't know about Forbidden City and I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to experience it."



Lisa

What were your general thoughts of the entire trip and the Chinese culture?
"China has been one of the top places to go on my travel list. Itís always interesting to spend 10 days in a country so different from the US. It was definitely a trip to remember. I loved that our tour guides gave us mini history lessons throughout our trip in Qingdao, Beijing, and Taiyuan. What impressed me the most was our visit to the Tienanmen Square and Forbidden City in Beijing. The buildings had such intricate designs; it was really amazing to see. We also had a chance to taste some authentic Chinese cuisines, which included various dumplings, noodles, and desserts. They were delicious!"

What was your most memorable moment from the trip?
"First off, the Boshiwa event in Qingdao will always be a special memory because it was my first performance as a BlazerDancer. I am so blessed to be a part of this amazing organization, and on top of that, to have the opportunity to travel to China and represent the NBA internationally. The fans at Boshiwa were excited to see us, and it was a great feeling to pump up their spirits. Youíll be seeing much more Blazer gear throughout China!

Now I have to mention the other memorable part of the trip, The Great Wall. Need I say more? It was such a surreal experience to actually walk on something so monumental that Iíve only seen in books and the Internet. I canít believe I can cross this off my bucket list already!"

How many souvenirs did you bring back with you, and which is your favorite and why?
"I brought back as much as I could, to the point where I couldnít fit anything else into my suitcase! We did lots of shopping while we there so I was able to find something unique for each of my close friends and family. My favorite souvenir would have to be the traditional China outfit I bought for a friendís one year-old daughter. When I saw it along the market at the Great Wall, I instantly thought of her. Itís especially cute in baby size. I canít wait to see it on her!"

How did you communicate with your family and friends back home?
"We were able to share an international cell phone with the team so I tried to call my family whenever we had some down time. Luckily, we had Wi-Fi at our hotels, so I also used apps such as Beluga and HeyTell to chat with friends. Thanks to my smartphone I could keep in touch with friends and family throughout our trip! Technology really has come a long way!"

What did you learn or what were you most surprised by?
"I was surprised to see how crazy the traffic was! Buses, cars, vans, trucks, and bicycles were buzzing around in every direction. Also, pedestrians donít have the right of way so we were all scared to simply cross the street."

Video: Sportlandia with BlazerDancer Cristi






Photos: BlazerDancers Tour China




Video: BlazerDancers Join 'Just Casey' From From China, Via Skype






BlazerDancers Q&A: China Here We Come





Veronica

What are your general thoughts about the upcoming trip and Chinese culture?
"This is a once in a lifetime type of trip and I can't wait to get there and go exploring. It's a great privilege to share a love of dance and basketball at the same time so this will definitely be a trip to remember!"

What are you most nervous or anxious about?
"I'm anxious/excited to experience the rich heritage of Chinese culture. The food, the temples, the music and native dress. I can't wait to soak it all in."

What essential items are you packing that you can't leave home without?
"My Bible and some other good books. MaryKay firming eye cream, bubble gum, favorite red Starbursts and my iPod."

What's on your iPod playlist for the long flights?
"Roberta Flack, Luther Vandross, Brian McKnight, Otis Redding and Whitney Houston. I get anxious on long flights and these artists soothe my nerves."

Any other comments you want to share with Trail Blazers fans?
"I can't wait to share the heart and love for the game with fans of the NBA in China and show them what Rip City is all about! We're taking the Trail Blazers international again :0) Catch us if you can!"



Cristi

What are your general thoughts about the upcoming trip and Chinese culture?
"China is so vibrant and colorful! I'm looking forward to all of the NBA excitement over there, spending time with all of the kids and learning more about the mainland traditions. I read that Qingdao has a German subculture, so that will be awesome to experience. Dancing, traveling, kids, friendly people... what could be better? It's a dream come true!"

What are you most nervous or anxious about?
"I'm too excited to be nervous, although I'm certainly praying that our bodies adjust smoothly to the time zone and climate changes!"

What essential items are you packing that you can't leave home without?
"Along with a whole lot of red and black sparkles, I'm charging up my iPod and cameras. I LOVE scenery, and the buildings/skylines are beautiful over there! "

What's on your iPod playlist for the long flights?
"Beyonce, Gavin Degraw, Alicia Keys, Rihanna, Eckhart Tolle... and our dance music, so I can review in my head!"

Any other comments you want to share with Trail Blazers fans?
"Thanks for being SO spirited and always lifting up our home team! We are so grateful to be given the opportunity to spread the RIP CITY love in China this week... and that's in huge part to the amazing Blazers fans. We'll do our best to bring your high energy and Blazers love across the world!"



Rea

What are your general thoughts about the upcoming trip and Chinese culture?
"I'm very excited to have the opportunity to travel while representing the Blazer organization, especially to China because I have never been and think it has a very interesting and unique culture."

What are you most nervous or anxious about?
"Probably the actually traveling part...not a fan of super long plane rides."

What essential items are you packing that you can't leave home without?
"A good book to read on the plane :)"

What's on your iPod playlist for the long flights?
" A mix of everything from pop to oldies."

Any other comments you want to share with Trail Blazers fans?
"Hope you keep checking in with us as we share our trip on www.trailblazers.com and facebook...no doubt it will be an amazing experience!"



Michelle

What are your general thoughts about the upcoming trip and Chinese culture?
"I think I am still in a slight shock about how fast this trip came about. I am beyond excited to learn new things about the Chinese culture and I feel so blessed to have this opportunity."

What are you most nervous or anxious about?
"I wouldn't say I am nervous, but I am very anxious to just get there and make some amazing memories."

What essential items are you packing that you can't leave home without?
"Electricity adapter, Chapstick, and my travel size Raspberry Frost Donut anti-bacterial hand gel."

What's on your iPod playlist for the long flights?
"I plan to sleep for most of the flight and country music puts me in a calm mood, so I will be listening to Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban, and Lady Antebellum."

Any other comments you want to share with Trail Blazers fans?
"I hope you all can follow us on this journey and check in with us often while we are in China!!!"



Leisel

What are your general thoughts about the upcoming trip and Chinese culture?
"I still can't believe this is happening so fast! China has been on my bucket list of places to travel. The Chinese culture is drastically different than ours and I am excited to finally get to experience it firsthand."

What are you most nervous or anxious about?
"As thrilled as I am to experience authentic Chinese food, I am a bit nervous about how authentic it will be. I have heard stories from previous dancers who have traveled to China that they serve you a wide variety of their favorite cuisine. Which is of course much different than ours. I am keeping an open mind and am excited to try an array of new foods."

What essential items are you packing that you can't leave home without?
"Of course my camera! And my travel pillow- itís going to be a long flight!"

What's on your iPod playlist for the long flights?
"I'm a sucker for oldies... so definitely "Earth, Wind and Fire" and maybe a little Stevie Wonder! Anything Motown makes me happy."

Any other comments you want to share with Trail Blazers fans?
"Your Blazer Dancers are going to show China the true meaning of Rip City! Can't wait to share our pictures with everybody!"



Lisa

What are you most nervous or anxious about?
"Airport security and customs make me slightly nervous. The whole process is intimidating at times. I just hope everything runs smoothly!"

What essential items are you packing that you can't leave home without?
"A camera, iPod, and facial products."

What's on your iPod playlist for the long flights?
"Adele, Beyonce, Miguel, John Legend, Sara Bareilles... etc."

Any other comments you want to share with Trail Blazers fans?
"Blazer fans, thank you so much for your support! We'll represent the Blazers well, all the way in China! Stay tuned!"


Video: BlazerDancers Talk China With Adam Bjaranson