Luvabulls’ Shanon’s All-Star Journal
Posted by Shanon | February 23, 2007 | 3:15 p.m. CT
The Luvabulls' Shanon, Chicago's member of the 2007 NBA All-Star Dance Team, shares her journal from a week in Las Vegas.
Monday, February 12, 2007
The group of young women representing 30 NBA teams and cities across the country, now known as the All-Star Dance Elite Team, traveled today to Las Vegas to begin a long and exciting week. For me, it was not hard leaving behind the climate of ice and snow in Chicago and arriving in beautiful and warm Las Vegas. It was 60 degrees and pleasant when I was greeted at the Vegas airport by an NBA representative. Right away, I met Megan from Orlando, Katherine from Miami, Erin from Detroit, and Julie from Houston.
On our way to the beautiful Orleans Hotel & Casino, we could see the entire city was covered in All-Star gear. Billboards had signs, hotels were covered in pictures, and even the Statue of Liberty outside the New York New York Hotel was draped in an Eastern Conference jersey, along with the MGM’s lion, which wore the Western Conference jersey. My lovely roommate, Stacey from the Charlotte Bobcats, and I instantly connected. A blonde and a brunette hit it off right away… who knew?
The jam-packed week of events began with the All-Star Dance Team’s captivating meet-and-greet reception, where we had the privilege of meeting and taking pictures with the Las Vegas mayor and the chairman of the LVCVA (Las Vegas Convention Center and Visitor Authorities, our sponsors). Each of us was presented with a bag full of goodies from charm bracelets to t-shirts. What a delight!
Our very own exclusive choreographer, Laurie Ann Gibson (best known for her work on MTV's Making the Band series), arrived in dramatic fashion. Would you expect anything less? With her glamour, she quickly brought up the energy level and welcomed each of us by showing us her dedication and compassion for dance. She has choreographed for Diddy, Brandy, and Alicia Keys, just to mention a few. I'm thinking, no pressures, right? Wow, was this really happening? She also arrived with Manwe, her assistant, who was just as sweet and talented. The dance coordinators warmly welcomed us with lots of NBA gear. There were bags, jewelry, shoes, tops, pants, rehearsal apparel, uniforms… I can go on and on, but it was amazing how all of the NBA’s sponsors really went way out for the All-Star Dance Team.
Shanon spent her week with dancers from the NBA's 29 other teams, including Charlotte's Stacey.
Our activities on our first full day in Vegas consisted of fun appearances, lengthy but enjoyable rehearsals, wardrobe fittings, and extensive media coverage. It was a blur to experience, but so exciting at the same time! Our schedule was literally non-stop, but as our coordinator repeatedly reminded us, “There is always room for more and to be ready.”
We woke up early, but costume fittings brightened our day at 8 a.m. sharp. The costumes were fabulous. We each wore a lot of our own team-branded gear, but it was more jazzed up and decked out than what you usually see. From Capri pants to skirts and jerseys to high heals, we had rhinestones everywhere and glitter to spare in true Vegas spirit. The five-inch heels and black stiletto boots were a challenge, but when you are working with the best, you perform your best. The atmosphere and excitement was all very different from what I am used to in Chicago, but that is what made everything special. The All-Star Dance Team also received tons of rehearsal apparel from adidas.
Jumping right into rehearsal and spending the next 10 hours working with Laurie Ann Gibson, our exclusive choreographer, and her assistant, Manwe, was crazy, thrilling, long – did I mention it was 10 hours? – exciting and entertaining! Initial shyness disappeared quickly, as no dancer was afraid to hold back after a day with Laurie Ann. She really knows how to bring out the best in you. She likes to call her ladies "muffs," which is short for "muffins." It was a classic way of her eccentric personality coming out, and I loved it!
The more you get to see the real side of Laurie Ann, the more you see her humbleness and true passion for everyone to succeed. Her catch phrase is “Let it Live!!!” and that is exactly what she allowed us to do. We lived through the dance. This was like nothing I have ever experienced; it was such a privilege to work with amazing professional talent. Our dance routines were awesome and it was such a joy working with the best dancers in the country. From the coastal girls to the midwest girls, the mixed personalities actually bonded quite nicely. It was interesting how both conferences (East & West) gracefully blended in the routines.
During any down time or during a “take-five” rest, we all swapped stories about how things happen with our teams, including rehearsals and practices on the court before games. It is so interesting to see the differences between organizations. Even after hearing all about the other teams and their great experiences though, I wouldn’t trade the Chicago fans for anything!
Shanon taste tests the “Vivacious Vegas Sandwich” at Carnegie Deli.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Happy Valentine's Day from Vegas! Our day began with one of the coordinators bringing us chocolate hearts and valentine candy. That is the way I like to start my day – with sugar!!! A giant snugly cupid mascot also gave us kisses during the morning session. The day consisted of more appearances, rehearsals, wardrobe fittings, and considerable media coverage. Our All-Star dance routines were really coming around and we were ecstatic about outstanding they would be!
On Wednesday, we broke up the Eastern and Western Conference dancers to rehearse and perfect. The East danced to a Jay-Z/Nelly Furtado mix, and the West danced to a Jet/Lenny Kravitz blend. I really enjoyed the East’s dance. It included a little more popping and “getting low” than I am used to, but I loved it and was feeling it. You could really see the difference between the hard-core women from the East coast and the flamboyance of the West Coast ladies. Personalities were coming out and we all seemed to be breaking out of our normal shells of dance and living the routines as Laurie Ann motivated us. There were so many names to remember, so most of us were calling each other by our city or team.
When mid-day arrived, I was excited to see a room full of flowers from a very special someone back home wishing me good luck for the week and Happy Valentine's Day. I missed him so much through the week. My parents even snuck a little treat into my suitcase for the special day to enjoy. It really made my day!
By the end of Wednesday, we had learned two more routines. One was to the Pussycat Dolls’ “Don’t Cha,” and the other to a mix of Fergie’s “Fergalicious” and Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack.” Throughout the day we practically lived off of Red Bull, energy water, and anything to give us that added boost! Some of us were cat napping during short breaks, while others stretched as much as possible to keep our muscles warm.
It was getting late, but the day wasn’t over yet. At around 9 p.m., we were off to the Thomas & Mack Arena for a three-hour (which turned into a four-hour) on-court blocking rehearsal. Feeling the presence in the arena was overwhelming. It was at that point where it really hit us - we were really at the All-Star game arena that would soon be filled with so many stars, fans, and players, and we would be showing our stuff!! Being in the spot light… I could get used to that!
Our rehearsals were very intense, but it was worth it. The element of time is simply not measured in Vegas! Our working days were about 16-17 hours long, but who’s counting! Working with all the All-Star dancers was phenomenal, and I made new friends from all over the country and Canada too. It would have been great if all the Luvabulls could have had this opportunity! It was like no other experience!
Shanon and other members of the All-Star Dance Team take a break during a rehearsal.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
By the fourth day, I was waking up with aches and pains - my back, my legs, my neck - but it was all so worth it. I was in love with Vegas and all the excitement! The day began with an early morning 4:45 a.m. TV appearance for KTNV morning news, where we danced around a little bit while the weatherman interviewed some of the girls.
Then, it was on to the Mirage Hotel for me and five other selected dancers for an appearance and photo shoot at the Carnegie Deli. A sandwich was named after the first ever All-Star Dance Team - check out this link for pictures of us and the sandwich! The Chicago Sun-Times featured a photo of the four-pound “Vivacious Vegas Sandwich” from Carnegie Deli with NBA All Star Dance Members Erin of the Pistons, Jessica of the Lakers, Mallory of the Mavericks, Sarah from the Knicks, Jackie from the Nets, and myself. The sandwich was the size of my head!
Shanon and the other dancers were busy for more than 16 hours on some days... but who needs sleep in Vegas?
Then, it was back to the Thomas & Mack Arena for the All-Star Saturday Night tech rehearsal. As the night came to an end, we realized we’d be performing the next day and wondered where the week had gone! There were so many counts, routines, costumes, appearances, and new friends. I was overwhelmed!! Before calling it a night, my roommate, Stacey, and I decided to explore the hotel, get a late night snack, and get to know each other even more. This was a true friendship brewing.
Friday, February 16, 2007
Whether I was getting use to this hectic schedule or maybe a bit rested, I was eager and ready for early morning appearances on shows including our “Best Damn Sports Show Period" appearance. Following that, it was time for more tech rehearsal at the Thomas & Mack Arena.
By mid-day, we were off to Mandalay Bay for the Celebrity All-Star Game rehearsals, managing a quick bite of whatever meal time we had. All I was craving was my family’s pepperoni bread (Sue, I wish you could have sent me some!) From there, one thing led to another: hair, make up, wardrobe, pictures… and game time had finally arrived! I could not believe it. Tip-off for the celebrity game was so exciting. Our entire dance team participated in the player introductions, making tunnels and doing sidelines while the crowd cheered. Many of us led a few sidelines for the group (hips, baby!) and several of us sat on courtside to watch and cheer at the game. Others had last minute costume alterations. There was never a dull moment!
After a great introduction of all 30 NBA All-Star Dancers, we performed at half time. Nick Cannon even jumped into our last formation for our final pose. He was so real and fun to be around. It was so supportive to have many Bulls fans in the audience. I could hear throughout the game, “Go Chicago! We love you!” After performing again in the fourth quarter, a few of us headed over to the NBA Jam Session at the Las Vegas Convention Center to sign autographs. There was a marvelous basketball Hall of Fame set up with fun photo ops - we were all treated like celebrities! But the day wasn’t over yet - it was back to the arena for more rehearsals. We finally got to practice in our boots and stiletto heals. That was a trip (literally)!!!
"Having the opportunity to dance at the All-Star Game made me realize more than ever my love for dance," said Shanon.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
Sleeping in had never felt good. Well, sleeping in until 9 a.m. at least! We then caught a ride to the Jam Session for a half-hour of exploring and seeing all the exhibits. My agenda was to experience everything I could. We then went back to the hotel to meet with our choreographer before leaving for the Thomas & Mack Arena. As a treat for all of our hard work, she awarded us with dancewear from Capezio.
Next up, it was time to prepare for the All-Star Saturday Night events: more hair and make up, dealing with last minute costume details, finding time to eat lunch, and finally, a team photo shoot on the court. Mary J. Blige performed to start the festivities, then the slam dunk contest took place, and then we took over the court. What a thrill it was to perform before a jam packed courtside row of many, many celebrities. To mention a few: Queen Latifah, Usher, Eva Longoria, Ciara, Diddy, Shaquille O’Neal, Magic Johnson, Tony Parker, Chris Tucker, and to top the list, Chicago’s very own Michael Jordan. All of them were sitting within arms length – it was surreal! It was such a joy to finally perform what we had been preparing for all week. We wore our own team jerseys that were personally made for us and they were gleamed out to the max!
By the time the All-Star Game (her 7th day in Vegas) rolled around, Shanon was looking good and ready to go.
After the festivities, we had a rehearsal on the court for the individual conference routines which would perform on All-Star Sunday. Later, a few of us did check out some of the night life. To sum it up: traffic ... taxis … packed clubs … private parties ... filled parking lots ... hotel lines ... and more. Just getting some fresh air and letting loose was thrilling. It is true when they say that Last Vegas never sleeps and with All-Star week in town, everything was turned up even more! There was just one more day to go, and I knew I was going to miss the rest of the girls. We were spending so much time together and becoming such good friends. I had a good feeling that there will be some future road trips in store!
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Our alarms were set for early wake up, and we were so eager to travel to the Thomas & Mack Arena to rehearse for the Christina Aguilera halftime show during the 2007 NBA All-Star Game. It was neat to see her warm up, watch her dancers get set, and take in the electrifying lighting. What a fun rehearsal! There is so much that goes on behind the scenes, and dynamic action really takes place. After feeling comfortable with what we would be doing, the next stop was the usual preparation for the night – you know the drill by now! More hair and make up, last minute costume details - some girls were literally sewn into theirs – lunch and another team photo shoot on the court.
While we waited in the tunnel to perform that night, different celebrities passed through, and many stopped to say a brief hi to us. As I smiled and realized who I was talking to or standing by, the authenticity of where I was had fully settled in. First, the musician Prince walked in accompanied by comedian Dave Chappell. Then, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger strolled by. Wayne Newton stopped to give hugs and take pictures. Rappers Jay-Z and Ludacris were there. Adam Sandler was as charming as ever. Sean Combs stopped to say “good luck.” Jeremy Piven was so down to earth when he stopped to take pictures. The list goes on and on… what a night!
The highlight of the night was during the Eastern Conference’s dance to Jay-Z’s song mix. As I hit the beginning accent, I looked up to see Jay-Z sitting with Beyonce. Here I was, dancing to his song in front of him. It only made me dance harder and get more into the routine. That was so memorable. As long and as hard as the week was, I would do it all over to experience such excitement again. It was all worth it!
The Eastern Conference girls performed in the second quarter and then all 30 of us were a part of the Christina Aguilera halftime show. She really can capture her audience with her performance. Later during the fourth quarter, both the Eastern Conference and Western Conference dancers performed in our high heel boots and individualized costumes. There were so many times I just looked around to take in all in. Everything happened so fast!
At the end of the game, the All-Star dancers had a special photo shoot with the Las Vegas mayor. Many of us gathered together to enjoy another night of Last Vegas and All-Star events. It was another long, late night of packed clubs, private parties, and limos everywhere. The excitement of being in Las Vegas with my amazing new friends rushed through each of us.
Shanon and the members of the 2007 NBA All-Star Dance Team had a week to remember in Las Vegas.
When my last morning in Vegas arrived, I realized it was the end of an amazing week. It was hard to imagine or anticipate the excitement of such an incredible week. Leaving the court on Sunday was kind of a sad moment, but some of us were able to make the most of a fabulous trip last even longer. Having an early flight and without any sleep, I arrived at the airport by 6 a.m. My thoughts were, “At least I can sleep on the plane.” Upon arrival, what a shocker it was to find the long lines of people standing outside the door, down the street, and wrapped around the building of the Southwest Terminal. Not joking! None of us wanted to leave this week of fun and festivities, and now I was beginning to think I wasn’t going to be able to leave.
After four hours of waiting at the check-in line and finally getting on a flight home, I safely landed in Chicago. Taking a leisure day of rest, relaxation, and regrouping was on my agenda before jumping back into my busy schedule of school, dance and work.
Having the opportunity to dance at the 2007 All-Star Basketball Game in Las Vegas made me realize more than ever my love for dance. Representing the Luvabulls of the Chicago Bulls organization could not have been more rewarding. The 30 girls that were chosen to represent their teams brought excitement, energy, and life into the All-Star weekend.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the sponsors, talent coordinators - especially Tamara, who was our go-to girl that got everything done and kept us moving on time - chaperones, tour guides, stylists, make up artists, assistants, and our very own choreographer for making my week in Las Vegas unforgettable. I also want to say a special thank you to Southwest Airlines and the Orleans Hotel & Casino for their hospitality and support.
And above all, THANK YOU Chicago fans, for allowing me to have this experience and a lifetime opportunity. I have been a part of history being a member of the first ever NBA All-Star Dance Team!
Shanon and members of the NBA All-Star Dance Team pose with the "Vivacious Vegas Sandwich" after a naming ceremony at the Carnegie Deli in Las Vegas on Feb. 15. (Gary Dineen/NBA/Getty Images)
Posted by Shanon | February 8, 2007 | 2:25 p.m. CT
With only a few more days before I head out to Las Vegas, I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I am to be a member of the first ever NBA All-Star Dance Team and to represent the Chicago Bulls at the 2007 NBA All-Star Weekend. What an honor!!! Again, I would like to thank the world’s greatest fans who voted for me. I will cherish this experience and make the Bulls organization proud.
The presentation of beautiful flowers to me from Benny the Bull (see photos below!) at the United Center during the Atlanta Hawks game on January 23, the night of the announcement, was thrilling and exciting. What a joy it was to stand before the all the loyal fans! These were the fans who voted, and here I was before them while they cheered. It was a moment I’ll never forget.
Things quickly fell into place later that week with a group conference call with the All-Star Elite Dance Squad and the All-Star Dance coordinators. It was a thrill to hear details about what our trip would entail and all the plans that were being made. One of the most exciting announcements was learning that Lori Anne, from the TV show “Making the Band,” will be our exclusive choreographer.
This week-long celebration will feature the NBA’s greatest basketball stars and now, for the first time, the NBA All-Star Dance Team. We have a full schedule from February 12-19 with numerous appearances, lengthy rehearsals, extensive media coverage, and special choreographed routines to perfect. Viewing the tentative itinerary, we will start our days at 4:45 a.m. and end most of them after 11:00 p.m. with appearances, rehearsals and so much more. Who really sleeps in Vegas anyway?
Not only will we perform different routines throughout the week of events, we will participate in sponsored contests, giveaways, sideline cheering, player tunnels, have freestyle dance opportunities and more.
Many of the events will take place at the Thomas & Mack Center and big game itself will be broadcast in over 200 countries. First, on Friday, February 16, the league’s top rookies and sophomore players square off. The next day, Saturday, February 17, the NBA All-Stars are featured and will compete in events such as the three-point shootout and the slam dunk contest. Then, on Sunday, February 18, comes the spectacular event that the world has been waiting for, the 56th NBA All-Star Game. As a member of the NBA All-Star Dance team, we can’t wait to showcase our dance skills and bring excitement to the fans throughout the week.
Being a part of this live premiere event, performing for fans from throughout the world, and being around some of the biggest stars in the sports, music and entertainment industries will be an unforgettable experience. This upcoming week’s events will be a jam-packed schedule. I will be in touch, keeping you updated on my All-Star week!!!
After two weeks of voting, Shanon learned during the Bulls home game on Jan. 23 that she would be going to Las Vegas as a member of the NBA All-Star Dance Team from Feb. 12-19.