The 2011-12 edition of the Los Angeles Clippers Spirit Dance Team features numerous professional dancers doing the thing they love most. The 16-member team includes dance teachers, dance company owners, entertainment PR employees, and Disney performers, among others. A wonderfully diverse group of different ages, races, and personalities, it is their love for dance that unifies them and leads them to share more than a few things in common.
On this years team, three talented ladies share the background of having cheered for an NFL team.
Ariana, a first-year member of the Spirit, fondly remembers her time out on the football field.
Ariana cheered for the 49ers.
It was a lot of fun, Ariana said. I was with the 49ers for a season while I was going to school up in the Bay Area. I cheered for my college [UC Berkeley] as well.
New to the Bay Area, Ariana let dance take her places she had never gone before.
Before [cheering for the 49ers] I was always just stuck in my little college community, Ariana said. But once I started the 49ers cheering I got to go all around the Bay Area and got to know and meet a lot of people. It was a good experience.
Growing up in San Diego but cheering in San Francisco, Ariana is accustomed to having her football allegiance brought into question. Watching the 49ers dismantle the Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX was a traumatic childhood experience for quite a few kids growing up in San Diego, but Ariana maintains her love for both teams.
Im both a Chargers fan and 49ers fan Im allowed! Ariana said, laughing. Im 49ers faithful but I do love my Chargers. Those are my only two teams, I promise.
Arianas ties to the Chargers remain intact. Her Big Sister on the Spirit team, Katrina, is a former Charger girl herself.
I cheered for the Chargers for three seasons, and this is now my third year with the Clippers, Katrina said.
As a veteran of cheering for both the NFL and NBA, Katrina broke down the differences in dancing for the two teams.
I think the main difference is between the grass and the court, Katrina said. I like dancing on a floor as opposed to grass. Its a lot easier, you can do more styles.
That versatility is part of what drove Becca, a former Arizona Cardinals cheerleader, to Los Angeles as well.
I always wanted to do NBA dancing, Becca said. I loved the NBAs style of dancing and getting to be on the court and getting to do jazz and hip hop. Its more diverse.
Katrina cheered for the Chargers.
Aside from the extra stylistic freedom, dancing for an NBA team offers quite a few other differences.
The amount of games is a big difference, Ariana said. Its exciting because with the NFL youre always waiting for Sunday to come. Youd think I cant wait for Sunday to be with the girls and be on the field. Now its a lot more work and preparation, but its definitely going to pay off. Getting to perform so many times regularly is a thrill.
While the amount of games creates a different environment, so does the amount of people.
The football stadium is full of at least 70,000 fans, Katrina said. So thats a huge difference.
To accommodate such big crowds, however, NFL dance teams are often so large that they could practically serve as a whole football team in their own right.
We almost had 30 girls, Ariana said. Its a big team. It took me a lot of time to remember everyones name and try to bond with everyone. But here, its 16 girls. You automatically find girls you have something in common with and share interests with. I think thats the best part of it.
Becca cheered for the Cardinals.
Despite the numerous differences between the two, cheering for an NFL team provided the ladies with some amazing opportunities.
I had one of the best experiences of my life cheering for the Arizona Cardinals, Becca said. One of the coolest things was being able to go to Japan. We went for the Super Bowl and supported our troops out there in the Navy. We spent a week on base out there. It was a really cool experience. We also had an opportunity at halftime to perform with the band Lifehouse. We did a big event for breast cancer awareness in October. We did a lot of cool things.
Ariana and Becca, two of nine newcomers on the 2011-12 team, are hoping their NFL experience translates over to the hardwood.
I have a little idea of what to expect, Becca said. But I think once reality hits in it will be like Whoa, this is more than I realized.
The prospect of dancing in a new environment in front of a packed STAPLES Center crowd might be a little intimidating, but these girls will be ready.
I cant wait, Ariana said. This is going to be one of the most exciting things Ive ever done. Its going to be an amazing experience.
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