Denver Nuggets Dancers veteran hoping to make history in upcoming finals
Ariel vividly remembers the moment she cemented her place as a Denver Nuggets Dancer.
“I kept looking at my number, because it was so surreal,” she recalled. “It was almost like I was in shock.”
Now, the longest-tenured member of the Denver Nuggets Dancers (DND), Ariel is hoping to make history with a potential seventh year with the squad. There have been plenty of talented members of the DND, but no one has ever made it past six years.
“Being given another season after already being given six chances to be on this team, it shows me that they know this is where my loyalty is. This is where my passion is. This is where my drive is.“
Each year, DND auditions their hopefuls through a rigorous process that has no exceptions. It doesn’t matter if someone is trying to make the team for the first time or if someone is a grizzled veteran who’s been on the squad for years, everyone has to try out. There is no room for complacency and its an environment Ariel, who calls herself a perfectionist, believes she thrives in.
“This is year seven for me and prior to this year, I've seen 50 percent of our veterans get cut,” she explained. “I've watched girls get outperformed. I've watched girls get too comfortable and they don't want to put in the effort that they did when they first made the team. That's not my personality type.”
Ariel remembers continuing to practice late into the night to perfect her routines when she was first trying to make the team. Despite being a veteran, she strives to maintain the same level of effort from that initial year.
“I'm always looking for something to improve. For me, it's a way to gauge how my work ethic is. I want to fight for my spot,” she said. “I want to prove to myself and the girl that's next to me that I earned my spot. This is what hard effort looks like— it doesn't ever stop.”
Ariel’s drive of wanting to stick around at DND comes from what she describes as an incomparable adrenaline rush of performing in front of thousands of fans at Pepsi Center.
“There's really nothing that mimics what it feels like to be in front of thousands of fans. Our job is to feed off their energy,” She said. “For us, it's a one-time shot. We have 60 seconds to go on the floor and perform— that's all we get. We don't get second chances so we live for those 60 seconds.
During her time with DND, Ariel has been able to travel to Mexico, England and China and showcase her skills among other dancers around the NBA. More importantly, she’s able to create a bond with Nuggets fans, plenty of whom have praised her outside of Pepsi Center for DND’s impressive performances.
“It feels like home. I have so many season ticket holders and fans who know me by name. I know them by name. We'll joke around,” she said. “Every time I go to [work] I feel like [I'm visiting] family.”
It is because of those reasons, Ariel is relentless in her pursuit of setting the record of seven years at DND.
“I think a lot of people take the small things for granted,” she said. “As a dancer, you know that you're not promised this forever. It is wear and tear on your body, you can only do it for so long. I never want to take these moments for granted.”