What’s the dance team gonna be called … the Thunder Girls, the Storm Chasers, the Weather Girls, what?
This post is in its infancy and will be added to not only during the day but during the season. Eventually, I’ll post a downloadable screen saver with appropriate music.
Although the name has not been decided, the members of the squad have been. 200 or so tried out for the team but only 20 were selected, and that happened at Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill on September 11. Rumor has it that James Thunder Early of OkcNbaFans.com was a secret judge but I’ve not been able to confirm that.
The winners are shown below …
- Katie, * Jada, Riane, Lauren, * Christhian, * Brittany from Oklahoma City
- * Erica from Midwest City
- Ashley from Shawnee
- Megan from McCloud
- Kimberly from Norman
- * LaTeshia from Moore
- * Lindsay & Brittany from Edmond
- * Nicole from Mustang
- * Shereka from Muskogee
- Natalie from Altus
- * Hayley from Springdale, AR
- * Crystal and Sheri from Dallas
- * Amy from Long View, TX
* = Former OKC Yard Dawgz Dancers
I don’t have images of everyone yet (other than in small group photos) but I’ve assembled what I can find into a small slide show, below — most are photos of the Yard Dawgz selectees but not all. If you want to see the slideshow, click the Play button …
- From Longview, TX: 313 miles
- From Plano, TX: 196 miles
- From Altus: 139 miles
- From Muskogee: 139 miles
- From Springdale, AR: 212 miles
The September 20 Tulsa World carried a nice article featuring Hayley (Springdale, AR) and Shereka (Muskogee):
They move, they groove for a shot at becoming Oklahoma’s first NBA dancers.
OKLAHOMA CITY — They line up 20 at a time near the stage, covered in sparkly makeup and spandex dance gear. It’s their time to shine and shake it for a shot at becoming an OKC Thunder dancer.
In a state where cheerleading is almost as popular a sport as football, the chance to cheer for a major league home team is a big deal.
Oklahoma’s first NBA team put out the call for dance team auditions, and more than 200 women signed up. The field was narrowed to 83, and now 40 finalists await the stage at Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill in Bricktown, hoping their moment in the spotlight will impress judges enough to land a coveted spot on the squad.
* * *
Shereka Jones struts on stage in a sparkly blue halter top and black hot pants and tells the audience:
“I’m an Okie from Muskogee, I love country music and just like Gretchen, I say ‘Hey y’all and yee-haw!’”
The dancers’ career aspirations beyond professional cheerleading are a delightfully mixed bag.
One wants to be a radiologist, another dreams of opening a bakery (a career hazard for a gig where one must regularly bare her midriff). It raises the question: Where do aspiring radiologists and criminal justice lawyers go to buy zebra-striped bra tops and short-shorts with hot pink trim?
It’s that kind of opportunity that had Shereka checking the OKC Thunder Web site immediately after the new team was announced, because she knew there would be a dance team and she wanted a spot. Her brain was playing tricks on her before she went on stage, but her muscles took over and she nailed her dance routine, ending with a backflip.
“I would just love to be a part of it,” Shereka says.
If she makes the team, her family will drive from Muskogee to watch her dance at the Ford Center (except for Dad, who’s the Wagoner High School basketball coach and may not have time during the season).
Hayley Rush, of Springdale, Ark., was a member of the OKC Yard Dawgz arena football dance team with Shereka. She’s hoping they’ll be teammates for the OKC Thunder franchise, too.
Both long-distance-dancers made the team.
The September 18 Midwest City Sun featured Thunder dancer Erica Hatchell of Midwest City:
Last December, Hatchell earned a degree in dance from the University of Central Oklahoma. Since pirouetting across the stage, she has worked as a member of the Yard Dawgz arena football dance team, and she has also taught classes at DMC School of Dance in Midwest City. Her students range from ages 3 through 18 and her instructions focus on tap, ballet and lyrical dancing.
So without school to get in the way, and a schedule that offered a little more freedom, Hatchell took her turn center stage and showed that she had all the right moves.
* * *
Hatchell was overjoyed.
“It was unbelievable, surreal, it all happened at once,” Hatchell said about becoming an elite professional dancer. “That’s the highest point a dancer can reach.”
Often overlooked by many fans is the time commitment it takes to be a part of one of these teams. An NBA team has 41 home games each year and that number can rise if the team makes it to the playoffs. So with only a few weeks remaining before the season tips off on Oct. 29 when the Milwaukee Bucks come to the Ford Center, the team has a lot to learn. Dance team practices run from Monday through Thursday as this brand new squad has many routines to learn.
ONE MORE THING: Let’s hope that Professional Basketball Club, LLC, pays these ladies MUCH more than the $50 per game that the Honeybees received from George Shinn’s organization when the Honeybees were in town! I’ll be reporting on this when the facts become known, as well as lots more photos taken during games & events, most of which I’ll post in this article.