April 22, 2012

What It Was Like To Tryout for the Winnipeg Blue Bomber Dance/Cheer Squad

We also had to submit a photo
with our registration.
Ok kids, it's been awhile but this is something real new that I've tried: Today I tried out for the 2012 Winnipeg Blue Bombers Cheer/Dance Squad. The question people (including a camera crew at the tryouts) keep asking me is: What made you decide to try out for this? Here's a simple answer: I'd always wondered if I had what it took to be part of a dance team, and I really like the idea of a group of people coming together to cheer on/entertain their community. Don't we all play better with a bit of encouragement?

This year is different than past years because the Blue Lightning Dance Team will be merging with the Bisons Cheer Squad. That changes it from being strictly a dance thing to a combined skillful stunt thing. We're not talking sideline pompom shows, we're talking scorpions and double twist dismounts.

Did I have any experience? No, but the ads also said it wasn't required. I soon learned how misconceiving that was. Experience is a huge asset, and if you don't have it, you will probably fall on your face - quite literally. (Thankfully I didn't do that).

The tryout lasted 6 hours start to finish including registration. It took place at the Upperdeck Sports Bar at McPhillips Casino (there were SO many people at the Casino on a sunday morning). Anyways, the first tryout was stunting, and the second was dance. We were encouraged to do both. We were to wear specific attire and have our makeup and hair all done up. I had to buy a midriff bearing sports top, because I didn't own one. Turns out wearing little clothing, is also a safety thing, as clothing can get caught and cause injuries during throws.

The turnout for the day was over 100 people, with just a handful of guys. (Not unlike my Zumba class).
That's me top left: Stretching, Ooo so talented
- Winnipeg Sun
Post ample amounts of stretching, we were assigned to groups. I was put into a very lovely group, however none of us had any stunt experience. I chose to be a flyer (the one that goes up) because I thought it would be easier than being a base (the person who supports your feet and pushes the flyer up). I would stand in front of them, jump up into a tuck position, and on 2 counts they'd push me up into a half. They call it a half, but my feet are around chin level and I'm standing straight up, so it's pretty high. My job is to hold everything in, lock my knees and stand as rigid as I can, so I'm easier to support. I stand up, pause and come down on another 2 counts. It was a basic concept but man was it a rush: I'm standing on 4 hands, and one girl is holding my ankles - that's all the support I have when I'm up there. I have spotters and it feels surprisingly stable up there, but wowee. I was proud of myself for not having any bad falls, although it's hard to when your bases are spotting so well. I'm very proud of our new group - we did really well for our first time!

A Half Up: What I did!
Flyers rotated with all of the base groups and one group taught me how to fall into a cradle. When I was in the air, I reached my arms up, they tossed me up, I snapped my arms down and fell into their cradled arms. It was scary and I muffled a scream both times, but you learn to trust your bases. Other girls were doing double twists into a cradle. Yeah.. That was nice to watch. I rotated through various groups, whom were all very nice and willing to teach. The major issue I had was locking my knees tight enough. They felt locked, but apparently they weren't. 

It was great to see the talent out there though: some girls were doing twists, and arabesques, and scorpions in the air. I marvelled at their flexibility and ability to stay so balanced when all you've got are a few hands holding your ankle. After trying this, I have a newfound respect  these wild stunts.

The dance component was okay, considering it was to be my forte out of the two. It was a fun dance that was choreographed for us, and some girls were nailing it. But I failed to catch onto all of the choreography just right, and to be honest, I was pretty sloppy. There were a lot of really amazing dancers though, like wow - they had the choreography, and the finesse to weave it all together and make it look good. A lot of the stunters were really nervous to dance (and vice versa) but some of them were rocking both skills - I was very impressed, it was really entertaining to watch. I also have a new respect for the dance team, and their ability to hit the choreography so flawlessly. 

Where you will not see me.
I was new to both cheer and dance, and there were times I really wondered why I bothered to try out when I was clearly out of my league, and looked a fool. I think others thought that too sometimes about me, but it takes courage to face your fears and chase those dreams you wonder about. Unfortunately, I wouldn't respect cheer as much if I had never tried out. The tryouts were a good experience, and I have no regrets. Plus, when else would I have had the chance to try stunting? 

I was humbled to realize that many of the people there were warm, encouraging and extremely supportive. Cheerleaders didn't have the best rep in my books, but this experience completely changed my opinion. These girls and boys were just as supportive off the field as they were on. I look forward to seeing them cheer on the bombers, and recognizing a few friendly faces.

We know that pre-conceived notions are wrong, but usually the best way to break them is by trying it out for yourself. Maybe not for all things, but some things. Cheers to trying new things- you might learn a thing or two if you can set aside your pride. Until my next adventure, I encourage you to go and be an encouragement to others!
I will still be cheering!