The P-R-O Convention is the premier professional cheerleading and dance convention. Held annually in Atlanta, Georgia, P-R-O features instructors from NFL, NBA, MLS, and the WPFL. Professional cheerleading squads and dance teams came from all over the country to attend the two day event.
The staff of All-Pro3 gave James and I complete access to the convention’s events. In the second part of my article, we continue our coverage of P-R-O with a report on Sunday’s events.
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Day 2 of the 2010 P-R-O Convention began with a long, hot shower to help loosen up my muscles. You see, yesterday was a long day of shooting and my arm, neck and shoulder muscles were stiff. You would never think that photographing more than 200 beautiful cheerleaders would be so physically demanding, but it was.
I dragged myself down to the grand ballroom at 8:00 am to get there early and, perhaps, snag a few cheerleaders for a photo or two. Things wouldn’t get started for another half hour, but I figured it was better to be early than late. James was there, already hard at work. I snacked on a pastry and had some juice as James snapped a few photos of the Rockford Ice Hog Fire and Ice Girls.
After he was finished, James came over to where I was sitting and said he a great idea for a photo shoot. Inside the Sideline Distraction magazine, there was a photo of the Charlotte Lady Cats…you know, the one that NBA.com used for their NBA Dance Team Bracket Challenge…the one that won them the title. He wanted to recreate that shot since two of the girls in that photo were here at P-R-O. It was a brilliant idea…one that I readily copied.
Soon it was 8:30 am and time to get things going. The first order of the day was stretching and warm up exercises. I over heard a few girls talking about how stiff they were. I guess I wasn’t the only one feeling my age. In truth, this convention is pretty much non stop dance instruction. It is rigorous and there is a lot going on, so no time is wasted.
Like yesterday, the first routine was a group dance, one that could be modified for a holiday theme. So, it was really two dance routines in one. I noticed that the same group of girls tend to migrate towards the front of the class. To me, they seemed to be amongst the best dancers at P-R-O, skilled and confident in their abilities. They tended to pick up the routines faster and I wondered if it was because they were better dancers or simply because they had a clearer view of the instructors.
At 10:00 am, the girls split up into groups for the first breakout session of the day. In room 1, Derric Whitfield demonstrated a pom routine to the song, “Shut This Thing Down”. In room 2, Heather Karberg from the Arizona Cardinals choreographed a pom routine to the song, “Let’s Dance”. In room 3, Alto Gary and Tracy Rutledge taught a novelty routine to the song, “Apache”. In room 4, Brandii McCoy led her group in a jazz/funk routine to the song, “He Said, She Said”.
As before, the dancers reconvened in the grand ballroom to showcase what they had learned.
No rest for the weary. After a brief interlude, the girls were segmented into the small rooms for the second breakout session of the day. In room 1, Stacie Kinder from the Tennessee Titans demonstrated a country oriented routine to the Laura Bell Bundy song, “Giddy On Up”. In room 2, Tamara Jenkins led her group in a funk routine. In room 3, Sandy Charbonneau choreographed a patriotic oriented dance routine to the Lenny Kravitz song, “American Woman”. In room 4, Raquel Torres-Garcia taught a jazz routine to the song, “Getting over You”.
Once again the group gathered in the grand ballroom and here are a few photos from the showcase.
After the showcase, it was time for lunch. The entire group walked across the hallway to dine on grilled chicken breast salad. As we dined, the staff of All-Pro3 conducted their Real Deal 2 Workshop, which is designed to provide newer cheerleaders and dancers with an overview of professional cheerleading. It was a very interesting overview and useful in understanding the business from the director’s point of view. Some of the topics covered included the type of person who becomes a successful professional cheerleader, staying fit and trim, maintaining a positive attitude, and obeying the rules (they are there for a reason).
One of the most interesting moments was when Stacie Kinder lifted her shirt to show her wash board abs when discussing what it takes to be a professional cheerleader from a physical fitness standpoint. And I learned some interesting dance speak from Tamara Jenkins, who introduced me to the phrase, “if you can’t hear the music”. That phrase refers to those people who are, let us say, not as gifted a dancer as others. So, when describing why a person is a little slow to pick up the routine, you would say, that “perhaps, she can’t hear the music”. It’s code.
The Real Deal 2 Workshop was very interesting and I think a most valuable resource for new cheerleaders. The lasting impression I got from the workshop was that if you don’t love to dance, you won’t enjoy all hard work and dedication that is required to be a professional cheerleader. It’s not all fun and games; it’s a business. A billion dollar a year business, sports and entertainment. It’s an honest and fair look from the organization’s perspective.
With lunch time over, the girls assembled in the grand ballroom for the sponsor’s raffle. Prizes were provided by the Line Up and Go Wild Wear. They consisted of audition wear, tops and bottoms. I quipped to one of the staff, “one size fits all?” She nodded her head. To be sure, all the attendees were fit and trim, so no issues here. But, I just had to ask.
Everyone loves a raffle. Well here are two photos that nicely summarize the event. To paraphrase ABC’s Wide World of Sports, “it was the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”.
After the sponsor’s raffle it was back to the breakout sessions, the last of P-R-O. If you are keeping count, to this point that’s 21 routines and three more to go. In room 1, Tami Krause of the Minnesota Vikings led her group in a pom routine to The Black Eyed Peas song, “Rock That Body”. In room 2, Denise Garvey of the N.Y. Jets Flight Crew demonstrated a jazz routine to the Taio Cruz song, “Break Your Heart”. In room 3, Tracy Rutledge choreographed a sidelines routine for her group.
And for the final time at P-R-O, all of the girls returned to the grand ballroom to showcase the dances they learned and to perform the group dance routine one last time.
The last official event of the 2010 P-R-O Convention was the group shot. It was nearing 4:00 pm and squads began to gather their belongings and make their way to Atlanta Hartsfield Airport to catch their flights home. Some cheerleaders stayed around to record their performances for the instructional video that would be distributed to the teams at a later date. But most said their goodbyes and disappeared into the hot Atlanta evening.
James had a later flight and mine wasn’t scheduled until Monday, so we hung around the grand ballroom and passed the time. We chatted with Chelsey from the Arizona Cardinals Cheerleaders, who was still quite excited and amped up. She was waiting for her turn to be videoed. She’s a true sports fans, really nice and one heck of a dancer. James and I also spoke with Jamilla, cheerleader laureate of P-R-O, who talked a little bit about her 9 years with the Redskins. She was very nice and charming.
Soon it was James turn to leave and I thanked him for the opportunity to cover this event for the blog. I made my way back to my room to begin downloading my files. I was tired and sore, but I was excited to see what I got.
4,200 miles. Over 200 cheerleaders. 7,600 images. Cheerleader heaven.
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I would like to thank Brandii McCoy, Alto Gary, Tracy Rutledge and the staff of All-Pro3 for allowing me to cover the 2010 P-R-O Convention. And I would like to thank the instructors of P-R-O and all the cheerleaders and dancers for allowing me a little glimpse into their lives and sharing it with our readers.
Thank you for the wonderful experience. I had a great time and hope to be back next year.