A Decade of Dance: The 2013 P-R-O Convention – Part One

This year, the P-R-O Convention celebrated their 10th year anniversary and over 300 professional cheerleaders and dancers gathered in Atlanta, Georgia to celebrate a decade of dance.  From humble beginnings, the P-R-O convention has evolved into the premier professional cheerleading and dance convention in the nation, attracting the hottest cheerleaders in professional sport for a weekend of choreography and team building.

The P-R-O Convention is the premier professional dance convention and the instructors represent the very best in professional cheerleading and dance.  This year’s instructors included:

Jakene Ashford – Atlanta Falcons (NFL)
Paige Carter – Oklahoma City Thunder (NBA)
Sandy Charboneau – ProTour Productions
Denise Garvey – New York Jets Flight Crew (NFL)
Alto Gary – Houston Texans (NFL)
Stephanie Jojokian – Washington Redskins (NFL)
Heather Karberg – Arizona Cardinals (NFL)
Stacie Kinder – Tennessee Titans (NFL)
Shannon Kingsley – Seattle Seahawks (NFL)
Tami Krause – Minnesota Vikings (NFL) & Minnesota Swarm (NLL)
Brandii McCoy – Charlotte Bobcats (NBA) & Charlotte Checkers (AHL)
Tracy Rutledge  – former NBA Atlanta Hawks & South Georgia Wildcats
Kelli Wagner – Buffalo Bills (NFL)
Derric Whitfield – Washington Wizards (NBA)

James and I were given exclusive access by the organizers of the event, All-Pro3.  For our readers who have never attended a dance convention, the following report will give an idea of what goes on during a weekend of nonstop dance action.

Notes on a Scorecard

The great sportswriter Allan Malamud wrote a column entitled “Notes on a scorecard” which reflected his musings on the day’s sports events.  In honor of the 10th year anniversary of the P-R-O Convention, I thought I would take a moment to note some of my observations regarding the nation’s greatest professional dance convention.

Musing 1:  P-R-O is a great place to meet people who share your passion for dance.

Every year I get a chance to chat with some amazing cheerleaders (Chelsey from the ACC, the blonde rookie MVCs, “Miss Alabama” from the Titans, the two Patriot cheerleaders, and Anne P. from the Titans) and I am always impressed with their engaging personalities, their life stories and their passion for dance.  There is a prevailing stereotype of a professional cheerleader that we all have heard, but I must say that false image cannot be further from truth.   The cheerleaders and dancers that I have met are special people.  Nice people.  Talented people.  Passionate people.

Musing 2: To be the best, you have to learn from the best.

P-R-O attracts the very best choreographers in professional sport.  The instructors are amazing choreographers and the routines are great.  As a casual observer, these routines are entertaining, fun and a little bit sassy.  Even if you are not looking to bring back specific routines for your squad, you should attend P-R-O just to learn from these inspiring instructors.

Musing 3: It’s fun.

I have a great time covering the P-R-O Convention for UltimateCheerleaders.com, but it’s work.  It’s fun work.  And I think I can say the same for the cheerleaders.  They are here to learn routines and bring them back to their squads to use during the season.  And though it is all business in that sense, it’s a lot of fun too.  And you can see it on their faces and how they interact with their fellow cheerleaders.

And I am sure that more than a few of them were sore the next day, after all the instructors worked them mercilessly during the course of the convention.  But as we all know, it was a good kind of soreness…the kind of soreness that you get after working hard at something you love to do.  And I must say that I was more than a little sore myself…photographing 300 cheerleaders for hours on end is hard work…but someone has to do it!

Musing 4: It takes a lot of work to put on P-R-O and to have it run seamlessly.

James and I got to meet many of the people who work behind the scenes to ensure that everything is in place, on time, and runs smoothly.  P-R-O is a working convention and the staff’s hard work ensure that the dancers can move from session to session without delay.  A whole lot of people have to hustle to make this happen.  From setting up the facilities, to organizing the music, to coordinating the dance instruction, to the Sidelines Distractions magazine, to the special events that make P-R-O unique…there is a lot of effort that goes into making P-R-O the premier professional cheerleading convention.  So I thought I would recognize the friends, family, and former cheerleaders who work so hard and toil in anonymity to make this event special.

SATURDAY

At 8:00 a.m., James and I met up at the hotel’s Starbucks to get some breakfast and touch base about what each of us would be covering this weekend.  We made our way down to the Marquis level to check out the convention space.  This year’s P-R-O Convention was being held at a new hotel, so we wanted to get the lay of the land, select any interesting areas that could be used as a backdrop (there were none), and to get a sense of the lighting.  The Atlanta Mariott Marquis is a much larger hotel and offered considerably more floor space, but the layout of the grand ballroom was more square than in year’s past.  This meant that we would have a harder time getting shots of a variety of girls because we can shooting only the first two lines and if the formation is more square than rectangular…well, you get the idea.

As 9:00 a.m approached, the girls began to gather in the foyer to register for the event and check out the sponsors tables.

The savvy convention goer queues up at the P-R-O Convention table to make sure they had first pickings of the “hottie-wear”.  And as is usual, the Houston Texans were first in line.

Perhaps the second most popular sponsor was Peavey Hosiery, the company better known as the hosiery supplier to Hooters Restaurants.  They were in attendance once again and giving out free pairs of pantyhose to the cheerleaders at the convention.  Peavey offered a significant discount to the teams in attendance if they purchased quantities in bulk.

The three most renown professional cheerleader uniform designers were here as well.  The Line Up is a provider of custom dance costumes and creative performance apparel.  Their uniforms and performance apparel are worn by the most notable professional cheerleading squads, such as the Minnesota Vikings, Washington Redskins, Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans, Baltimore Ravens, and the Wizard Girls.

Satin Stitches, another major player in the custom uniform business, was in attendance and showing off some of their uniform designs.  Satin Stitches provides uniforms to several professional dance teams as well as serving the high school, college and skating markets.

Our third uniform and performance apparel designer in attendance was Angela King Designs.  You might recognize them for designing the iconic Charger Girl uniform, but they have also created uniforms for the Denver Broncos, St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Detroit Pride.

There was some down time before the convention began, so I nabbed a few cheerleaders to take a few photographs for my 2013 P-R-O Convention All Stars series.  The schedule was tight and I did not know if I would be able to snag these girls are a later time, so I availed myself to the opportunity and snapped a few photos.  This was also a time for the girls who had been here before to reacquaint themselves with friends they had made in prior years and for the new people to pose for photos with new friends.

At 10:00 a.m., host Catie Fuller welcomed all the attendees to the 10th anniversary P-R-O Convention and informed them of the scheduled events and where the break out sessions would be held.  She introduced this year’s instructors, fourteen in total and from different sports leagues.  This year, there would be a variety of dance styles and routines covered, suitable for the hard court of the NBA to the grass sidelines of the NFL and type every field in between.

P-R-O Convention Host Catie Fuller

With the introductions over, the girls were led through a brisk warm up and stretching session.

After the warm up session, Brandii McCoy from the Charlotte Lady Cats demonstrated the group dance routine.  As always, the routine was broken down into eight count segments and introduced sequentially.  Over the course of an hour, the entire two minute routine was demonstrated.  Every year, I am amazed that these girls can learn such intricate routines in such a short amount of time, but then again they are trained dancers and should be able to learn a dance quickly.  But it is still impressive.

Brandii McCoy leads the girls through the group dance.

Stacie Kinder of the Tennessee Titans Cheerleaders learns the group dance along with the cheerleaders

Once the group dance routine was learned, it was time to recognize this year’s Sidelines Distractions.  Catie announced the names of the girls who made the magazine and called them up to the front of the stage.  And then she announced this year’s cover girls, Natalie, Sarah and Nancy of the New York Jets Flight Crew.

Once all the girls were recognized, the staff distributed the magazine for all to see.

In addition to honoring those special cheerleaders, the Sidelines Distractions magazine includes the schedule for the weekend.  With the opening festivities under their belt, the cheerleaders took a few moments to study the schedule and assign girls to each room.

It was noon and for the first breakout session of the day, Tami Krause choreographed a routine to the song “U B the Base”.  In room 2, Jakene Ashford demonstrated a dance to the song “Pom Poms”.  In room 3, Tracy showed off a country oriented routine to the song “Barefoot & Buckwild”.  And in room 4, Heather Karberg taught a routine to the song “Live it up”.

At the conclusion of the session, the girls reconvened in the grand ballroom to showcase what they had learned.

Tami Krause of the Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders

At 1:30 p.m., we broke for lunch and the Real Deal 2 Workshop.  The organizers of the convention provided all attendees with a nice lunch and during the break, each instructor was asked to provide a little insight regarding the business of professional cheerleading from the Director’s point of view.  This session is one of my favorites because you get a fresh perspective of cheerleading and some of the comments are rather insightful and colorful.  Some of the highlights were:

  • Once you make the squad, you represent team all the time.  So you must also be beautiful and wear make up all the time.
  • Be dependable.
  • If you are a vet and act like a rookie…that is not good.
  • Do you hold the group back?  As a vet, the exceptions are higher than for a rookie.
  • If you are a veteran, at auditions be confident, not cocky.
  • If you aren’t the strongest dancer, don’t stand next to the best dancer at auditions.
  • What you look like in a swimsuit matters.
  • Fitness – it doesn’t get any easier after the first year.  Expectations are higher.
  • Don’t be a lazy veteran, don’t take things for granted.
  • Be cognizant of the impact of social media.  Don’t post wild and racy photos on social media.  You are a role model.
  • Represent your team, family and yourself with the utmost respect.
  • Trust in your director, she has the team’s best interests at heart.  Do what she asks.
  • Be humble, appreciative, polished, entertaining, talented and always be a lady.
  • If the move is on “one” and your tummy is moving on “two”, you need to get in shape.
  • Play as many, stand as one.
  • Being early is being on time.  Being “on time” is being late.  Being late is being forgotten.

During the break, some of the girls changed uniforms.  I think the Washington Redskins Cheerleaders brought the most outfits, closely followed by the Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders, Houston Texans Cheerleaders and the Seattle Sea Gals.  And I want to give them and the other teams a shout out for those that wore their game day uniforms.  For us, it makes a difference…to be able to photograph the cheerleaders in their most glamorous uniforms is important.  So, my gratitude to those squads who made the extra effort to wear their game day finest.

After the lunch break, it was back to the dance sessions.  It was 2:45 pm and the girls had already learned five routines.  In the grand ballroom, Alto Gary choreographed a dance to the song, “Treasure”.  In room 2, Stephanie Jojokian led her group to the musical selection, “Skrillex”.  In room 3, Derric Whitfield and his students danced to “Bugatti”.   And in room 4, Paige Carter demonstrated a routine to “It takes scoop”.

Once again, after the instructional sessions, the girls gathered back in the grand ballroom to showcase what they had learned.

Alto Gary of the Houston Texans Cheerleaders leading her group through the routine.

At the conclusion of the showcase, the girls were quickly ushered on to their final sessions of the day.  In the grand ballroom, Shannon Kingsley presented a dance routine to the song, “Warriors Call”.  In room 2, Brandii McCoy choreographed a routine to “Light it up”.  In room 3, Denise Garvey demonstrated a dance routine to the song “Walk of life”.  And in room 4, Sandy showcased a dance to “Right now”.

As was usual, the girls reconvened at the end of the session to showcase what they had learned.

At the end of the showcase, the instructors called all the dancers together to perform the group dance that they had learned earlier in the day.  It was a fitting end to an amazing day of dance.  Six hours of dance instruction, 13 new routines and over 300 of the best professional cheerleaders and dancers.  What a way to celebrate a decade of dance with the P-R-O Convention.

Up next: Day Two from P-R-O.  Please check back soon.

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I want to take this opportunity to thank Brandii McCoy, Alto Gary, Tracy Rutledge and the staff of AllPro3 for allowing me the opportunity to cover the 2011 P-R-O Convention. I had a wonderful time and hope to be back next year.

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