This year marks the eleventh year of the P-R-O Convention and over three hundred talented and beautiful professional cheerleaders descended upon Atlanta to participate in a weekend of dance, team building and networking. It was hot and steamy in Atlanta and I’m not talking just about the weather.
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)
Tara Battiato– Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFL)
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 Hornets (NBA) & Charlotte Checkers (AHL)
Tracy Rutledge – former NBA Atlanta Hawks & South Georgia Wildcats
Derric Whitfield – Washington Wizards & Washington Mystics (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.
As usual, James and I met at 8:00 am for breakfast to chart out our strategy for our coverage. A hearty breakfast is necessary for us to maintain the energy and focus needed to cover an event as massive and as exhausting as this convention. It is a full day’s worth of dance action and believe it or not, it’s quite exhausting photographing these girls for six hours straight. Not as exhausting as what the dancers do, but no cake walk either. It is hard work.
This year, the P-R-O Convention was held at the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel, a move back to a more suitable venue photographically speaking.
The girls started arriving a little before 9:00 am and we got our first look at the squads in attendance. As always, the Redskins and the Vikings cheerleaders made an impression. The Arizona Cardinals Cheerleaders were there in force. And the Houston Texans Cheerleaders seemed to be all over.
Registration started promptly on the hour and there was some paperwork to be filled out and music CDs to be distributed to teams in attendance.
Girls started lining up at the PRO Convention table to check out the convention wear for sale. The savvy conventioneer always queues up here early to get the hottest workout wear before they sell out.
Long time sponsors were in attendance. Deb Erickson from The Line Up was there, displaying their uniforms designs. The Line Up is a provider of custom dance costumes and creative performance apparel. Their uniforms are worn by the most renown professional cheerleading squads, such as the Minnesota Vikings, Washington Redskins, Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans, Baltimore Ravens, and the Wizard Girls.
Peavey Hosiery was in attendance once again and giving out free pairs of pantyhose to the cheerleaders at the convention. The company is better known as the hosiery supplier to Hooters Restaurants. Peavey offered a significant discount to the teams in attendance if they purchased quantities in bulk.
Satin Stitches, another major player in the custom uniform business, was at the convention 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 Atlanta 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.
GTM Sportswear, a leading manufacturer of team branded sportswear was back as a sponsor. They provide the work out wear for several teams at the convention and their line of work out clothes is very popular amongst cheer and dance teams.
And there were a few new sponsors as well. Soulcycle is a new concept in fitness, perfect for professional atheltes and dancers. Combining inspirational coaching with high-energy music, SoulCycle engages and empowers riders in a way that leaves them mentally and physically stronger.
IDLife is an innovative nutrition company that provides a broad spectrum of high-quality health and wellness products.
After checking out the vendors, the girls began filtering into the grand ballroom a little after 9:30 am and I availed myself of the opportunity to snap a few posed photos with them. The Tennessee Titans Cheerleaders wore their game day uniforms and I took advantage of this rare opportunity, snagging several girls for some upcoming articles.
I was quite encouraged at how things were turning out.
At 10:00 am the convention officially kicked off with the introduction of this year’s instructors. Stacie Kinder from the Titans got things going by leading the girls through a vigorous warm up and stretching session.
With the girls all warmed up and stretched out, Brandii McCoy took the stage to demonstrate the group dance. She broke down the routine into several 8 count segments and introduced them to the girls in sequence. It took a little more than a hour to teach the minute and a half long group dance.
At the end of the session, the dance was learned and the dancers performed it in its entirety.
P-R-O produces its own convention magazine, Sideline Distraction, and at the conclusion of the group dance session, it was time to introduce this year’s models. Host Dionna, the former Arizona Cardinals Cheerleader, 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 centerfold girl Abbie from the Washington Wizards, and cover girl, Jessica of the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks.
In addition to honoring those special cheerleaders, the Sideline Distraction 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 breakout session.
It was noon and time for the first individual dances sessions. In room 1, Tami Krause choreographed a kickline routine. In room 2, Stacie Kinder demonstrated a rock routine to her class. In room 3, Tracy Rutledge showed of a funky country dance. And in room 4, Heather Karberg taught a jazz/pom routine to her girls.
At the conclusion of the session, the girls reconvened in the grand ballroom to showcase what they had learned.
The showcase ended around 1:30 pm and the girls broke for lunch. The convention provides lunch for all the attendees and there was a presentation by IDLife regarding nutrition and their health and wellness products. For second half of lunch, the organizers asked each instructor to come up and discuss two topics regarding the business of professional cheerleading. This is called the Real Deal 2 workshop and it is one of the highlights of the weekend because you get an insight into cheerleading from the Director’s perspective. Some of the topics discussed were:
- As a professional cheerleader, there are only a few times when you don’t have to be concerned about being presentable. The rest of the time…be beautiful.
- You won’t be a cheerleader forever, so enjoy it while you can.
- Advice for a veteran cheerleader contemplating trying out again: were you dependable? Did you hold the group back?
- When trying out for a second year, a returning cheerleader must stand out amongst the others.
- When trying out for a third year, a returning cheerleader must have more to offer.
- Returning cheerleaders must be better than the year before.
- Keeping fit: it doesn’t get easier after the first year.
- Keeping fit: if your love of professional dance doesn’t match your love for working out…retire.
- Don’t be lazy as a veteran. Don’t rest on your laurels.
- Don’t have a “me first” attitude. It is important to put the team interests first.
- If you want to return, show improvement from before. There’s always someone better than you that wants your spot, so strive for perfection.
- Don’t have wild and racy photos out there on social media. Plain and simple: you are role models.
- Two things that will ensure you don’t return as a veteran: 1) naked selfies and 2) out growing your uniform.
- What our bosses think of you also matters.
- Don’t break any team policies. Know the agreement you sign.
- Do your job. Follow the rules.
- To stay on the team: you need to look the part (of a cheerleader). All. Of. The. Time.
- To stay on the team: you need to trust me (the director), listen to me and let me be the boss.
- To stay on the team: you need to stay positive and not talk crap about the team.
During the break, some of the girls changed uniforms. There were several teams that brought several different uniforms to P-R-O. The Redskins, Vikings, Cardinals, Texans, Wizard Girls and Titans to name a few. This is where we recognize those teams who wore their game day uniforms. For us, it makes a big difference…to be able to photograph 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 individual dance sessions. It was 2:45 pm and the girls had already learned five routines. In the grand ballroom, Derric Whitfield choreographed a latin inspired dance routine. In room 2, Jakene Ashford demonstrated a spirited funk oriented dance number. And in room 3, Stephanie Jojokian showed of a jazz dance routine.
Once again, after the instructional sessions, the girls gathered back in the grand ballroom to showcase what they had learned.
Time was getting short, so the girls were quickly ushered on to their final classes of the day. In the grand ballroom, Denise Garvey presented a novelty jazz dance routine to some old time classics. In room 2, Brandii McCoy choreographed a jazz/funk routine to for her students. In room 3, Shannon Kingsley demonstrated a dance routine to the a rock classic. And in room 4, Tara Battiato showcased a funky jazz dance.
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. I was amazed that after learning eleven dance routines that the girls could still remember the group dance. But they did and they performed it well…as you would expect from professional dancers.
Thus, our day ended. The first day of an amazing weekend of dance. Six hours of intensive instruction. Twelve new dance routines. 3oo of the hottest professional cheerleaders in world. And two exhausted photographers.
Like I said it was hot and steamy in Atlanta…and no, I am not talking about the weather.
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 2014 P-R-O Convention. I had a wonderful time and hope to be back next year.