The Big Dance

It's that time of year Wizards' fans. March Madness is in the air. Selection Sunday has come and gone, and like all basketball fans around the country, we're all stressing over our tournament brackets. Well, that and we're all watching each NCAA matchup with hawk eyes in hopes of pinpointing which college player will be drafted next by the Wizards.

By Julia

It’s that time of year Wizards' fans. March Madness is in the air.

Selection Sunday has come and gone, and like all basketball fans around the country, we’re all stressing over our tournament brackets.  Well, that and we’re all watching each NCAA matchup with hawk eyes in hopes of pinpointing which college player will be drafted next by the Wizards.

I must say, tournament fever makes me sentimental.

My love of the NBA came out of my love of NCAA basketball.  In fact, one of the reasons I’m a basketball fan in the first place was because I danced for my college dance team, Duke University’s Dancing Devils.

Yup, that’s right. Just like Bradley Beal and John Wall, I and many of the Wizard Girls honed our skills on the collegiate level before going pro. 

In fact, it might surprise you to know that on this year’s squad alone we have veterans of dance teams from Catholic University of America, George Mason, Harvard, James Madison, Morgan State, St. John’s, Syracuse, and UVA.  All cheered on their school’s basketball team.

At the time, I thought dancing before a packed house in Cameron Indoor was as good as it gets (and don’t get me wrong, it was pretty dang sweet.)  But for a dancer, everything in the NBA is bigger: more voluminous hair, heavier makeup, more dances, larger crowds and, well… much smaller uniforms.

But whether you are cheering for a college or NBA team, many aspects of being on a dance squad remain the same. 

We practice… a lot. In undergrad, my team would practice three times a week for two hours. Wizard Girls, on the other hand, only rehearse twice a week but we stay for as long as it takes.   

After all, college dance teams often perform for football and men’s and women’s basketball, and seasons often overlap.  Wizard Girls dance at 41 Wizards home games in the regular season and sometimes perform twice in a night.  For either team, that adds up to a lot of dances!  At some point, getting our routines right takes precedence over getting sleep.

So that means we are all experts at budgeting time.  A dancer’s life is always a precious, precarious balance of work, practice, performance and whatever free time we can get our hands on.

 In college, ‘work’ meant class, studying and me regularly grabbing a Diet Coke and a Snickers bar post-practice so to stay up late writing research papers. 

Now, like many other Wizard Girls, I’m pairing my NBA dance career with a good old 40+ hour workweek career.  Being a full-time broadcast news reporter during the day, I try to pass out as soon as possible after practices and games so I can make it to the office by 9am.  But don’t worry. Know that my chocolate and caffeine fix now comes in the form of a protein shake that I inhale in the car as I drive to work.

It goes without saying that that you quickly become diehard fans of the teams for which you cheer.  In college we did spend a great deal of time each year preparing for a national collegiate dance competition, and Wizard Girls are kept busy with promotions and overseas tours. But at the end of the day, we’re here for one reason: to cheer on our teams.   Being present for successes and failures really binds you to a team. My heart may pump Duke blue, but when it comes to the NBA, I’ll forever be a Wizard.

Despite the long hours and sore muscles, we all truly love what we do.   Having the chance to perform for thousands is increasingly rare as a dancer transitions into the real world; and having had the opportunity to continue dancing both in college and now the NBA is something for which I am truly grateful.

And I’m extremely grateful for the people who joined me on both these teams.  I’ve gotten to spend a majority of my time with wonderful women who share my passion of dance and basketball.   You can’t help loving people’s talent, drive, and utterly unique personalities when you spend hours upon hours with them.  We all work hard, we all play hard, and we do it as a team.  And just as I’ve stayed connected with many my Duke Dancing Devils, I plan I keeping my Wizard Girls teammates as friends for life.

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