American Airlines Center is always the place to be in DFW when the Dallas Mavericks take the court. The Mavs are riding a 381-game home sell-out streak. But Wednesday night's game added a little extra buzz to the crisp January air, because the two-time defending world champion Los Angeles Lakers and Kobe Bryant were in town for a nationally televised game on ESPN. It was on this night that Dallas Mavericks Dancers director Mallory Mills granted me an all-access pass to the "Hottest Dance Team in the NBA."
The Dallas Mavericks Dancers practice three to four times a week, depending on the Mavericks home game schedule. They work out at Elevation Fitness and are all business as they hone their moves for every performance. Mills, a Mavs dancer for seven years before taking the reigns for the 2010-11 NBA season, keeps a close watch on all the goings-on.
The dancers arrive at least two hours before every home game to rehearse the night's routines in the arena's corridor just outside of their personal locker room. They mark the floor with tape to simulate the court in order to hit their marks precisely before heading out to perform for more than 20,000 people in the crowd -- and the millions watching on ESPN. Then it is off to the locker room for make-up, hair and last-minute uniform changes before heading out for the player introductions.
"The intro is my favorite part," said Jenna G., a second-year dancer. "When the lights go down, the music starts and all the fans are up cheering, it really gets my adrenaline going."
Following the introductions, it is straight back to work as the dancers prep for their first routine following the second timeout of the first quarter. The girls huddle up for a prayer before the first performance of each game and then they're off. For this game, the "Aerosmith Mixture" of Ragdoll, Dude Looks Like a Lady and Walk This Way was selected for their first act. When talking to one of the rookie dancers about the excitement of playing the glamorous Lakers, she was quick to point out that "they have Lamar Odom and he is married to Khloe Kardashinan."
Then it is back to the locker room to change uniforms and regroup for the second half. When I said I had all-access, I was not kidding. I hung out in the back of the room in the veterans corner and chatted up fellow TCU Horned Frog Paige J., a third-year dancer. "It is an entirely different perspective to watch a TCU football game from the stands as opposed to being part of the action at Mavs games," she said, adding that each is a nice break from the other as she is set to graduate in May.
After halftime, it is back to work as they are rehearsing the routine to Nelly Furtado's Maneater, which will follow the second timeout in the third quarter. Lauren C., in her second year as a Mavs Dancer, is also a former member of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. While she said she is often recognized out in public from both teams' huge legion of fans, there is a big difference in performing out on the field at Texas Stadium and the court at the AAC. "The fans are so much closer at the Mavs games," Lauren said. "It's almost like they are right on top of you. It really is just a different level of energy."
When the fourth quarter began, the Mavs Dancers ventured to their place in the crowd, the railing along Section 109, before heading out on the court for their final routine of the evening to AC/DC's Thunderstruck. The crowd, including Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo and Hall of Fame running backs Tony Dorsett and Emmitt Smith, was treated to a Mavs 109-100 victory over legendary coach Phil Jackson's Lakers.
I have seen the 2010-11 Dallas Mavericks Dancers go from the 261 girls who attended their Mavs Dancers tryouts in July to the final roster announcement in August to the Mavs Dancers calendar release party in November. As I witnessed all of the behind the scenes preparation that Mallory Mills and the dancers put into ensuring their in-game performances are flawless, I gained a newfound respect for their dedication and teamwork. I also realized what a major role the Mavs Dancers play in the Mavericks' 381 straight sellouts at home.
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