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NBA China “Dance Passion” United States Style
Posted on Jan 11
My adventure in CHINA these past six months has been thrilling, exciting, pleasurable, glamorous, breathtaking, educational, at times overwhelming, and most of all an unforgettable journey of a lifetime. The China portion of “Dance Passion” had ended, but the FINAL SIX DANCERS Chosen were coming to the UNITED STATES, and I wanted to make every minute of their time in the STATES just as memorable (if not more) as my time I had spent in CHINA. I wanted to make sure their experience was above and beyond their expectations and make sure they left the USA with such a positive experience. I developed close friendships with these girls, therefore the many hours spent selecting the right music, designing the appropriate costumes, choreographing an amazing halftime performance for these special young ladies was my top priority. Everything had to be perfect for their big debut. Phone conferences with the NBA in CHINA and the USA were daily. My managerial and communication skills were tested daily, approved, and accomplished. It was finally happening, the NBA CHINA CREW were on their way to the UNITED STATES. I was so excited to be a part of this NBA History. All of us (NBA USA Staff ) welcomed them with open arms. We were all so happy to introduce our new CHINA FAMILY to the UNITED STATES.
Cleveland, Ohio was fun for everyone, but spending time in Los Angeles, California was the highlight of their journey. The West Coast is always a thrill for me too! I had the pleasure of working with Lisa Estrada, game operations for the LA Lakers as well as the director for the LA Lakers Girls. We had been conversing for days, I just knew that she would be a gem to work with, and I was right. She made all my suggestions a reality. The FINAL SIX were presented with many special gifts. Representatives from Stella Cosmetics gave them a makeup consultation, which helped in preparing them for their performances and appearances. Menal Parikh, vice president of sales and revenue for Stella Cosmetics, brought in a team of makeup artists to instruct the girls on how to create a game day face as well as many everyday techniques.
The girls were so into the demonstration and really enjoyed learning about makeup applications. After a few hours the girls were even presented with a huge goodie bag full of Stella products and clothing. They were given just about everything they needed to accomplish the “NBA” look for the court.
One day The FINAL SIX were surprised with a visit from the LA Lakers Girls. At their meet and greet, The Lakers Girls signed autographs, talked with the winners, and gave them advice on how to make it as an NBA Dancer. What a great opportunity for these girls to talk with Professional Dancers that they saw as role models. Although the conversations were through a translator, I knew the girls were really enjoying every minute of their meet and greet.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank my Dear Friend and former Chicago Luvabull Colleen for taking the time to work with me during the five day training camp. She had recently moved to Los Angeles to pursue her Print and Commercial Career. Working together on this Dance Passion Production was fulfilling for both. With her help and expertise, we were able to accomplish all with less time than anticipated.
Our days consisted of hours of dancing at the famous IDA (International Dance Academy), home of one of the winners of America’s Best Dance Crew.
Each day the girls learned different stretching exercises and dancing techniques as well as learning the routine to be performed on their big day at the Staples Center. I chose a short traditional Chinese Dance with fans to tie in their heritage, and then the dance broke into a mix of Crowd Pumping Music. Their halftime dancing performance would be a full four minute routine. It was a lot of choreography to present to them, but their dedication and determination made the days fly by. They were so focused even though I gave them so much choreography each day.
I worried if they could really retain so much as well as master the challenges of hard technique. We had turns, kicks, fast footwork, jumps, and even a tumbling section for the girls to master. But each morning when we reconvened, I observed how much they practiced on their own, even though their evenings were filled with shopping sprees, sight seeing, and other entertainments that LA has to offer. They were determined to show up the next day knowing their stuff. I was overwhelmed at their work ethic and perseverance.
The routine took so much endurance, therefore we slowly got the girls ready for the Big Dance. With only six dancers on the court, there was no time for rests in the routine. As the days passed, the dance became easier and easier for them. With long practices (also staying up late practicing in the hotel) they were really pushing their limits. They never complained. Just like in China, CCTV 5 was with us all the time documenting this journey, taping all interviews, taping all breaks, and taping all the candid moments as they (and we) pushed through each practice mastering the routine.
The excitement of the Final Show Date was felt by everyone including Me and Colleen. It was as if we were getting ready to perform too. At one of our last practices, the Lakers Girls surprised the FINAL SIX with another warm and friendly visit. The Lakers Girls schedules are filled with appearances, performances, photo shoots, and interviews daily, so when they brought in autograph cards and took the time to give the FINAL SIX some last minute NBA Dance Pointers, that was very special.
The girls really loved having an audience while practicing and valued the Lakers Girls input. All their hard work and preparation was paying off as they began to look ready to take the court.
The next day was our last practice and this time it was at the Staples Center. We had the opportunity to have a thorough on court rehearsal so that the girls could feel completely comfortable with the venue. I could see that they were in Awww of the facility (knowing that this was the actual court of the NBA World Champs), and it took a few minutes for them to take it all in. This would be the court with a crowd of 20,000 that they would be performing for, which was more than any of them had ever imagined. This was a reality.
All the formations were set. We ran through everything: Entrances. Exits. Lighting. Sound. Camera Placements. Now all we needed to manage was (our) nerves to make this performance a success, because energy was plentiful.
Another Day. Another Surprise! The FINAL SIX were given the opportunity to perform at a LA Defenders (the D-League for the LA Lakers) game at the Staples Center. This is such a gift. They not only had a full on court performance at the Staples Center (not complete capacity) but they performed on the exact arena floor before it was filled with 20,000 people. This performance went so well. Nerves were calmed. After their performance, I was able to tweak a few moves in the routine perfecting it for the Big Show.
THE BIG PERFORMANCE DATE:
We arrived at the Staples Center (nerves were high- the excitement even higher) and was given a quick tour of the arena. It is amazing how different each NBA Arena is, each with its own flare and flash, and of course I am partial to my Home Arena “United Center” – Best in the NBA!
The FINAL SIX were invited to watch the Lakers Girls pregame rehearsal, which gave them a sense of how to prepare for their performance. Intensely the FINAL SIX watched. What an opportunity for them to actually be on an NBA Court and watch an NBA Professional Dance Team walk through formations and game routines.
Then the Lakers Girls presented each of the FINAL SIX with a signed photo card for them to take back to China. They were thrilled and pumped to be able to be on the same NBA Court to prepare for their Big Performance of a lifetime.
Hair and make up was next on the agenda. They applied all the techniques they had learned earlier at their Stella Makeup consultation, and Menal Parikh, vice president of sales and revenue for Stella Cosmetics, even stopped by to check up on the girls to see how their game day faces looked. Together we helped make them look spectacular.
IT WAS SHOW TIME!! We walked through a few things. I felt they were ready, Ready to go out there and show the world their talent. We had a quick pep talk about their journey. I commended them for their hard work. Finally, Our Group Hug! Off they went to take the court.
DARK LIPSTICK: Checked
DANCE SHOES: Checked
The crowd cheered as they entered the court. As each girl was announced (individually) and struck a pose, the applause grew louder. Hurriedly I ran to the center to watch like a proud MOM and a pleased TEACHER. The music began and their smiles radiated. They flowed through the moves with grace and power, and with each new motion, I could feel their excitement exude out of their fingertips. They did their toe touches, their turns, their tricks, and their kicks. One of the girls did a double aerial out of the blue. Her adrenaline took over, and she just kept going. I felt so privileged to be a part of their big day.
They ended the routine in their jump split with huge winning smiles. I jumped so high in excitement for their beautiful performance, and positively I was not the only one. The roar of the crowd, as they took their bows and ran off court, was overwhelming. It was a SUCCESS!! I could not have asked anymore from them. They left their HEART on that court and DANCED with such PASSION.
The FINAL SIX exited the court. We all came together for a group hug as the tears flowed. CCTV was there to capture all the emotions.
Interviews were priceless. WE ALL were so proud of how this journey concluded. The FINAL SIX accomplished so much and gave even more. Their dreams were a reality, and they had taken that first step to their future. It was definitely a dream come true to be a part of this ride. Being their teacher, mentor, and friend through out this process was gratifying, and I will never forget this amazing experience. Each one of the talented dancers will always have a special place in my heart. Being a part of their experience of a lifetime, I am reminded of the first time I ever stepped on an NBA court to dance and the emotional roller coaster that goes along with that ride.
The Big Performance concluded, but their memories of Los Angeles, California, USA will not end. The Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season celebrated in Los Angeles was wonderful!
DISNEYLAND in LA! We wondered through the five lands of Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, and Adventureland all decked out with their holiday sparkle.
We rode Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise, It’s a Small World, and the Haunted Mansion.
My favorite, Space Mountain, was a top attraction at the Magic Kingdom. We listened to the Carolers on Main Street, U.S.A. and watched “A Christmas Fantasy” Parade. No one does Christmas like Disney! I felt like a kid again and the CHINA CREW loved experiencing Disney USA, Truly Magical!
Having the opportunity to spend a day at UNIVERSAL STUDIOS was magical too!
This allowed us to combine adventures in movie-making, thrilling rides, and live-action shows in an incredibly HOLIDAY Trimmed Theme Park.
We started with the world-famous Back Lot Studio Tour, a Tram Ride which took us to sets of hit movies and TV shows, and also brought us face-to-face with flash floods, the Shark from Jams, and a nerve-rattling earthquake. What a Blast!
We also saw the Live-Action Water World, a stunt-driven show based on the Kevin Costner Film. In addition, we rode the Blockbuster TV Series, Simpsons Ride, experienced hair-raising thrills and heart-pounding surprises on rides like the Revenge of the Mummy Thrill Coaster and the Jurassic Park 80-foot Raft Plunge. We even took a walk through the Haunted Mansion.
What a day!! Our CHINA CREW was impressed!
As well as theme parks, our CHINA CREW took tours of the Wax Museum, Hollywood Boulevard, Rodeo Drive, and many many shopping areas all decked out for the HOLIDAYS!
The fun and excitement that Los Angeles, California had to offer just strengthened CHINA and USA friendships.
The special bond that we now share (Our Cultural Bond) will not end. Thank you LA for giving our CHINA CREW and ME an incredible experience of a lifetime.
I am very happy and excited to be back in the United States. It seems like only yesterday that I started these informative blogs describing my NBA China Adventure.
Thanks to the CHICAGO BULLS ORGANIZATION for supporting me through out this excursion. Thanks to the CHICAGO BULLS FANS (Best in the NBA). Loved all your E-Mails & Phone Calls. Kept me focused while in CHINA. Now that NBA CHINA “Dance Passion” has successfully concluded, I am back on the BULLS COURT. Greatly missed performing at the UNITED CENTER.
With all that was accomplished during these past six months (Cultural Influences – Entertainment Experiences – New Friendships – International Travels), I bring back much knowledge and excitement. Thank you “CHICAGO LUVABULLS” for your continuous support in my absence on and off the court and for welcoming me back with open arms. Our team needs us all to work together to bring back our winning attitude.
Looking forward to the 2010 ALL STAR GAME and the PLAYOFFS!
Let’s Get This Party Started!
LOVE IT LIVE WITH THE BULLS!
Signing Off For Now.
Until Next Time,