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Jazz dancers embrace emotion of playoffs

Jun 02, 2017 10:38AM, Published by Kimberly Roach, Categories: Sports


The Utah Jazz dancers are an integral part of the community, team and fan base of the team. (Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)



By Greg James |  gregj@mycityjournals.com
           
The biggest Utah Jazz fans may not be sitting in the stands.
 
The Jazz Dancers were disappointed the team was swept from the playoffs by the Golden State Warriors, but were excited to be a part of the team’s first playoff appearance in five years.
 
“The playoffs have been super incredible. It is completely different than the regular season. The fans bring so much energy to the arena and the dancers are more pumped up. As they are getting ready in the tunnel they are rooting right along with the fans. It is madness, we feel the losses and want to celebrate the wins too,” Jazz dance team coordinator Ro Malaga said.
 
The Utah Jazz Dance Team consists of 16 women. They are teachers, students and dance teachers or coaches, and consider themselves the team’s biggest fans. Being a member of the team is a second job and opportunity for each of the women.
 
McKenna, a Herriman High drill team coach, finished her first season as a Jazz Dancer. She has been dancing since she was four and has turned a hobby into a career.
 
“I love being a member of this team. It is not just about dancing. It is about community and entertaining and mingling with kids and trying to be a role model,” McKenna said. “Looking up at all the fans is unreal. I have loved this opportunity.”
 
The dance team makes in-game appearances as well as off-site charity events. They do get paid although McKenna joked it is not as much as the players. The team is considered an important part of the entire Jazz experience.
 
“I have been fortunate to be involved with the Jazz family for some time now,” Malaga said. “I was a judge for dancer tryouts and then produced a routine with The Bear. This year they had me come in as the dance coordinator. We revamped the entire system to a hip-hop based theme. The alumni and previous directors have set such a high standard it has been great for us.”
 
The National Basketball Association has embraced the hip-hop genre. Its commercials and time-out music have transformed into high energy enthusiasm for the teams. The Jazz have also followed suit. The dancers try to support the community and give the fans as much energy during the game as they can.
 
Dancers from Spanish Fork, the Salt Lake Valley and farther north are all part of the team. Each team member practices twice a week and performs at every game. They have a catalog of routines with videos and music and choreography. The team captain, Alexia, schedules the performances beforehand but during each game routines can change depending on the game situation.
 
“Being a professional dancer is similar to being an athlete. They need to take care of their bodies and watch what they eat and stay in shape. At this level we have injuries like ankles and back problems. We are always monitoring them so they can stay healthy,” Malaga said.
 
Kendal, a West Valley resident, just finished her second season with the team. She began dancing in eighth grade and was a member of Hunter High School’s drill team. She enjoyed her opportunity to perform in the NBA playoffs.
 
“The playoffs have been more intense. It has been amped up, as a dancer we try to bring as much energy as we can. We make lots of appearances and try to represent the team well. Every year we go to Primary Children’s Hospital, and it is fun to see the kids light up when we see them,” Kendal said.
 
The dance team is sponsored by American First Credit Union. The dancers are different than other NBA dance teams, according to Gina Calvert, corporate communications manager. The music and costumes they use reflect the community they represent and high morals maintained by the Utah Jazz, she said. 
 
“We really keep our fan base in mind. I am so proud to be a part of this team,” Malaga said.


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