If Oklahoma point guard Trae Young, who was acquired by the Atlanta Hawks in the NBA draft Thursday evening, expects to play alongside a bevy of Hawks Cheerleaders, he’s got another thing coming.
They’re the Hawks ATL Dancers, now.
The official new dance squad of the NBA team was publicly announced Friday by the basketball organization.
“We basically had a group of dancers that were labeled as cheerleaders,” Joe Abercrombie, vice president of fan experience, said Thursday.
The decision to change the name was made to better reflect the “talented group of highly skilled dance elites,” said Donni Frazier, senior manager of fan experience.
“Our ‘cheerleading team’s’ focus was actually always intended as a dance performance group,” Frazier said.
Earlier this month, rigorous 10-day auditions were held for cheerleaders and dancers. Women came from all over the country — Indiana, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Florida — to compete with Atlanta area contestants. Twenty of them made the cut.
Officials waited until after try-outs were over to tell the team the new name. That’s because most of the audition process didn’t change — they just put “a little more premium on traditional dance technique and performance showmanship,” Abercrombie said.
Recently, media outlets have reported that some people professional teams should end the use of cheerleaders, arguing in part that it's an antiquated role for women. Abercrombie said the change doesn’t have anything to do with that notion.
“We talked all season about the fact that we didn’t really have cheerleaders in the traditional sense, but professional dancers,” he said. “These women work extremely hard at rehearsals and executing very difficult choreography that is taught by some of the top talent in the country.”
Aside from the name change and new logo, fans may not notice much of a difference. The uniforms will be familiar, but it will be a smaller squad — about five less members than last season — with “far more intricate and challenging choreography,” Frazier said.
Like before, the squad members will participate in community events and special appearances in addition to performing at home games.
More traditional cheerleading isn’t completely going away, though. Auditions for a co-ed stunt team, which will do acrobatics and interact with the crowd during timeouts, will take place later this year.
There will be “a very clear delineation between the Hawks ATL Dancers and our Stunt Team ... and each will bring a different exciting element to our games,” said Abercrombie.
The changes come alongside the $192.5 million renovation of Philips Arena. By the time the season starts in October, the Hawks Entertainment umbrella will also include a drumline and a crew of break dancers.
There are no plans for staple mascot, Harry the Hawk — or acts such as the Flight Crew, Sky Squad and Silver Classix — to go away.
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