There’s a kind of depressing theory about aging that goes like this: It’s a series of passing by potential goals that you’ll never reach. At 19, you might acknowledge that you’ll never be the prima ballerina or gymnast you dreamed of becoming. At 29, it’s the Olympic track star thing that might fall by the wayside. At 39, a Hollywood ingenue. At 49, you might realize you’ll never have that next (or first) baby you were thinking about.
But here’s something that is still on the table: a professional sports cheerleader/dancer.
Many NBA teams have said goodbye to their super-sexy, partially clad women-only groups. Now the crews are more often co-ed and, interestingly, at least a dozen NBA teams have squads for dancers who are 50 or older.
Many NBA teams have said goodbye to their super-sexy, partially clad women-only groups.
The Golden State Warriors senior dance team, called the Hardwood Classics, is composed of passionate movers and shakers, ages 55 to 75, who relish the opportunity to rev up the crowds on game days. Every year, hundreds audition for the team, which started in 2018—but only around two dozen make the cut, four of them men.
The Washington Wizards have a Wizdom dance team made up of former NFL cheerleaders, a dentist, several grandmothers, and a breast cancer survivor.
“We are part of what I like to call the Fame, Flashdance, and Let’s Get Physical generation,” Wizdom dancer Cindy Hardeman, 60, told the Washington Post in 2019. “We’re just taking it into our elder years,” she says, later adding, “If we were to top it in order of why we do it, I’d say fun, fun, and fun.”
Prancing through the Playoffs
The Golden State Warriors, the basketball team, may be on the verge of elimination in the playoffs, but the Golden State Warriors, the senior dance team, see every performance as a new lease on life. “This is a second chapter for all of us,” said Laura, 64, a former Raiderette who’s been with the Hardwood Classics for five seasons, speaking to the San Francisco Standard. (The team members only use their first names.)
Some of those in the Warriors’ squad are retired, while others balance family duties as parents and grandparents and thriving professional lives as judges, lawyers, graphic designers, engineers, and real estate agents. Some are fitness or studio dance hobbyists, while others have professional dance experience from previous careers as dancers for sports teams such as for the Los Angeles Lakers.
One of the team’s favorite numbers is a mix of Survivor-themed songs because it speaks to the members’ many life experiences.
Sabrina Ellison, the Golden State Warriors’ director of entertainment teams, explained that previous dance experience isn’t required, but a knack for showmanship is a must. “No matter their background, we selected the best squad of performers, and you can feel it every time they hit the court,” Ellison said.
And they don’t just shuffle around. They make some serious dance moves, and Jan, the oldest member at age 77, can still do splits with ease and flair. The trick is a physically impressive crowd-pleaser, but on the court, charisma is just as important as endurance and flexibility.
The team holds a handful of rehearsals in preparation for every one-minute performance. The squad typically performs 20 to 26 times per season, and it can take more than 12 hours to perfect any one routine. One of the team’s favorite numbers is a mix of Survivor-themed songs because it speaks to the members’ many life experiences—from becoming grandparents to losing loved ones to seeing their children graduate or get married.
“We [. . . ] reflect on just how lucky and special all of this is then take that inspiration to the court,” Ellison said.
“We’ve all collectively had some journeys,” Laura said. “We just consider ourselves champions, warriors, survivors.”