From the moment I got the call to interview as the Director of the LA Sparks Ole Skool Crew, I knew it would be an incredible experience.
Let’s be real though. Taking on a group of women over 40 was not about to be a cakewalk. I strapped on my backpack of patience and brought along plenty of woosah moments for the journey.
Our first season was filled with learning experiences, standing ovations, community outreach, and buckets of sweat. I got to know them individually and see their commitment and passion for the team first hand. Every game day when they greet fans at the door, I’d sit back and watch as people asked to take pictures with them, start a quick dance party right there in the lobby of the Staples Center and would even ask for them by name.
“Well..my girl is Marilyn.”
“Where’s the lady with the red hair? She’s my favorite.”
In this space, these women were certified celebrities.
Each of them brought a distinct fire to the group and all of them had a unique story to tell. Some are trained dancers, high school cheerleaders that never lost it or women who just had the spirit of a Soul Train dancer deep inside. No matter their background, it all fused together seamlessly.
Since the choreography was a lot more intricate than what they were used to, hitting the steps and building stamina was our main focus. The theme for the 2017 season was No Limits No Boundaries so each rehearsal they pushed harder, got stronger, and built a team that was literally unstoppable. The ladies couldn’t always digest the choreography during scheduled rehearsals, that’s when they took the initiative to meet on their own time. They’d take turns cleaning the movements and return back to me ready for the 5-6-7-8. This is all on top of an already demanding work and family schedule they had to balance.
The Ole Skool Crew has been around since 2004 so the audience started to notice this new bolt of energy both on and off the court. Not only did they focus on giving electrifying performances but also building their social media presence and connecting with fans. Not everyone is app and social media savvy so we had Instagram 101 and Navigating Facebook tutorial sessions during rehearsals. The goal was to bridge generational gaps through a common love of music, dance and old-school vibes which meant they needed to go digital! The crew donated additional time and energy to building content with a few photo shoots and dance videos along the way.
Through it all, our LA Sparks management team has been immensely supportive of all our ideas.
The OSCrew live band dance workshop in July was a great starting point but they believed we could do it even bigger and better. They approached me about auditioning an Elite crew that could keep the train moving during the offseason. We selected 8 ladies and immediately started rehearsing for a huge performance at a UCLA women’s basketball game. This time we had a whole 2 minutes! Our game day routines are usually 1min 15sec max. You’d think those extra few seconds are a breeze, but it starts hurting right around 1min 30sec. Regardless, they held it down.
Feelings of unity and pride overflowed the locker room after the performance. Being focused on a common goal and spiritually harmonious was clearly just as important as having the actual steps. We all could feel it was just the beginning of something great.
Following the performance, we starting planning for an“I love the 90s” dance workout class that would be open to the community. A few days before the event, I found out that I’d be leaving to Jakarta Indonesia and wouldn’t be in LA to teach. Was I worried?
No, not really.
Ok. Yes, I definitely was!
My heart is fully committed to seeing this crew thrive and professionally I’m a bit of an OCD perfectionist. My need to facilitate and manage the event was eating at me. On top of that, I know the ladies trust me with the future of OSCrew and all the years they’ve devoted to their craft. I always want to be there for them, but this was a moment they’d have to really show up and show out. That’s exactly what they did.
They shot promo videos, sent mass emails, went wild on social media, walked door to door in the studio neighborhood passing out fliers, and hassled their friends to come until the workshop completely sold out! Women from all over LA spent their Saturday jamming like they were at a backyard boogie surpassing all of our expectations. Still, in the theme of No Limits No Boundaries, our eldest dancer was 73 years young.
Shout out to my Old School Skinny team for stepping up and holding me down. J’Nelle Luckie, Brian Drake, Tati, Ehlee, Angora, DJ Soundwave, and Kadar Pierre/LionzDen for capturing some great moments.
1 week before the workshop, KTLA 5 News reached out to produce a segment on the team and our plans for the 2018 season. The timing was perfect! It seemed to put a stamp of approval on all the hard work they’ve put in over the last year.
So now we take a deep breath and get ready for the 2018 season auditions April 15th. The criteria for being on the Ole Skool Crew has changed a bit. Being able to dance is of course top of the list but the ability to work with your team to accomplish what seems to be the impossible and going above and beyond to ensure success in everything you put forth regardless of life’s obstacles are traits I’ll be looking for in the people who audition. Take a look what can happen when you have a team of people who are working toward the same goal.
In the celebration of National Women’s History Month, I salute all of the women that helped build such a powerful legacy. Cheers to many more jaw-dropping performances and letting great teamwork continue to make the dream work. The best is yet to come!