This week's Campus Celeb is junior Julianne Aerhee, who gets to step out on to the AmericanAirllines Arena court each game and dance for the Miami HEAT.
HC: How long have you been dancing?
I have been dancing for 15 years now. I was 5 years old when I walked into my first ballet class and haven’t stopped “twinkling my toes” since!
HC: What made you decide to dance for the HEAT? What was the audition process like?
I grew up dancing and training under my studio director, Sara Reynolds, who was a former NBA dancer. She told me about her amazing experiences in that role and how it began her career as a professional dancer and knew that it was something I wanted to do in the future. After moving down to Miami for school, I wanted to find a way to keep pushing and developing myself as a performer and dancer and saw the HEAT as the perfect opportunity to do so. I wanted to dance for the best, and the Miami HEAT Dancers are the cutting edge in the industry of NBA dance teams so the decision was easy.
As for the audition process, each year it is always challenging both mentally and physically. I was definitely more nervous this time around because coming back as a potential veteran you know what you have to lose. After a year of being on the HEAT, going from calling the girls next to you your teammates to your sisters, growing both as a dancer and human being, experiencing the championship, and performing for the most amazing fans, the fear of not having the opportunity to do it again was terrifying.
The open audition for anyone and everyone who wanted to make the team started on Sunday morning early August this past summer. The day consisted of multiple rounds including freestyle, across the floor, a jazz combination, a hip-hop combination and a surprise round. After each round a cut was made and by the end of the day around 40 lucky ladies were selected to go through to boot camp, where the real work began.
Boot camp was the following Monday-Thursday. Throughout the week, we learned routines for our final show as well as endured intense workouts to test both our dance and athletic abilities (meaning lots of squats, stairs and burpees.)
The HEAT Dancer Finals then took place on Friday where all of the girls performed in an opening number, group routines, a swimsuit fashion show and a closing number. The judges then deliberated (while all of us sat nervously in the dressing room). The night culminated with the announcement of the 23 lucky ladies that would have the opportunity to take the court this 2012-2013 season and I was blessed to be one of them!
HC: What's a day in your life as a HEAT dancer typically like? How much goes into preparing for games?
My day usually begins with a morning cardio workout, usually running the loop around campus and some strength training or an hour of punch-boxing. I then get ready for class and have class Monday-Friday either from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. or 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. each day. Once I get home from classes, I’ll get some homework/studying done and sometimes squeeze in a nice Power Yoga class. Then Monday-Thursday, I usually leave for rehearsal around 6:00 p.m. and get home around 11:00 p.m. However, once the season starts, my days get a little crazier (in the best way.) On game days, all the girls get to the arena about three hours before the game to go through court rehearsal and then get ourselves game ready, meaning for a 7:30 night game we are at the AmericanAirlines Arena by 4:30 p.m. getting pumped for the game!
A handful of things go into preparing for games. In general, we prepare two main performances for each game (performed during quarter-breaks and timeouts, usually one dance during each half) meaning we learn a lot of choreography and formations throughout the season. We also rehearse sidelines and run-arounds, which are shorter dances that we perform throughout the game. On top of learning and setting our routines, we have team workouts to make sure that we are looking our best out on the court and to make sure we have the stamina to perform from beginning to end with the energy our fans deserve.
HC: What's been your favorite moment as a HEAT dancer?
From the very first game, first stepping out onto the court, to the last game of the 2011-2012 season where our team won the NBA title, every day as a HEAT Dancer has been a blessing and truly more than I could have ever imagined. One of my favorite moments was helping out with the April Pool’s Day “Learn to Swim” initiative. Getting to interact with the kids and jumping in the pool with them was one of the most rewarding experiences. The kids at the event were huge HEAT fans. They even made up a song dedicated to “El HEAT.” To get the opportunity to get to know them all and literally teach them how to swim was incredible and so much fun!
HC: What's been your biggest challenge as a dancer, and what advice do you have for those who aspire to dance at a professional level?
My biggest challenge as a dancer has been following my dreams despite what my parents thought of my career choice and balancing my schoolwork while trying to pursue dance. Dance to my parents was always just a hobby for me, not something they pictured me creating a future out of. Their opinions have since changed now that I am dancing for the HEAT and they are now my biggest fans (and after seeing how hard I’ve worked for this, support me further pursuing my professional dance career.) Being a full-time student, pursuing a double major and minor, time management has been essential to keeping up my grades and performance level both on and off the court.
My advice for those who aspire to dance at a professional level is to fight for your dreams! Don’t let anyone tell you its impossible because you are your own limit. Give your heart to dance and it will return the love, I promise. Practice dance, watch dance, create dance. Take every possible opportunity, no matter how big or small, to dance. Most importantly, keep in mind that everyone has their own time—meaning be patient, keep fighting, keep sweating and working and have faith that your dreams will come true.
To learn more about Julianne and the Miami HEAT Dancers, click here:
Photo Credit/ David Alvarez/ Miami HEAT