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Hartford Colonials Cheerleading Captains Prepare for First Season

Tryouts for 16 more dancers set for Saturday at XL Center starting at 9 a.m.


July 23, 2010

Got spirit? Sixteen young women named to the first-ever Hartford Colonials cheerleading squad certainly do. But the team is still looking for more spirited dancers and cheerleaders, and 16 more will be chosen at auditions Saturday at Hartford's XL Center.

This is the first year the United Football League is introducing cheerleaders, and the timing couldn't be better for the Colonials. Coming off an 0-6 inaugural season as the New York Sentinels, the newly relocated franchise will certainly need the support.

The team is inviting young women 18 and older to try out, but don't dust off those pom-poms just yet. The experience of current squad members suggests the competition should be fierce. The three line captains — LeeAnn McCormick, Danielle Gaudette Gianakos and Kristin Wassell — share how they cheered their way to the top of the Colonials' squad:

Eat, breathe, and sleep cheerleading

McCormick has an accomplished cheering and dance résumé. The 30-year-old from Westerly, R.I., won a national championship with her cheer squad at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, participated in the All-American ProBowl for two years, and co-owned an all-star cheer and dance gym. She currently runs her own choreography company and dances with Eastern Connecticut Ballet's Street Elite.

"I eat, breathe, and sleep cheerleading," she says. "I get the chance to be outgoing and spirited, and I love how … my spirit can be contagious. I like getting people smiling and happy, and getting the crowd going."

Second Nature

Gianakos, 22, began cheering when she was 7 years old for East Lyme Youth Football, and this proved to be the start to an impressive dance and cheer career. She has been a five-year participant at the ProBowl, a coach and dancer at Eastern Connecticut Ballet and a staff member at New England Cheerleading Association summer camps.

It's no surprise she was confident for the Colonials auditions.

"I tried to stay calm," Gianakos says. "I've been doing this for practically my entire life, so there is no reason to be nervous. It's like second nature. I love dancing and performing in front of crowds."

Like her teammates, she is excited to represent the Hartford Colonials.

"I am looking forward to future promotions, starting practices, as well as getting to know the ladies on our team and performing at the games," she says. "It will all become a reality when we step foot on the sideline."

A History of Dance

Wassell, 22, is primarily a dancer. "I've never been on a cheerleading team before," she says. "I've just done dance."

She teaches at a dance studio in her hometown of Monroe and was a two-year captain of the dance team at Eastern Connecticut State University, where she graduated this spring.

Wassell hopes her dance experience will translate to the cheerleading world.

"As far as I know, it's going to be on the edge of cheerleading and dancing," she says. "I love dancing because it's a release for me; it's my passion.

"Dance is just what I do," she says.

"I'm really excited to be a part of a professional team," Wassell adds. "It's pretty hard to gain a spot on a team like this."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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