Jen Contreras is the Director of the Texas Legends Dancers. Her resume is full of impressive dance team accomplishments, including national titles and dancing for the Dallas Mavericks. In this episode, we learn about the Legends’ Spirit Squad, what they’re made of, and the (typical) process to become a part of the team.
Enjoy this episode and other episodes of Hustle and Pro in our archives.
[00:25] Jen’s background
[06:08] Legends Dancers
[09:57] Who are the dancers?
[13:22] Auditioning for the Legends Dancers
[20:19] Why is it so fun?
Resources within this episode:
- Texas Legends on Lifestyle Frisco | Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
- Next Step Dance: Website | Instagram @nsdpac | Facebook @Next-Step-Dance-Performing-Arts-Center | Twitter
- Kelly Walker: Bio | Instagram @kelly_walkertexas | Twitter: @kelly_walker_TX
Machine Generated Transcript:
Welcome to Hustle & Pro. I’m your host, Kelly Walker. We’re looking at a piece of the Texas Legends experience that we haven’t looked at on Hustle & Pro before: the spirit squad. And to help us talk about that, we have our guest, Jen Contreras in the studio. And I also have a co-host, Reese Walker in to talk with us, too. So, Jen, we’re going to talk about your role, of course, as leading the way for the dance teams and different companies that you work for. But I want to know your story yourself as a dancer. Like what is your dancing background?
Okay. Um, well thank you for having me. Um, I grew up dancing. I grew up in Duncanville, south of Dallas. Um, and I just grew up in the studio, trained my whole life. Um, and then I went on to be on a dance team outside of my studio and outside of drill team, um, throughout high school. And then I was also on the drill team. So I did both, two teams. Um, I was junior Lieutenant, uh, my drill team. I was captain, I went on to Navarro junior college when we had a dance team before the cheerleaders got, so big
Is what the blew up as cheer for the last several years
Before, before the cheer squad got so big Monica Aldama coached both. So she was my coach as well. Wow. Um, her experience was in cheer, so they kind of got more of the attention. Um, and then they started winning big. And so they dismantled the dancers. Eventually it was strange. It was sad, but, oh, well I think they, I don’t know if they wanted to really hire a second coach and her direction and, you know, that was her main focus with, you know, I can see that they were working for them. Right. Absolutely. Um, so I did that for two years and then I went to Stephen F. Austin. I was on the POM squad there for two years and then I finished there and then I came back home and started working in the Dallas powerhouse. Um, it was off of Inwood down in Dallas. Um, Shella Sattler was the director.
She was the owner of powerhouse and she was the director of the Dallas Mavericks. Um, so I worked there and then tried out and became Dallas Maverick dancer. So did that for a couple of years, um, continued to teach at the studio, um, worked with all the surrounding high schools, different things like that. Um, and then decided, it was time to hang up my dancing shoes as far as performing and decided to assist her. So I assisted her in rehearsals, not necessarily games because I taught in the evenings and on the weekends. Um, so in rehearsals I would help her run.
So you stopped performing. So like what age, what stage or age in your life you don’t have to. 35. Okay. Is when you were kind of done being like onstage. Yeah,
I missed it, but you know, it was time. Yeah. Those girls were hungry or they wanted to stay in shape than I did at the time. It does seem a little bit,
You know, especially when you’re at the level, like dancing for the Mavs, like not cutthroat, but I mean, you have to desire to be that, you know, every day in and out, right.
Oh, absolutely. And after I, after I finished and then I had my son shortly after, I remember eating like two cheeseburgers a day and not feel guilty about it because I hadn’t had a cheeseburger four years.
Yeah. You had to be careful all that time. Right. Um, so then that brings us to now. So the last six or so years, have you been working with the Texas Legends?
I’ve been with them. I can’t even think what’s the first year in existence. 2011.
Well, they’ve been in existence. Yeah. 10. They had their 10 year anniversary. Oh gosh. This 20, 21 everything’s running together. So I think maybe we’re in 11th year now.
So then this is my 10th year. Oh, so you haven’t been there all this time? I was only, I was not there the first year. Okay. So I’ve been there with Malcolm the whole time.
Okay, awesome. See, I was way off then. Okay. So what is, what is your, what is your role? I mean, you don’t just work for the Texas Legends you work at next step also. So, but what is your role then through the Texas Legends? Next step
Is the main sponsor for the dancers, um, or the spirit squad. And they’re kind of like our host home. So we train through next step. They, they come, everything runs through next step for the most part. Um, so I was teaching for next step first, my, my best friend and the owner of next step, Michelle Stafford, we taught together at powerhouse for years. She branched out left and brought next step up here. And so then eventually she just kept asking and asking and asking, and it was, it was time for me to make a move. So I came up here with her and that was my background was Mavs, you know, all of that business training, girls, drill team, like which steps into more of the professional cheerleading, you know, venue. Um, and then when the Legends came to next step, I guess next step was proposed to be the main sponsor that first year as well. And they went with the different studio, they went with a different studio, which, um, I think because I’m not hired through the Legends necessarily, the studio gets to pick who they want as the director. So that’s kind of where my tie falls in. They went a different route the second year, they came back to next step and offered them to have the position again. And luckily I had just come from Dallas. Yeah, it was perfect. It was perfect timing and
It works. So, yeah, so it works and all this time. So
My, my role at next step, I direct the drill team program. So all the drill team, prep classes, um, I have two assistants under me that helped me teach those classes. Um, so I don’t teach all of them. They teach us some of them as well. Uh, but we also run five teams, five mini drill teams, if you will. So for like kindergarten through first grade and then seven to nine year olds, 10 to 12 year olds, 13, 15, and then all the high school kids. So we have, so a lot of our high school kids, they’re on their drill teams and on our studio company drill, that’s a lot that is, um, so we had those teams and then we also teach recreational classes on top of that. And then I had the Legends on top of that. So it is very busy. This year has been amazing. And not that I don’t miss it, not that I don’t miss my, my dancers, but not having to rehearse or stay till midnight Tuesdays and not making Sundays usually are like 9:00 AM to 10:00 PM for me, straight with rehearsals all day long. It’s a grind. It’s been really nice. I got a huge break. So, well, let’s assume we’re
Talking about normal season life with, you know, a full spirit squad and dancers that are rehearsing and working. So like what’s the size of the Texas legend spirit squad. And like, how do you describe for those who haven’t seen a game, maybe, how do you describe their style? And like, what do we expect when we see them?
Uh, they can, the number, the number is based up to us, the judges, um, how much, um, really Malcolm and I sit and talk about how many do we want? How many can we carry? How many more uniforms do we need this, that and the other one’s our budget. Um, so anywhere between 15 to 25, I could carry probably, but they’re seasoned looks like they’re, they are, they’re the ambassadors. They should be to me, they should be the ambassadors for the Legends. They should be the cheerleaders for the Legends players and for the fans to have the experience be a great one when they’re there to have fun, to help pump up the crowd, to help pump up the players. When, you know, when they’re down, when they’re not down, when they’re up, anytime they should be, you know, they should lead the way for that. So that’s what they do. Um, they get to be on the floor a lot, which I love, which they did not do the very first year when I was not there. And I think that’s a little bit of why they wanted to change direction. The dancers before would go straight to the dressing room and just hide out in the dressing room, only come out for their performances. Oh, I see. Now when you say on the floor,
I mean, I’m, I’m remembering even maybe short performances during like long time outs or something. I feel like they hop out there to pop down to half the time for sure. Full performances sometimes
For half times, but they’re on the sides. Um, if you’ve ever been to a Legends game where the fun zone is, all the craziness that goes on, they are out there in their mini little squads, step clapping, doing little mini cheers, things like that. Um, instead of hiding back in the dressing room and just coming out for their on-court performance. Yeah. They’re always out there. So we really wanted to change that experience because we wanted to get, we want them to be more interactive with the crowd and with the kids. I mean, there’s so many kids out there so they can bend over and take pictures at any times, sign autographs. Yes. They walk around and do the promo stuff. They’re very, hands-on,
They’re very, and speaking of, yeah, I mean, I said, Reese, come sit with me because when she was younger, not calling you out, but you weren’t there for the basketball, like you weren’t into the basketball, but you were always excited to see them.
I’m the same way sometimes. Yeah. You’re always excited to see the dancers and the sparkly costumes and they’re pretty. And like, and with the Legends, you’re so close up, you can be so close up, whereas some other big sports, you just don’t get access to them. Um, and so that is a fun thing for those who aren’t always captivated by the basketball captivated, by something else, especially the little girls who like to dance, you know, and
There’s just, there’s so many kids in Frisco. So I mean, I know that families bring all their sons that plays, you know, sports and athletics, but not the girls. Don’t always, so it is fun. Like you said, for them to be able to watch something else and do something else rather than
Even follow the basketball. You mentioned autographs. So we have one of each that we bring to the game boy and a girl. So of course the boys like searching for all the players and she would always, she would always go cert out the girls and find the dancers and, um, get their autographs on those cool, the sheets, the hunters, their poster, their posters. Um, so are we the only ones doing that?
A lot of kids did and it’s fun. It’s a lot of fun for them. Well, it’s a lot of fun for those dancers as well, because a lot of them are not going to move on. A lot of them are going to hang it up after this and if they didn’t dance in college and get that experience in college where, I mean, let’s say Arkansas, they’re the, they’re the main thing in the Arkansas. The dancers that’s all you have is university artists also everybody’s about athletics and the dancers and the cheerleaders. They didn’t get that kind of experience or there, you know, they did, and this is going to be it for them. So they may not go on to other teams. And that’s one thing we’re curious. Yeah.
So I was going to say, I’m, I’ve always been curious when I go and watch the games, like where the dancers come from or where they are in their dance career, like where they’re going.
Okay. A lot of them that a lot of them are local towards the beginning of our season of before, and this kind of ventures off. But before the industry got so complicated with pay and with sexuality and with everything, we were more of a feeder team into the Dallas Mavericks dancers. Um, so it’s the relationship Built by them, exactly.
Exactly. Um, and that’s Mallory, the, previous director and I danced together for the mavs. So, and I actually taught her when she was little. Um, anyway, so, we, we did things hand in hand. We would go to the Mavs auditions and hand out flyers. She wouldn’t let anybody else. So we really recruited from them. So you get a lot of, a lot of dancers that come from many different places in those bigger professional teams. So we would get dancers that came from all over the place or would stay and come to us. We don’t really get that now, especially since they don’t have, they don’t have a dance team per se at the moment. Um, and we don’t recruit other professional auditions. I don’t think it’s allowed, nobody’s ever asked us and you know, we’re not hand-in-hand with them. So, um, so really we have a lot more local dancers lately. Um, but they can come from, from bar. I mean, we have one of our former dancers. She is the university of Texas at Arlington, the UTA dance team. And she’s the whole spirit coordinator, but she came from south Texas. Oh, wow. Yeah. Her year, um, she moved up here, got an apartment. Yeah.
It’s a great place to come. If you are looking for something like this, there’s so many teams and so many opportunities, so many studios and lots of ways to keep going in your dancing career, I would guess.
Yeah, absolutely. Well, and then her path changed. She ended up, she auditioned and made it for the Dallas cowboy rhythm and blues. So she made it the DC RNB and did that for a couple of years. And then now it’s progressed into this awesome job opportunity that she has at UTA running the whole chair dance program. So, you know, they, they do get to venture off and do do a lot of different things. And we’ve had quite a bit, we’ve had, well, we’ve had lots of Maverick dancers throughout the years, um, before all of that happened. My, so are they,
Um, something we can look, we can see that they’re like young, obviously people, but, um, are they, are these people that are working in our community during the day? And they’re like, have, you know, are these teachers or moms or people that have normal everyday jobs and then their after hours work is training and dancing.
Yeah. A lot of them are, a lot of them were school teachers, a lot of our school teachers, a lot, our students aspiring to be drilled team directors, um, students in general, one that was, um, we had a couple that are getting their PhDs. I mean, we’ve had lots of, lots of different jobs go floating around. Okay. Which I think is really cool.
Um, we were kind of one of those junkie we like watching like reality shows about dance, auditions and stuff. And I just think it’s fascinating to see, well, the dancers story obviously, and their styles and their personalities, but like what they are when they’re not dancing is it’s just so interesting because you can’t tell, you know, in the dance squad, they all, you’re, you’re taught to move and be similar kind of thing. So it’s cool to see their individual interests and personalities
They’re very different. They got a lot different things going on.
Okay. So I was also wondering when your auditions when they’re auditioning and when y’all are judging them, what are they actually doing for the audition? Like what type of style is it like?
When they, when they come to our auditions, again, it was built to be very similar to the Mavs auditions. So we would do things just like that to prepare them. And so, um, we haven’t had another so weird right now, right now. We haven’t had, I think we’ve only had one audition since the Mavs haven’t had their dance team. So I don’t know if we need to relook at that now that we are at that, you’re probably like re-inventing us between the
Maps updates and with everything shut down and then season’s not happening in this and that. And so much is virtual in that, like the way, if you didn’t do an audition for what two years or something, that’s a lot of time then change that has probably
Happened. So you might be re imagining your auditions process. I can just see Malcolm saying, we need to go virtual. We need to do this. And so I’m sure that’s going to come up, but, um, but in the normal time, normal looking for, they would come in, um, and they would learn about four, eight counts of a hip hop, Pom style, quick paced. Um, they would get in their groups of three to five, however, depending on how many we had auditioning, um, they would do perform those accounts, um, switch lines, do it again. And then exit, uh, we would watch everybody. Then we would make a cut while the judges are determining who they were cutting. Everybody’s back in the room, adding more choreography on. So they’re learning choreography. So then whoever doesn’t get cut comes back in and does the dance it’s a little bit longer, more so you can see more so we can see more.
And it just depends on, there’s been times where we’ve done that three times, like added on three different rounds or two times we’ve seen what we needed. Um, and we usually take, I mean, I think we’ve taken 40, maybe 50 to training camp. So if that’s a Saturday or Sunday, the one day process, then we select a training camp, bunch, those, candidates come Monday through Thursday or Monday through Friday, every evening for two to sometimes four hours. And we teach them more dances than the dances that they learn. We just, I get to see how they interact. I get to see how quickly they can pick up
And take like the back maybe. Yeah, they do. They come in,
They come in just like you get to see on the Dallas cowboy cheerleaders when they come in for their interviews at the end, or they come in and speak to, uh, Kelly and Judy and they give them feedback. Yes. same thing. They come in for critiques, what you want to help them on. You know, even if it’s not for, even if you know, they’re not gonna make it this year, you want them to work on these things for the following year, or you want to give them feedback. If they’re going to go on and make another team, you want to help them, kind of your nature is teaching, right. You’re not only there
To teach someone you were going to keep, you want to teach and help everyone.
Yeah. So that takes me a while and evenings. Cause I feel like I need to give everybody feedback. Okay. Which is great. That’s
Fantastic. So you have, um, you know, then that week, and then you end up with your final final group and
Then yes. And throughout the, throughout the week, I’ll have some of our other teachers who are highly credible teachers at the studio, come in and watch give their feedback and I’ll keep notes. I’ll have former Legends dancers come in. Anybody from the Legends organization can come in and pop in. But the last day, usually Malcolm will come in. Carrie usually comes with them or I’ll have some other judges come in, I’ll hire some judges just to give their last final feedback in case
To get a different set of eyes. Cause every, you know, everybody sees different things. Right. And some of it, isn’t just the technical things that you’re seeing, you know, they might see, I don’t know something different about somebody that,
And then we’ve had to, we didn’t use to do this and I’m glad we changed it. We’ve had them come up and talk to us for a little bit for an interview, you know, a short interview because they do have to talk to the fans. They do have to greet the fans constantly. So if they, you know, not that you have to be spot on in your communication skills the whole time, but I just, I need you to be friendly.
I mean, like you said, at the very beginning there, I think you, I don’t know if you said representing, but they are a piece of the team, you know, they are representing the team. So it does, it does help for them to be able to, to have, uh, the personality and ability and want to talk to people that are at the games and things like that. Um, so then talking about the audition process, I know you keep saying like studio and stuff, does everything happen at next step? And through next step, like if somebody was looking for this, um, what time of year should they be looking for auditions or applications or however it works. Can you just tell us that in
The normal world now? Um, but we still are finalizing all those details. Um, so yes, they can check the, any of the Legends spirit squad, uh, social media is the next step dance, social media that will be listed on there. We haven’t put anything out yet. We will have prep classes. Um, at next step, we’re still finalizing that summer schedule. So it should come out this week. Um, but there maybe Tuesday, Thursday evenings, either Tuesday, Thursday, Monday, Wednesday, but there will be a prep class. We hold those in the summertime, um, June 21st through the end of July. Um, and those are just drop in 15, 20, $25, 15, $25 somewhere in there. Class card dancers can drop in and usually either myself or former Legends dancers or current Legends dancers will be teaching those classes just to give them a feel of the choreography, the style. Yeah. Um, and not only do they have to be thinking they want a tryout for us, it’s a great, it’s a great stepping stone and, you know, fuel for their brain just to get the choreography if they’re trying out for anything.
Yeah. That exercise of learning choreography and having to perform it quick. Turnaround is a skill that it’s very difficult for a lot of people and it’s hard. And if you don’t have it, like you have to work on it to get better at it. And so, yeah, that’s a great opportunity for them, just that exposure and you keep mentioning dances. So I, I want to go back to the fact that are you choreographing all the Texas Legends stuff? No. Okay.
In the past maybe. Um, no, we, um, we kind of brainstorm together. A lot of the, um, veteran dancers will say, Hey, I put together something, can I show you? And so we’ll work together and I’ll say, I don’t like this. I don’t like that. Let’s change this, let’s fix this. So we brainstorm a lot together. Um, we do repeat a lot of things, anything that we, our Christmas dances, oh, they need to be redone. Uh, Christmas dances, I think we’ve had for 10 years, but we don’t have very many Christmas games. I mean, we only have like three Christmas games. So, and our season is so short before Christmas time that it’s almost like we have to start learning Christmas dances in September. We want to learn new Christmas dances, but we, um, we rotate our dances. So usually we have about 10 to 15 dances for the season and that’s it. So even though we have 20 something games, I think a lot of dances, sometimes it is, but we repeat, we won’t always do them all again a second time, but we repeat them. We’ll just put them to a new song. We put them to a different song and we’ll change up the formations. And sometimes you don’t ever know that that was, that did that before, right
Outside of what you guys can do to where we are just watching. And we are, might not know that we’ve already seen those eight counts. Right. Okay. It’s still entertaining. Um, okay. Before you go, one last question. I, I, I love Texas Legends people and um, every time I have them in a studio in the studio, I’m kind of just curious because I’ve put myself as a part of the Texas Legends family just cause I intertwined myself as a, a fan and working with you guys. But, um, I think there’s something different about the Legends and just our community and the nature of how they are important here. Um, since you’ve also been with them so long, like what is it that you kind of feel is special about this team and being being a part of it?
Well, I mean, my first thought is Malcolm. I mean, he’s, he’s just great. He is, he has been our biggest supporter, our number one fan through all the changes through all the, you know, ins and outs, he advocates for the dancers so much. So on our end, it’s definitely Malcolm. But I think that he plays the biggest role in wanting to be part of the community, which I love. I, we don’t ever get that sense all the time from the NBA or the NBA G league as a whole, maybe from the players, they could take us or leave us like the players that transient
That it is hard for them to have roots here. There are some that do,
And that’s hard for us to get to know them and to really cheer them on because they’re just in and out so fast. Um, but even we get it sometimes from the refs and things like that. So for us, it’s more about the community. I mean, we’re there to cheer the, like I said, be the ambassadors and to be the biggest cheerleaders for the players and the sport itself. But I think being a part of the community makes it bigger. I think it may just make things that makes it more of a family connection for the whole Frisco community, for the Legends community and not just about the sport itself. Yeah.
I feel the same way. So good. And thank you for all the time you put into the, um, spirit squad, it’s an entertaining part of the games for our family.
So we appreciate it. And thank you for taking time to come into the studio and talk to us today. It was fun. Yeah. And thank you guys for listening to this episode of Hustle & Pro make sure you subscribe and we’ll see you next week.