Boston Team Party

A sell-out crowd roars approval as the Boston Celtics dance team takes the floor for the night’s first performance. The smiles on the dancers’ faces grow as they hit the opening pose, while photographers click away and television cameras zoom in and out. As the music starts, the dancers light up the arena with a high-octane jazz routine that showcases their precision and enthusiasm. The crowd responds with thunderous applause, as if determined to show the dancers that they are a welcome addition to the Celtics family.

Only a year earlier, no one could have predicted whether the team would succeed. Many of the dancers still remember the pressure they felt the night of their debut. As they prepared to go on, the tension kept building. “The dancers were like young children going to Disneyland for the first time—all wide-eyed,” says the team’s director, Marina Ortega. “I could see many were nervous, so I gathered them all together and told them, ‘No matter what happens, embrace the moment. The team that was never supposed to happen has happened!’”

As the dancers took the floor, the arena lights were dimmed. The girls wore black trench coats covering the vibrant “Celtics green” halter jersey dresses they would be performing in. The crowd grew quiet in anticipation. Unlike most games, where dancers perform short routines during timeouts, this first number was a big production with platforms and props. “It was one of the scariest moments of my life,” says dancer Courtney Kenihan, 20. “I was so worried about how the crowd would respond and I knew this was a history-making event.”

As basketball purists, Celtics fans had never wanted professional entertainment in addition to the game. In fact, longtime coach-turned-president Arnold “Red” Auerbach had gone on the record opposing the idea, and for years team management followed his lead. But by Auerbach’s death in 2006, plans had been drawn to create the Celtics’ first dance team.

“We were the last team in the NBA to have dancers and as newcomers, we had a lot to prove,” says team member Meghan Rourke, 25. It’s taken heart and effort, but the fans who were once skeptical have embraced them. “People come up to me all the time and tell me how much they love watching us dance,” adds Courtney.

Now in their second season, the dancers have earned their following in the Boston community. They perform at all 41 home games, usually four routines a night, and rehearse from six to 10 hours per week. Team members average two outside appearances a week, including charity events like muscular dystrophy fundraisers (“The kids are inspiring,” says team captain Alexis Heos, 25) and breast cancer walks (“My mom’s a survivor,” says Meghan), radio interviews, publicity photo shoots and corporate events. “We have become quite popular here and sign tons of autographs at our appearances,” says dancer Rachel Chepkunov, 19.

Two years ago, when the Celtics organization decided to form a dance team, it sparked a reality series on the NBA network called “Dreaming Green: The Making of the Celtics Dance Team.” The show documented the entire audition process, as well as preparations for the team’s first performance. Alexis remembers being surprised at the turnout for that initial Boston audition. “There were hundreds of girls lined up around the block,” she says.

The media attention quickly showed which dancers thrived under pressure. “Performing in front of 20,000 people can be intimidating,” says Ortega, “and I need dancers who can handle it.”

Although the pro dance team world tends to keep tryouts local, Celtics auditions were also held in L.A., NYC, Sacramento, CA, and Phoenix. Dancers first had to show their technical strength through across-the-floor progressions. After they performed a variety of leaps, turns and high kicks, a first cut was made. Then dancers were taught a routine that featured both jazz and hip hop, and had to perform it in groups of three. After the next round of cuts, those who remained performed short solos to show off their skills and stage presence.

“The toughest and most nerve-wracking part of the audition was the solo because you’re up on that stage all by yourself and all eyes are on you, which can be very intimidating,” says Rachel. “I danced solos in competitions and that definitely helped my confidence.” For the final audition, dancers selected from each city came to Boston for a pageant-style tryout. In the end, 20 were chosen.

For many who made it, having their dream come true also meant balancing the demands of school or work. “The biggest challenge is managing our time,” says Alexis. Since being a Celtics dancer is not a full-time gig, all of the dancers either have other jobs in areas such as finance, advertising and retail, or are in school. “Being a full-time pharmacy student didn’t leave much room for dancing professionally,” says Rachel, who auditioned for the Celtics because rehearsals and games generally don’t start until late afternoon. Many of the girls bring classwork along and snatch the odd 15 minutes between practice and game time to study.

That the dancers have close bonds is obvious—at rehearsals they joke, share tips and help each other. “We’re like a family,” says Meghan. Most of the team members are recent high school or college graduates and for many, this is the first time they have been away from home. “Before each game we make a circle, each put one hand in the middle and yell ‘1, 2, 3, dream team!’ It gets us pumped,” says Alexis. Nearly half the team share apartments, and because of their busy performance schedule, holidays are often spent with each other instead of relatives.

Back on the court, the first routine finishes with a flourish, and the dancers hold their final pose as the crowd applauds wildly. “We always yell, cheer and scream as we go back to our dressing room if we did well,” says Meghan. “When we nail a routine, there’s such amazing energy. I leave more energized than when I came. There may be days when I’m exhausted, or my muscles are so sore it hurts to walk, but I wouldn’t change it for the world."

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What’s in Your Dance Bag—Based on Your Zodiac Sign

Sometimes our dance bags feel like portals to another dimension—we have no idea what half the stuff buried in our bags even is. (Note to self: Clean out dance bag.)

But have you ever wondered if there's a method to the madness? We're pretty sure there is, and as always, we're pretty sure it's something to do with astrology. That's right, your resident Dance Spirit astrologers are back with our best guess at what you keep in your dance bag—based on your zodiac sign.


You're always going 100 mph Aries (or maybe even more), so it's pretty much a guarantee that your dance bag is fully stocked with snacks to power you through the day. Granola bars, trail mix, yogurt, fruit. It's like a Whole Foods in there.

You've also usually got about six different pairs of shoes in your bag. As an Aries, you love adventure, trying new things and, most of all, a challenge. So when it comes to classes, you're all over the map. Tap, jazz, ballet, character, modern—you'll try them all.

Something else you won't go without? Your signature red lipstick, obv. How else are you going to show off your fiery personality? (And look amazing while doing it, TYSM.)


As a child of Venus, you always want to look your best, Taurus. So your dance bag is a hair salon/makeup station, all in one. If your dance besties need to borrow a hair tie, or are looking for a fun accessory to spice up their bun, they know you're the one to go to.

Also important to you? Smelling your best. Taureans love comforting, luxurious scents, so your dance bag is typically equipped with a favorite perfume or deodorant. (Or both.)

But what's most important is the bag itself—admit it, you've been using the same dance bag for years. We get it, Taurus, nobody likes change, and least of all the stubborn bull of the zodiac. But if your dance bag is really starting to smell like feet (or if your bobby pins are starting to slip through the holes in the bottom), you might want to consider investing in a new bag.


Gemini, you love to switch it up. So you're pretty much guaranteed to have at least three different dance fits in your bag at any given time. And your dancewear is always on point. You love to keep up with trends and try edgy, new looks.

Ever the intellect, you usually have a book in your bag, as well. You're always making book recs to your fellow dancers, and you refuse to be bored between rehearsals or backstage.

Though you might act carefree, Gemini, we know that at heart, you're ruled by Mercury—and you have more in common with your sister sign Virgo than you'd like to admit. That's why you always have a toothbrush, toothpaste, and some floss in your dance bag. No way you're getting caught with food between your teeth (or bad breath during partnering class).


Not to be obvious, but as a water sign, the first and foremost thing a Cancerian keeps in their dance bag? A water bottle, of course. (Preferably a Hydroflask, S'well or any bottle that comes in a fun color.) No dehydration here, please and thank you.

Your dance bag also functions as a de facto vending machine for your dance besties, since you always come prepared with the best snacks, and you're always willing to share. As a bonus, your snacks are almost always homemade, since you're practically a five-star chef.

And while we're wary of zodiac stereotypes, there is a pretty good chance your dance bag is stocked with tissues. And there's no shame in that—because, really, who can get through a performance of Romeo and Juliet without shedding some tears? Props to you for being in touch with your emotions, Cancer.


We'll state the obvious, Leo. You love to look at yourself, and sometimes the studio mirrors just aren't enough. So, naturally, you always keep a compact mirror in your dance bag, just in case your makeup or your bun needs an extra touch-up.

You also love bright colors, and you're not afraid to wear more daring dancewear than any of your besties. You've usually got a couple of leotards packed in your bag, just in case you need to make a fashion statement, and they're always fun. Bright colors, loud prints, stylish necklines—you'll try anything.

But something not everyone knows about you? You're an amazing friend, and incredibly loyal, Leo. That's why you've usually got something in your bag for your dance bestie, be it her favorite brand of granola bar, a fun sparkly pin for her hair, or a note reminding her she's a star, on and off the stage.


You're incredibly hardworking, Virgo, so you've always got the tools for success in your dance bag. TheraBands, foam rollers, tennis balls—you're the one dancer your teacher can always count on to be stretching between classes.

You also love to be prepared, so you've usually got a makeshift first-aid kit in your bag. The thought of suffering a blister or floor burn without the appropriate salves or bandages makes you shudder, and, hey, it's always better to be overprepared, right?

What's most noticeable about your dance bag, though, isn't what's inside of it. It's what it looks like—your bag is pristine. It never smells like feet, and you've got a hard-core system for what you keep in each little zip pocket or compartment. And TBH, all of your dance friends are jealous, though they'd never admit it.


Like your sister sign Taurus, appearances are important to you, Libra. You like to look good (no shame in that), so your dance bag is always stocked with the essentials: extra hair spray, lip gloss, concealer, bobby pins and a spare leotard, in case you get just a bit too sweaty.

You also love to socialize, so if this were the 1950s, we would say that you always keep your date book in your dance bag. As it is, you always have your phone with you, and it's usually blowing up with texts from your dance besties asking to make plans.

Your dance bag wouldn't be complete without your secret supply of chocolate. But to be clear: This isn't your average Hershey's bar. Libras aren't afraid to indulge, so you keep a bar of luxury dark chocolate tucked away for when the cravings hit.


You can't fool us, Scorpio—the contents of your dance bag aren't some big mystery, like you'd like us all to believe. In fact, they're pretty basic: For starters, you always have a black leotard or two in your bag. After all, black is your signature color.

One thing that isn't in Scorpio's dance bag? Toe pads. You love to look tough, so you'd never be caught dead wearing toe pads with your pointe shoes. However, this does mean you need a hefty supply of Band-Aids for the inevitable blisters.

You also love all things mystical and, dare we say, witchy. You're the Halloween queen of the zodiac, after all! So it's no surprise you always have a crystal or two in the front pocket of your dance bag. Let us guess…moldavite?


You're an explorer, Sagittarius, and that applies to your dancing. You're always trying new dance styles, and that's reflected in your dance bag. You always have the trappings of your latest obsession in your bag: heeled shoes for ballroom, kneepads for contact improv, sneakers for breaking, the list goes on and on.

But on all of your adventures, there's one consistency: You love making memories. And that means literally—you document everything. At each performance or recital, you're bound to be the one with a Polaroid or disposable camera in your bag, and you can usually be found snapping backstage candids of your dance besties.

Your other favorite form of documenting? Writing it down. You love to learn, so you're always taking notes. You can usually be found after class scribbling down your dance teacher's latest piece of wisdom. Your dance bag is crammed with half-filled notebooks, and you wouldn't have it any other way.


You like to be prepared, Capricorn. And we mean prepared—for every bad scenario imaginable. That's why your dance bag is a mini survival kit. The first Capricorn dance bag guarantee? A stitch kit, of course. Losing a ribbon on your pointe shoe mid-rehearsal is your worst nightmare.

You also always have at least three spare leotards handy. After all, what if you spill something, or get too sweaty or, worst of all, show up to an audition in the same leotard as your dance rival? No, thank you. As a Capricorn, you're expecting the best and preparing for the worst.

Another key to your survival kit? Headphones, so you can drown out the noise around you and focus on your dancing. And before anyone asks, the answer is yes, you have the perfect playlist—for each and every occasion.


Aquarius, you love helping others. That's why it sometimes seems like your dance bag isn't even for you—it's filled with stuff you bring for your friends. Snacks for one dance bestie, Band-Aids for another, and tampons, of course, just in case anyone needs one.

But when it comes to you, you're all about originality. That's why you always have tons of fun accessories in your bag: striped legwarmers, colorful socks, tie-dyed sweats and more than a couple of fun additions to your ballet bun, just to make it a little more interesting.

You're also a rebel at heart, Aquarius, which is why there's usually something in your dance bag that just borders on breaking the rules. Maybe your studio is strictly black leotards only—and yours is gray. Or phones are completely banned—and you just put yours on vibrate. We see you.


Like your fellow water sign Cancer, you're big on hydrating during dance class. But as a Pisces, you're a little more imaginative (and a little less practical), meaning you're usually carrying your water in something aesthetically pleasing, like a mason jar, a tumbler, or one of those fancy water bottles with a crystal in the base.

Unlike Cancer, you're a mutable sign, meaning you can adapt to just about any situation. Counterintuitively, this actually means your dance bag is pretty sparse. Unlike other zodiac signs who feel the need to overprepare in case of disaster, you're comfortable in most situations, and your dance bag reflects it. You like the basics, nothing else.

Something most people might not know about you, though, is that you get cold easily. We're not sure why, but it's a Pisces staple. That's why if you keep anything in your dance bag, it's the coziest of warm-ups.

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