Teaching Tips

Dean College Grad Alicia Burghardt Never Dreamed She'd Dance and Choreograph in the NBA

Photo by Brian Babineau, courtesy Burghardt

When Alicia Burghardt entered Dean College in Massachusetts as a freshman dance major, it hadn't occurred to her that the Boston Celtics had a dance team. A competition kid with aspirations for Broadway, Burghardt never imagined herself as an NBA dancer. But by the time she was finishing her senior year, she'd not only joined the Celtics Dancers, she was choreographing a number for a major playoff game. And after finishing her rookie year, surrounded on that TD Garden parquet floor by uproarious fans, she couldn't help but stay for another. "It's unbelievable performing for Boston fans," she says. "They're so loyal to their team. It could be third quarter, down 20 points, and they're still cheering."

On what first brought her to audition "There were three girls in my program who were Celtics Dancers. They had such positive things to say, I couldn't help but want to join them. I started following the team on social media, and I fell in love with the idea of becoming a Celtics Dancer by watching their Instagram videos. My junior year I felt like I was finally in a place where I was ready to audition, and, thankfully, made the team on my first try."

About the three-day audition process "The first cut includes an across-the-floor, where they look to see our technique and our look. Those who are left are taught a hip-hop routine to audition for the judges. The judges deliberate, then announce the final 40 dancers who will move on to the next round. On day two, there's a group interview with the coach [Marina Ortega]; we learn a technical jazz routine and are provided music to choreograph solos to. The rest of the day is spent preparing what we've worked on up until that point. Day three is open to the public, and families come to watch as we audition these three combos for the judges. When we finish, they deliberate for roughly 30 minutes, then return to announce the 18 girls who have made the team for the following year."

On choreographing for an arena full of die-hard sports fans "Marina had heard that I'd been doing quite a bit of choreography at Dean [College], and asked me to set a piece for a playoff game. She sent me a hip-hop remix to a song called 'Big Bank' and I started creating movement to it. Once I had something to work with, I brought it to her, and she helped me improve it by adding level changes and ripples. She taught me that choreographing for the stage is very different from choreographing for an arena, and I needed to learn to make everything big and exaggerated so that the people way up high could see it. It was a great learning experience for me."

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