Whenever you think of football you tend to automatically associate the game with cheerleaders, the ones who are on the sidelines, getting the crowd hyped up, providing entertainment during pre-game, two minute warnings, halftime and between some quarters. But did you know, there are six teams, who don’t have that combined package, and the New York Giants are one of them. The Gotham City Cheerleaders, once called the Unofficials, led by Ana De Villegas, an alumni cheerleader herself, from the Redskins, set out on a mission to be the team that would make it onto MetLife field for a New York Giants pre-game and/or halftime performance; to be the ones that someday are identified as the official cheerleaders for the Giants. She started the team back in 2011 and has made leaps and bounds every year since then. They come out with a calendar and hold a huge production for the calendar release party, they cheer for local teams around the area, they participate in a variety of charity events, they have made an appearance on Saturday Night Live, and we can’t forget their involvement with the fans at the tailgates on game day. They have the ability to be present with the fans, to perform with them and for them, and to support the team they have an eminence passion for, the New York Giants. Ladies and gentlemen, meet former Gotham City Cheerleader, Gillian.
1. How many years did you cheer with the Gotham City Cheerleaders?
I was with the Gotham City Cheerleaders, GCC, for their 4th season 2014-2015
2. What made you decide to try out for the team?
I was home in New Jersey going to the dentist to get my teeth sparkly clean! I ended up talking to one of the girls who worked in the office, Morgan, who told me all about the Gotham City Cheerleaders and what a great experience it was for her, as she was a current cheerleader. We exchanged numbers and a few weeks later she sent me the audition info.
In the midst of auditioning for the team, I was also graduating from Pace University. I graduated May of 2014 with a BA in acting and dance. All the sudden all of these new experiences were beginning to happen at once.
One of the best things that happened to me after college was this team. Ultimately I auditioned because I knew once college was over I needed to focus my energy elsewhere and needed to focus my efforts on a new feeling of excitement. This opportunity opened doors and made me fill the void of school. I had a schedule, a routine, and something to really commit to.
Pretty funny that I found out about such a great opportunity right in my hometown!
3. What was the most enjoyable part about being a Gotham City Cheerleader? And what was your favorite experience during your cheerleading tenure?
The most enjoyable part of being a member of the Gotham City Cheerleaders was the consistency of rehearsals and the bonds made between teammates. There was a commitment and a responsibility I have never felt before. I didn’t want to miss anything; I wanted to be there for my teammates and coach. With the level of commitment that was put into the organization, there were such genuine friendships created!
I would have to say my favorite experience with the team was our calendar release party in early September of last year. We spent an entire summer learning new routines, going through extensive workouts, the final audition, and now we finally got to show our family and friends all that we had been working on. Plus it happened to be in Jersey where I grew up, which made it even more exciting for my family!
4. The fans love you ladies, how do you ladies get them hyped up? Do you dance before the games, after, or both? How do you decide where in the tailgate you preform your routines? How many routines do you perform at each game? It sounds like you have an emcee that introduces you all, does he carry the music? Do fans ever get in the way of your dance routines? Do you do any dances that the fans can join in with?
Our fans are so amazing and supportive! We usually get the crowd hyped with our signature sideline choreography. A captain will lead each sideline and the team will follow. We always dance to really upbeat and exciting music that gets the crowd going!
It is shocking for the fans at the tailgate to see this group of women coming together and supporting a beloved team like the Giants. Even if we aren’t on that field, we still treat game day as if we were! We want the fans to know that we support their team, our team, the NY Giants whole-heartedly and we love every second of it!
Our tailgate is the famous FanVan. For the most part we would always have at least three routines prepared and cleaned for game day. There are some challenges with spacing, but fans are really respectful with spreading out and letting us do our thing.
If and when the DJ plays his own tracks and we finish up sidelines we will definitely then interact with the crowd and get as many people dancing as possible. We talk and dance with fans throughout the day, which is part of making their game day experience so special!
5. You ladies get to interact with the fans on a different level than most cheerleaders, what is the most fun activity you have been asked to do, while roaming the tailgates? (Example: Throwing footballs? Playing corn-hole? Karoke?)
It is definitely a different and more intimate experience with fans. We get to really talk to them about the game, their favorite players, who they think is going to win that day and why. You create a rapport with the fans and they remember the team, the GCC, for the next time. Fans start to really look forward to seeing the Gotham City Cheerleaders at home games!
I would say throwing footballs with young kids or letting young girls dance with our pom poms was always a highlight. They light up and are so excited to spend time with us! I remember being a young girl watching the older girls in my studio dancing and doing amazing things and it may be cliché, but I wanted to be just like them. All of the sudden I am one of those “big girls” being an example of living out a dream. It is very exciting and humbling to know that we are making their day!
6. While watching some of your YouTube videos it looks like some of your dances are from the cheer camp in Hot-Atlanta, called All-Pro, which encompasses cheer and dance teams from NFL, NBA, NHL and even teams overseas!!!! Are there any other camps that you all attend?
Yes! We love the All-Pro Convention! It is such a great experience to be surrounded by so many women who love to dance and perform just the same, as well as a chance to work with such amazing choreographers. It is a fast and furious weekend, but you come back as a team with so many great routines to share with the rest of the girls back at home.
7. I commend all you ladies for what you are doing. You are making a stand, which in today’s society, is something less and less people do, you are not backing down when requests are not answered, instead you continue to push and work for your dream. I know there are some hard days, where people are not as pleasant, what makes you keep pushing to your dream of one day dancing on the field at half-time and/or for pre-game?
It isn’t easy, there are times in this situation that some may feel discouraged, but ultimately it’s about leadership. Our director, Ana De Villegas, has been in the dance world for many years. She herself is a performer and knows the ins and outs of auditioning and how give and take the business can be. In my eyes she is a business woman set out to start something fresh, innovative, and exciting!
The addition of the Gotham City Cheerleaders to Metlife Stadium for the New York Giants pregame and halftime performance would add such spirit to the game day experience. Knowing that a group of women can afflict so much energy to a stadium full of people is an amazing feeling. Why give that fight up? We want to be the first group of women to be classified as part of the NY Giants family. We want to stand on that field and know that we did all that it took to get there. Ana has come a long way with making this team possible and there is no chance on giving up now!
8. Is it right that you ladies have to wear an off color from the official team colors of the Giants? Do you buy your own tickets to the game? Do you all usually attend the games?
Our uniforms are red, white and blue, which was done first and foremost as a symbol of te American tradition of football and cheerleaders. I think it’s a beautiful coincidence that our team colors match that of the Giants! While the Cowboys can be considered “America’s Team” we are “America’s Dream Team”. New York is where you come to turn your aspirations into a reality. What a wonderful aspiration to open up another avenue like field during Giants games for New York performers.
Some of the girls attend games after we perform, others watch with friends and family! Depends on the day, but we all love to attend the games!
9. What was the deciding factor on the name of Gotham City Cheerleaders from the Unofficials?
The “Unofficials” kicked off the inaugural year of the team to raise awareness that we were not the “official” team for the Giants. There was so much support both in and out of the stadium, but we did not want to create confusion or do anything that would hinder our communications with the Giants. “Gotham” was then released once our team was established. Like in the fictional story of Batman (inspired by the City of New York), we are here as loyal members of our community and fans of our home team, the New York Giants. We are there win or lose!
10. The team started in 2011 by a former Washington Redskins cheerleader, Ana De Villegas, operating like any official NFL cheer team would. What made her want to try for it?
I think this is something she would have to answer, but from my time on the team, I can imagine that she felt compelled to come back to her rootes and cheer for a team she grew up with. Plus, being an advocate for New York and being side by side with those fans is an incredible feeling. Not only having that experience, but igniting this team broadens the dance world, gives more young women a chance to be a part of something new and positive. This is a stepping stone and a door opener for young women who are on the path to start a career in the dance world.
I would think that this team for Ana is that chance that she is giving women that someone gave her at one point. It’s a chance for her to be behind the table and guiding others after many years of being in their shoes. She knows the business and she is now involved in a way where she can pass on her experiences to others, and that’s what the Gotham City Cheerleaders are all about.
11. Your coach spoke about how, “The main job of a cheerleader is community service.” What were some of the most humbling community service events you were able to be a part of?
We contribute to a lot of charitable events, but one that really stands out was the Bolts Game where the entire team performed and helped raise money for the Brooklyn chapter of the American Cancer Society. It was a really amazing night because it was in celebration of the new Brooklyn Bolts team as well raising money for such an important cause. There were so many people intrigued to know more about our team and so happy we were there!
It’s important as professional dancers as well as in life to give back. We are a group of women that consistently take the time out as a team to support New York and all the wonderful aspects of our city. That night was one of those truly memorable evenings!
12. What’s the difference between the G Team and Ref Squad? Do you have more teams?
G- Team is the Gotham City Cheerleaders full performance squad. The Ref Squad is no longer differentiated from the full team, but they started as a group of women who were dedicated solely to promotions and charity work, while they continued to train in dance.
We now have our stunt and variety show team as well as our Pro Club. The “Club” is our training program that runs throughout the season for any dancer that wants to continue training before audition season. It’s the first of its kind to offer a comprehensive training program based on professional cheerleading. This team also gets to perform during our Calendar Release Party and members can try to audition for the GCC throughout the season! It’s a very unique opportunity!
13. How do you all prep for the winter months? What do you do to keep warm during the winter games?
As for the winter games we have really fun black track jackets that say “Gotham City Cheerleaders” on the back in red, white, and blue rhinestones, black leggings, and of course our signature white boots. Winter or not we don’t go anywhere without our boots and poms! We did just get new poms this year. We used bright red ones in the beginning of the season and changed it up to these fluffy white and blue ones. They look great while performing, we all couldn’t wait to finally use them on game day!
the feedback from fans? Your photo was in a lab, so I am assuming you are a chemist? What is your job outside of cheerleading?
Last year’s calendar showcased how not only the Gotham City Cheerleaders, but all woman performing for the NFL, NHL, NBA, USSF as well as all the other organizations have other passions as well. It was a calendar to highlight the many years of schooling that we have all had in other fields. My photoshoot was in representation of one of the girls on the team, she double majored in dance and biology. Some of our shoots represented other girls on the team. One fun fact is that there is an incredible organizations of current and former cheerleaders dedicated to science, math and technology. They are the Science Cheerleaders and perhaps our shoot was also inspired by all the work they do in their field.
As for the feedback from the fans, they absolutely loved it! It was a new take on an NFL Cheerleader calendar and I think it was refreshing for fans.
I attended Pace University for acting and dance, so I just jumped right into character and embodied a scientist. Maybe in my past life I was a chemist!
As of right now I am employed at the Soho House New York in the membership department. I have been working in hospitality throughout my time in NYC and while going through college. Being in the hospitality industry has really enhanced my communication skills and the ability to interact confidently with a number of people. I also have been teaching dance in a studio in Brooklyn. As well as teaching, I am actively pursuing a career in the performing arts, be it in the pro Cheer/dance world, theater, and/or singing.
15. What are the most important lessons you have learned from the Gotham City Cheerleaders?
Being a part of the Gotham City Cheerleaders has given me such a sense of direction. From the start of the season it was clear that the level of commitment I would need to have was much different than other performance opportunities I have held in the past. Being a part of a team is never about one sole individual, it is about a unit of people coming together to accomplish the same goal. It’s about a group of women empowering each other to achieve more than they thought was possible. Pro cheer/dance gives young women an opportunity to perform, give back to their community, make lifelong friends, and enhance their professional careers as dancers.
Gillian, Ana and all the Gotham City Cheerleaders are fighters in my eyes. They are making history, and I hope one day the New York Giants give them the chance they deserve, the chance to be the official cheerleaders of the New York Giants because in my eyes they already are. If you have never gotten a chance to see these ladies check out their website athttp://gothamcitycheerleaders.com
Follow me on Twitter, IG and Facebook @MorganMoeDean
More stories you might like