Until 2007, the NFL teams in the Big Apple didn’t have official cheerleaders. The New York Jets rectified things on their end with the Flight Crew but the Giants cheerleaders, in their 3rd year of existence, aren’t official, just yet. To truly understand how the Giants went from having no cheerleaders at all to a squad of Unofficials, you have to understand the drive of the lady who founded the squad.
After moving to the US from her native Bolivia, the woman known as “Wonder Woman” to her partner, Ana De Villegas, spent her childhood training in ballet and jazz dancing and then joined the dance teams in high school and in college. It was in college where she started studying choreography in addition to earning degrees in Communication and Criminal Justice. She put that training to work in choreographing dances for her home studio, the Ballet Academy of Northern Virginia, where she trained when not in school. Once a young lady finishes dancing in college, there are a limited number of avenues left to continue performing. One of those avenues is in professional cheerleading and in 2009, Ana joined up with the First Ladies of Football, the Washington Redskins Cheerleaders. After a season with them, she turned her focus to the Big Apple and got a job with the Broadway Dance Center. However, her role with the BDC was as more than a dancer but as a director as well.
It was in her childhood that she started on her path to becoming an entrepreneur. The Gotham City Cheerleaders isn’t the first group she created as she started groups as early as 4th grade. She even formed a company while in middle school called the “We Can Do That” Club to raise money to bring a friend with her on a trip to Miami for the summer. Her company did various odd jobs around the neighborhood and in addition to raising money, gained a fan base as well. All her success during her childhood creating successful ventures showed her some of what it takes to get something started. Seeing that the Giants had no cheerleading squad, she did the same thing as she did with groups and her childhood company all her life: she created one.
Like in many new projects, the biggest challenge in forming the GCC was listening to the doubters and naysayers. As Ana herself puts it, “There are 2 types of people in the world, those that believe and those that don’t. There is hope that most people are believers. There is the creative kid in all of us that still believes in dreams and in making the impossible possible. It’s really what keeps life fun and innovative.” Ana’s dream was to create a cheerleading squad that fans of the New York Giants could support while creating an outlet for ladies to perform as well as give back to the community. Based on how they’ve been received, she’s achieving her dream.
Ana goes on to say “While we are not sanctioned by the Giants, it’s a hope that we carry with pride, as we continue to be ambassadors for fans who are truly the ones that make this game come alive. Whether it’s a charity event, a special performance or our wonderful tailgate appearances at MetLife, I believe that people are inspired and moved by our team. When I come across people who say “don’t you think you should just give it up and be a director of an established team?” I can’t help but chuckle. This is the most official group of dancers you could meet. Not many people have the guts, the passion and the dedication that these girls do. They have the talent to go to any team, some have even come to us from other pro teams. Yet, they are here, making a difference and have left a mark in history. Not many people can say that. We have performed overseas, appeared in music videos and completed countless hours of community service and fundraising for charitable causes. It’s a beautiful, commendable thing that we do, why would we stop? Clearly, I can’t explain this in an “elevator pitch”, so it remains the biggest challenge to get those who question, to believe. Dressed in their red, white and blue uniforms, this team is to me America’s Dream Team.”
Away from the Gotham City Cheerleaders, Ana keeps herself busy in a variety of areas of dance. Before starting up the GCC, she landed a spot as a NJ Devils Cheerleader and midway through the squad’s first season, she joined up with Going Pro Entertainment, an organization that, among other things, helps aspiring pro cheerleaders make it onto the big stage. Finally, in 2012, after Christie Artinger joined her with the GCC, she took on the extra role as the coach of Pace University’s Dance Team. You can read more about Ana at http://www.goingproentertainment.com/blog/2011/12/20/gpe-welcomes-nfl-cheerleader-ana-de-villegas-in-nycnj/
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