Everyone who’s been to an NFL game in most stadiums around the league is well-aware of the cheerleaders dancing on the sidelines. What isn’t as well-known is that, over the last decade or so, NFL cheerleading squads have added on small groups of young ladies who are every bit as important as the dancers but aren’t out performing on the sidelines.
Cheerleaders are a lot more than performers; they’re seen as the front lines of public relations for the NFL teams they represent, making appearances in the public year-round and talking to the fans before games. To keep up with all the demand, non-performing cheerleaders, who specialize in mingling and conversing with the fans, are showing up all over the league. The added benefit of having these girls is that they can make appearances around the stadium while the game is going on and the dancers are on the sidelines.
In NYC with the Giants, while the Gotham City Cheerleaders aren’t, as of yet anyway, the official cheerleaders, the Ref Squad is headed up by NFL Cheerleading veteran Christie Artinger. Growing up in North Jersey, Christie spent her childhood training in dance at several studios, high school, and college while also cheerleading in high school and college.
It was in high school that Christie realized her direction in life. Her high school dance team coach worked a very demanding job in New York City but still made the time to give back by coaching in New Jersey. Christie realized then that she wanted to do much the same thing when the time was right.
After college, Christie tried, unsuccessfully to land spots on the New Jersey Nets and New York Knicks dance teams. While obviously disappointed, she treated those as learning experiences and took some time away from trying out while honing her dance skills. It was during this time that she re-evaluated her approach to trying out. Instead of just simply trying out for a squad, she started doing research beforehand to make sure she and the squad would fit well. She took to watching videos of the Flight Crew in action to learn their style and made the 2009 Flight Crew. After 2 seasons cheering on the Jets, Christie decided to try out for the Charger Girls and, after making it on the 2011 squad, made the move to the San Diego where she’d always wanted to move to.
After a season on the West Coast, Christie had a job offer back home in addition to a fiancé on the East Coast which convinced her to move back where she joined up with the New Jersey Devils Cheerleaders for the 2012-13 season. She also took to pursuing her goal of giving back to the dance industry by 1st joining up with Going Pro Entertainment, an organization that supports the industry of alumni, current and future professional cheerleaders and dancers. A life-long Giants fan, forming a squad that represents them, even unofficially, was a natural thought but she soon found out that Ana De Villegas already had one in place. She was pointed in Ana’s direction by someone else at Going Pro and they agreed to partner up and run the Gotham City Cheerleaders together.
While gaining a place as the official squad of the New York Giants is a hope, it’s not the total goal of the squad. Providing an avenue for young ladies to keep dancing and giving back to the community overshadow that. One of the pitfalls of starting up something new is the uncertainty in how it will be received. Thankfully, the fans have been very positive in response to the squad and Christie is getting as much as she’s giving in working with ladies like Ana, who she compares to Wonder Woman, and the dozens of young ladies who have made up the Gotham City Cheerleaders the past few years.
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