Denise Garvey founded the Jets Flight Crew in 2007. What began as a basic squad of 10 women performing at home games has grown into a fully realized squad of 40 women. The Jets Flight Crew continues to perform to crowds of 82,000 fans on game nights and has expanded to include media and event appearances and a Junior Fight Crew program for girls ages 7-14.
It’s no surprise Garvey has managed to build a successful squad. She learned all about the business of NBA and NFL cheer squads during her years performing as a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader and later as a Knicks City Dancer. She is a well-known leader in the cheer community and hosted the 2014 NFL Cheer Director’s Conference in New York.
Here, we speak with Garvey about what it’s like to work as part of the Jets Flight Crew and about the upcoming Flight Crew Audition Prep Classes being offered at Broadway Dance Center on March 8 and 15.
Who should attend the Flight Crew Prep classes and/or audition for the Crew this spring?
“The prep class period of time in March is a time when young women are thinking about auditioning and checking out the Flight Crew Prep Classes. I would encourage women who want to see what it’s about to go for it. You have nothing to lose and a wonderful experience to gain. If you come to the Prep Class, you’ll see that it is as fun as it looks. Obviously, it’s hard work, but everything worth having is worth working hard for. You have to be able to enjoy the process and not just focus on the end result.
If anyone is questioning whether or not to give it a try, come to the Prep Class and see what it’s all about, and you’ll probably find that you’ll enjoy yourself at the auditions. We’re all in this performing world together; let’s not beat ourselves up. Let’s enjoy the process, build confidence and find the right people for the job. If it’s you, fantastic, you’re right where you’re supposed to be. If it’s not you, it’s either just not your day, or it’s not this job. You still gain a lot of experience from it, and it will serve you well as you move forward in whatever else you decide to pursue.”
What is a favorite part of being involved with the Jets Flight Crew?
“The squad is really tight, and the most memorable part is the membership and the friendships squad members make as a team. These girls come in as total strangers, and at the end of the season they have experienced something so big, so great and so meaningful that they have a special bond together. It’s a sisterhood. As with any team or any cast, we spend a lot of time together and we work toward a common goal.”
Do Jets Flight Crew squad members re-audition every year?
“Yes. The veterans join in at the final found. They do that because it’s important to me that they stay at the top of their game. It helps avoid complacency.”
Why did you choose to add Broadway Dance Center as a location for Prep Classes?
“BDC is a place where I took class once I was old enough to take the train by myself into the city. My first class at BDC was with Frank Hatchett. I studied there for a long time, and I just feel like it’s a place where you get such talented, worldly, enthusiastic performers who want to learn and want to work. It’s a contagious and positive atmosphere.”
How is a Flight Crew Audition Prep Class structured?
“The Prep Class starts with a dance-based warm-up that includes a focus on flexibility, injury prevention, fitness and conditioning, and then we move to across-the-floor, which is a nightly thing at Flight Crew rehearsal. At each Prep Class, I teach new choreography. Usually, this new choreography is taught in our summer program and eventually makes its way onto the field during our upcoming season. The class is about learning choreography and learning our style. I infuse notes and advice throughout the class. I also infuse tips on standing out at the auditions, how to bring your best self, what to do and what to wear, and how to showcase yourself in a way that serves you best.”
Should dancers dress the same way for the Prep Class as they would for the Flight Crew audition?
“Yes. It’s dance shorts, a sports bra, dance tights and then sneakers or dance shoes. Bright colors make you stand out. In the beginning of an audition, you won’t know peoples’ names, but you remember something that they wear. Maybe something isn’t bright, but it’s sparkly. I had a girl last year who showed up at auditions and had a bow on her sports bra. It was kind of like an appliqué. I can’t say I loved the look of it, but I remembered her the whole time because every round she made it through she changed the bow on her bra.
It’s very important to also make sure you can dance in whatever you choose to wear. You focus sometimes on how good something looks but not on how well you can dance in it. You might love that halter top, but if it does not hold you in and make you feel like you can truly dance full out, don’t wear it. People dance their personalities, and if you’re not feeling confident, that’s going to show through.”
What advantage will dancers attending the Jets Flight Crew Audition Prep Classes gain?
“First, it really helps them learn our style of dance. So many people can relate; they are great dancers, they train their whole lives and they go take a class. While they are at the class, they feel like, ‘I thought I was a great dancer, but I cannot catch on to this style.’ If you dip your toes in the water and become comfortable in the style and add little accents that help you own the choreography and style of dance, that helps you during the audition.
Also, I’m very supportive, and it helps to meet me and hear me speak. When you go into an audition for someone, you assume they’re not going to like you. The reality is we’re just dying for you to be the perfect person. I’m trying to find everything great about each dancer because I need to find 40 women to fill a squad.”
What qualities are you looking for when hiring for the Jets Flight Crew?
“We are looking for women who are entertaining, in a positive way. We want them to either have a dance background or a cheer background. Either one is okay. Some women come on with a lot of technique, and some come on with a lot of cheer dance. Once you are on the team, the two styles blend. Great showmanship is especially important in the first round. There could be 250 women in the first round and you may not be able to showcase everything you can do, but you can be fun to watch. You can have a big, bright smile and have confidence. We want women with outgoing personalities for our special appearances.
We also need team players. We’re a tight-knit squad. The dancers get to introduce themselves during the first two rounds of the audition. The women who make it to the finals have a one-on-one interview with me. You can really get a sense of someone’s energy and personality traits by talking with them one-on-one for 15 minutes. It serves me very well for getting an idea of who these women are and what they are looking to get out of the program. There’s a whole side to this that doesn’t have to do with dance at all. The dance is the most visible portion of what we do. It’s 82,000 people, it’s the NFL, it’s nationally televised games on Sundays. But the appearances, community work and charity work are when you get the chance to connect one-on-one with the Jets fans and the New York fans. That interview is very important for me to find out if they fit the overall energy of the squad.”
To register for Broadway Dance Center’s Jets Flight Crew Audition Prep Class, offered Wednesday, March 8 or 15, 7:30-9pm, visit http://www.broadwaydancecenter.com/master-class/jets-flight-crew-audition-prep. And for more information on the Jets Flight Crew, head to http://www.newyorkjets.com/flight-crew/index.html.
By Emily Yewell Volin of Dance Informa.