NBA Toronto Raptors co-ed dance team performing at a game

Two-piece costumes, knee-high boots, and perfectly groomed female dancers are becoming rarer sights at NBA basketball games. As gender equality seems to be on the minds of many NBA organizations, an increasing number of professional dance teams are reimagining sideline entertainment for their fans.

Across the country NBA organizations are gradually replacing their former all-female dance squads, some with an over 30-year history, with co-ed teams. This summer, six more NBA teams have announced their switch or have quietly posted their auditions specifically asking for both genders and an updated criteria of skills. The Cleveland Cavaliers recently cast their first gender-inclusive PowerHouse Dance Team for the 2019-2020 season, the final squad appears to consist of 14 women and 4 men. The Orlando Magic, Sacramento Kings, Milwaukee Bucks, and Philadelphia 76ers are all amidst their submission processes or pre-audition classes for their new diverse dance teams. The Dallas Mavericks veered off on a slightly deviant path, having created their first variety-style “Dallas Mavericks Entertainment Squad.”

The Milwaukee Bucks are the most recent team to announce their makeover, as the previous Bucks Dancers have just been informed of the squad’s rebranding within the week. The Bucks’ first prep classes are quickly approaching on August 4th and 11th, with their final audition scheduled for August 15th.

These six teams are following the lead of the Washington Wizards Dancers, the Toronto Raptors, and the San Antonio Spurs, all of whom debuted their co-ed squads in the 2018-2019, and are entering their second seasons with their updated entertainment remaining in-tow.

Aside from gender-inclusively, these dance teams are also undergoing a variety of style and dance genre changes, some asking for primarily hip-hop and hype-style, and others wanting challenging additional skills such as tumbling, breaking, and stunts. Audition posts are reading less specific, as the former request of a crop top, shorts, and tan tights to be worn by females is missing from all rebranded team auditions. Brand ambassador responsibilities are being carried over to most new teams, such as public appearances and community service events.

Female dancers from the former teams can audition for the new teams, but the question arises if the type of dancer they were hired for being before will fit each team’s specific new genre and style vision. Previously, NBA dancers on all-female squads were expected to be technically proficient in multiple genres, not just hip-hop, and many could lack the special skills such as the tumbling and tricks that are now being asked. Of the newly cast co-ed teams, some previous female dancers have fit the specific team’s new mold and been brought back, and teams are still trending higher numbers of females over males. 

However, not every NBA team is necessarily going in this exact direction. The other twenty-one teams have decided to keep tradition, or already chose dancers for their returning all-female squads in their 2019-2020 season. 

Be sure to check the sidelines and half-times this basketball season, specifically for the following teams: The Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Sacramento Kings, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, and the Orlando Magic. These newly reimagined dance teams will have big plans for their premier season, along with their new additions of gender-inclusivity and rebranded style concepts. Fans will get to see varying dance genres, new stunts, and impressive tricks; the NBA’s new direction on entertainment teams will surely do its job to hype the crowds for our beloved basketball teams.

Top photo: Toronto Raptors North Side Crew

About the author

Cleveland mid-westerner Chelsea Hupalowsky spent most of her youth in pointe shoes, then earned her BFA in dance performance from The University of Akron and came out a contemporary dancer. Alongside performing she has taught dance in public schools, rehearsal directed for universities, and has produced shows across the nation. She currently resides in Orlando, performing and playing dance captain at Universal Orlando Resort and Cirque Magique/Cirque by Night. With her leftover spare time, she manages a bar and runs her apparel brand, Concept Hissyfit. Chelsea has been a freelance writer and blogger for over eight years and is ecstatic to be sharing her obsessive passion for dance with anyone who will listen.