Health & Fitness

I joined the Raptors Dance Pak for a night

Health & Fitness

I joined the Raptors Dance Pak for a night

When the idea was floated to me about learning a Raptors Dance Pak routine – a riff on Amy Schumer’s danceoff with the Knick City Dancers in Trainwreck – I agreed immediately because a) who wouldn’t and b) it was so far out of my comfort zone I knew it would be a blast (or at least a good laugh for my colleagues.)

Let me explain: the most dancing I’ve done is in dark (mercifully) bars and clubs. My mom enrolled me in ballet when I was three, but apparently I spent most of my time staring at myself in the mirror. (Sorrynotsorry.) A year later, she tried to get me into jazz. I cried the first night and my parents quickly enrolled me in soccer.

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Still, I’ve always had a huge respect for dancers, and that respect has grown following my workout with the spirit squad of the Toronto Raptors basketball team. These women are legit. A case in point: about 250 women try out for the team and just 22 will make it.

At our practice – which took place at a downtown Toronto gym and sadly not the Air Canada Centre with Drake cheering us on – they learned their latest routine to Missy Elliot’s “WTF” in like, 5 seconds. I, meanwhile, skipped along goofily in the front row, pretending like I knew what I was doing. Watch me embarrass myself in the Snapchat video below.
 

 


Typically, the Dance Pak has just one night to practice the piece before they perform it in front of a full house at the next game. That means they have about 30 routines in their repertoire by the end of the season, performing about five dances per game, twice a week. “I don’t even know how many laps of the ACC [the Dance Pak does] in a game,” says Dance Pak co-ordinator and choreographer Amberley Waddell. “They’re up to the 300 level; they’re down back on the court, they’re doing all promos and giveaways."

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So do they feel the pressure? A little, admits team captain Nina Pizans. “You have to perform and turn it on every other day of your life, and there are 20,000 eyes plus TV watching you,” she says. “Every time I step out on that court I have the same anticipation, the same nerves. It hasn't changed, but I like feeling nervous. It gives more excitement to every game.”

 

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What I learned from training with the Raptors Dance Pak

A strong core is key.

I learned this hard way during warm-up. “Having a strong core is so important to dancing and being able to keep your balance and find your centre,” says Amberley Waddell, Dance Pak co-ordinator and choreographer. Her favourite move: while in the splits bend from side to side to work the obliques. READ MORE: Motivational fitness gear to inspire your workout

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Carli Whitwell Source: Instagram @raptorsdancepak

What I learned from training with the Raptors Dance Pak

Weight training can help you dance better

“I feel that weight training is very important for dancers; the strength in your upper body allows you to hit your movements much stronger,” says Waddell.   READ MORE: Why is everyone talking about LISS cardio and should you be doing it?

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Carli Whitwell Source: Instagram @raptorsdancepak

What I learned from training with the Raptors Dance Pak

You have to work on your flexibility every day.

Splits are not conquered overnight. Take time to stretch after every workout, says Waddell, who also uses yoga to keep her limbs loose.   READ MORE: How to prevent burnout

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Carli Whitwell Source: Instagram @raptorsdancepak

What I learned from training with the Raptors Dance Pak

Drake is their bestie. Well, almost.

“Drake has been at a lot of games and he’s a very nice guy he always says hello to the girls,” says Waddell. Swoon.   READ MORE: Celebrity style: courtside edition

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Carli Whitwell Source: Instagram @champagnepapi

What I learned from training with the Raptors Dance Pak

Always smile

Even if you don't feel like it! READ MORE: Why you don’t need to spend two hours a day at the gym

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Carli Whitwell Source: Instagram @raptorsdancepak


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I joined the Raptors Dance Pak for a night