By Chris Mincher
Monday, October 17, 2005 1:02 PM
JEANNE BYRD, 24
JOB: Member of the Washington Wizards dance team
SALARY: It's a part-time job, with newbies earning about $40 a game. Appearances at promotional and commercial events offer extra cash.
EDUCATION: Bachelor's in psychology from Spelman College in Atlanta.
WHAT SHE DOES: The dance team performs at all 41 Wizards home games, entertaining the crowd with two choreographed sets and shorter routines in between. Members spend eight hours a week practicing, plus an hour before each game, to nail down both their sets and the general synchronized dance moves they break out to match whatever music happens to be playing. The squad also works on six community promotions (individual members can do as many as they want for possible extra dough). "You can be in grand openings of stores or buildings, go to car shows or put in appearances at elementary schools. We do a lot of charity walks or other benefits for good causes."
WOULD YOU WANT HER JOB? If you like dancing, sure, but curb those fanciful visions of glory. "The season is very long, and it can get tedious," Byrd said. "Everyone tends to glamorize it, but it's still a job." And an extra job, at that: All 18 members of last season's team had full-time careers or were full-time students. (Byrd is working on a master's in social work at Howard University.) It doesn't always end with the season, either. "Just when you're ready for it to be over, you know, they go and make the playoffs."
HOW YOU CAN GET HER JOB: You can attend the last audition-prep class tonight at Bally's in Wheaton; it's not required, but is strongly recommended. Auditions start August 5 at the MCI Center. Byrd simply attended a tryout session and ended up with a spot. "You have to have some idea of technique and some sort of training, whether it's in ballet, or gymnastics or jazz dancing." But beyond that, "it's not who you know at all. You can know everybody, it doesn't matter," Byrd said. "It's all based on if you have the talent. If you have it, and you can show it, you can walk off the street and be on the court a few months later."
FOR MORE INFORMATION: See nba.com/wizards/dance for audition info.
This article originally appeared in the Express on July 25, 2005.