This post is syndicated from Sydney Durso’s Blog and used with her permission. For more from Sydney, visit sydneyblaine.com.
By Sydney Durso
I never imagined I would become an NFL cheerleader or an NBA dancer. I never imagined I would live in Dallas. Everything happens for a reason, and I can honestly say I am very happy with the opportunities and experiences I have had in my life so far.
I grew up in the Rio Grande Valley. My days were busy – school, ballet, sleep, repeat. My last year of high school I took all core classes, that were also dual credit, in order to graduate early. I graduated from Sharyland High School (Go Rattlers!) in 2007 and began my college career at the University of Texas Pan American.
Since the age of three, I studied classical ballet and other forms of dance, but I truly fell in love with ballet and performing when I was 10-years-old at Deborah Case Dance Academy. Miss Deborah taught me everything I needed to know about teamwork, confidence, poise, performance, hard work and so much more. I especially loved our production of “The Nutcracker” each holiday season. I knew that in order to be chosen for main roles, I had to work hard and rehearse long hours each day. I had the opportunity to perform as “Clara,” the “Sugar Plum Fairy,” the “Snow Queen,” and the “Harlequin Doll.” These experiences were magical to me and moments I will never forget.
In my hometown, I was also Miss Rio Grande Valley Teen USA 2007. I loved everything about this title because my schedule was often filled with wonderful opportunities that involved giving back to my community. That year, while studying at UTPA, I decided to branch out and try new forms of dance. I began taking hip-hop and modern classes with a competitive team at Danzforce Academy. In March of 2008, I went to the ADTS Nationals in Dallas, Texas with my team. Actually, it was in Denton, but this was my first time in the DFW area! While performing a solo routine, I was approached by a woman. I remember her asking my name and telling me my olive skin tone was pretty. She asked if it was natural, and I said it was. At the time, I had never tanned in a bed or heard of spray tanning! A few hours later, after the competition, I received a phone call from my Danzforce director. I honestly thought I was in trouble! Instead he had an envelope for me that contained a “bye” to the semi-final round of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders auditions. I was 17 at the time; my hair was slicked back into a bun. I barely had any makeup on, just a little bit of red lipstick. I remember laughing and thinking, “Me? Little me? A Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader? Those women are beautiful. There’s no way!” I’ll never forget sitting with my team in the airport on our way home. I looked around and said, “Guys, I’m going to do it!” A few weeks later, I turned 18, and I packed my bags for Dallas.
DCC auditions were like nothing I had ever experienced before! I had my hair in a pony tail, don’t worry I took it down. Everyone was beautiful. I had zebra print luggage with everything I needed inside (didn’t have a push-up bra yet), and I had a Juicy Couture sweatsuit on. Oh yeah, I was really cool, haha! I went in and gave it everything I had. Each year, things are a little bit different, but that year we auditioned at Texas Stadium and once they announced the finalists, we had two weeks in between to fly home and get our stuff together before meeting up with the veterans. After finals, the 2008 training camp candidates were announced, and my life changed at that moment.
Training camp, as a rookie, was honestly the most challenging experience. I showed up to Valley Ranch around 4:30 p.m. every day, practiced with my fellow rookies and left each night after midnight. I enjoyed everything, but I was mentally and physically exhausted. I cried a lot! Everyone does. I also ate a lot of golden Oreos. Terrible, I know; but I was stressed and they made me happy! I was often told I was too “calm” and “boring.” I was “too much of a ballet dancer” and I needed to “lose my technique.” I learned to watch the veterans in front of me, and slowly but surely I picked up their DCC style. Everything happens for a reason, and three months later it was official. I was a 2008-2009 Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader!
I could go on and on with stories. I have so many good ones! From a late night interview in Texas Stadium during a snow storm that left us stranded with the lights off unable to find the exit, to signing autographs for fans hours after the game while we walked to our cars. From my first time stepping onto the field at Cowboys Stadium (AT&T Stadium), to the many USO tours overseas in many different amazing countries. I could tell stories for days, but you all would probably fall asleep! I’ll save them for another time.
One year wasn’t enough. Neither was two…or three…or four. Seven seasons later, I turned in my boots and pom poms. I am so unbelievably thankful for my time as a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader (2008-2015). I am thankful for every experience, every memory, every friendship, every radio show (s/o to my Talkin’ Cowboys crew), every embarrassing moment, and every life lesson I learned.
Next adventure? Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk! After turning in my DCC boots and poms, I flew to Atlanta where I met up with Ang Lee and his incredible team. I was hired as the movie’s cheerleader consultant and choreographer as well as a cheerleader in the movie. The cast and crew instantly became my family. I have never felt so special and loved by a group of people I had just met. A few months later, when our filming was over, I didn’t want to leave. Ang hugged me goodbye, and tears rolled down my cheeks. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk will hit theaters on 11/11/2016. You can watch the first trailer here! Once again, I turned in my boots and poms for a second time.
Back in Dallas, I continued to take adult ballet classes each week in order to fuel my passion for dance. I knew I still had one more year of performing in me, and decided to audition for the Dallas Mavs Dancers. I had always dreamed of dancing on the court. I went straight from high school to the field, so a new experience and a new sport was right up my alley. In July of 2015, I became a Dallas Mavericks Dancer.
It was exciting learning how to set formations and dance on a court. I was used to huge (visible) hash marks as an NFL cheerleader. As an NBA dancer, we mark our spots using little cracks on the floor. One of my teammates still laughs at me today because although I always ended up in “the right spot” at games, I never actually could see my mark on the ground. Halfway through the season, we were rehearsing at the American Airlines Center when I discovered my spot on the court for the first time. I looked up at her and said, “Oh my gosh! These are the cracks in the ground! I can see them!” She just looked at me and started cracking up laughing.
I am unbelievably thankful for my time as a DMD. I performed at over 40 home games, had a million different uniform changes, made friends who are now my bridesmaids and so much more. I want to thank my director, Mallory Mills, for always keeping her door open and being happy and motivating, both on and off the court as well as my amazing teammates whose friendships I will forever cherish. I have been beyond blessed to perform seven seasons for America’s Team, the best team in the NFL, our Dallas Cowboys; and one season with the best dance team in the NBA. I have experienced more in these eight years than some people do in a lifetime, and I will forever cherish every memory.
Good luck to all of the girls auditioning today for the Dallas Mavs Dancers and good luck to all of the girls currently in training camp for the DCC. You are about to embark on a journey of a lifetime, and I suggest you enjoy every minute of it, no matter what!
I apologize if this post was a little lengthy, but it is not easy condensing 8 years of memories into a few paragraphs. I could go on and on with stories! If anyone has any memories they would like to share, fans and friends, I would love to hear them. If anyone has any questions, I would be happy to answer them below!