Fans of the NBA who have ever attended a game know that timeouts and league-designated commercial breaks can be a drag without a reel of terrible local commercials.
But along with high-flying slam dunkers and the antics of the team mascot, every team has its own cheerleading squad. The Utah Jazz are no exception, and their Nu Skin Jazz Dancers entertain and dazzle fans with their slick moves and sweet smiles.
The Jazz Dancers are currently sponsored by Nu Skin, an American cosmetics company that originated in Provo, Utah. Since 1992, they have given the Dancers their name and supported them as they became a regular part of the home game entertainment lineup.
Nu Skin also helped create a small, intimate entertainment venue in 2004 called Nu Skin Theatre, which is attached to the EnergySolutions Arena (formerly Delta Center) in Salt Lake City for hosting small concerts.
Of all the NBA cheerleading squads, the Utah Jazz cheerleaders are unique for several reasons. Most cheerleading squads have their own routines, but the Jazz Dancers perform dance numbers in styles including funk, lyrical, jazz, and character-type dance.
Jan Whittaker coordinates the team and has been doing so since the inaugural squad in 1992, an incredibly long stint as the team leader. The Jazz Dancers were also instrumental in coordinating the first — and now annual — Xtreme Danzz Competition, which is one of Utah’s biggest dance competitions.
Pay as an NBA cheerleader is fairly low: generally, a dancer earns around $50 per game for her performances, and extra for any other appearances she makes outside of the arena. Functions such as community events and charity auctions often see the Jazz Dancers show up and pump up the crowd.
Along with the Utah Jazz players, the Jazz Dancers attend Salt Lake City’s Primary Children’s Medical Center to visit sick youngsters and spread Christmas cheer each December. Frequently, the Jazz Dancers will host junior dance clinics and workshops for girls in the area who are interested in working on their technique.
After the January 2010 tragedy in Haiti, the Jazz Dancers joined in the relief efforts by hosting a “Dance for Haiti” fundraiser.
The Utah Jazz cheerleaders practice together for three hours twice per week, and during the NBA season they can spend as much as 40 hours together over the course of the practices, games, and outside events they attend as a group.
Some of the girls still have time to blog as representatives of the squad on the Utah Jazz homepage (via the NBA home page), explaining little details of daily life.
Fans at EnergySolutions Arena have more than just their Utah Jazz cheerleaders to look forward to as in-game entertainment. Since the 2006-07, the Dairy Farmers of Utah have sponsored the Utah Jazz Stunt team — a collection of former and current gymnasts, cheerleaders, and partner stunters who do acrobatics to entertain crowds during timeouts and halftime.
It is a co-ed team, comprised of men and women who have done similar activities in college and professionally, and the group performs at 15 games during the NBA regular season. Occasionally they will team up with Bear, the Jazz mascot, to bring laughs and smiles to the faces of fans.
Although the Utah Jazz themselves have never been known as a flashy NBA team, the Utah Jazz cheerleaders and their stunting counterparts provide unique, flashy entertainment to EnergySolutions Arena visitors.
Since 1992, groups of dedicated young Utah women have been practicing high-energy dance routines and preparing for the NBA stage a few nights per week, where they gain valuable experience and have a lot of fun.