ll in all, it's been a decent season for our hometown NBA team. But whatever's on the scoreboard, as the Detroit Pistons wrap the final games at The Palace of Auburn Hills, they've got a tireless support squad cheering them on with splits, high kicks and mile-wide smiles.
Chandler Bryant plays her role as part of Detroit Pistons Dance team. Every home game, Bryant, 22, and her energetic squad mates help rev up the crowds. After all, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson can't do it all.
This basketball booster-who cites "French fries and cheese sticks" as guilty pleasures on the dancers' official website-is a down-to-earth marketing analyst by day whose dancing history began at the early age of 4. By 12, she was performing with a dance studio company. Before long, she was instructing.
"I started teaching dance classes, usually for ages 3 to 5 and teenagers," she says. "Then I went off to school and danced on a team. I came back and decided to try out for the Pistons."
Making the cut wasn't exactly a pirouette in the park.
A long, tedious audition process-starting with a two-day audition in the early morning hours, quickly learning dance routines and three rounds of grueling cuts, all before making it to the "boot camp round"-was more strenuous than Bryant had expected. But it paid off, and she fit right in.
"A lot of the girls work and go to school," Bryant explains. "I work a full-time job, and luckily my job is pretty flexible with my Pistons schedule." She's currently with an IT company in downtown Detroit and taking online school classes, too. After two years with the team, she's accustomed to a busy schedule.
But with no hesitation, Bryant says game days are her favorite days of the week.
"I usually go to work early during game day, starting around 7:30 a.m., then hit the road to be out at The Palace for hair and makeup by court time, which is about 4:30 p.m., to run through our routines," she says. "Then we go mix and mingle with the fans, take pictures and get them pumped for the game!"
The dancers are a key element of every home game. The highly respected all-women team is comprised of 18 professional dancers from the metro Detroit area. This year, they're part of a big cast that includes the cheer team, flight crew, drumline and of course, Hooper, the jersey-wearing-horse mascot.
When Bryant isn't dancing, working or studying, she can be found thrifting, blogging, making "a mean omelet" and spending time with her family.
"I come from a really big family. I have two older brothers and two older sisters," Bryant says. "Both of my parents back me up 100 percent. They are very supportive of me, and I'm grateful to have a support system like them. Not many people have that."
Cheer on Bryant and the squad-oh, and the pros on the court, too-during the Detroit Pistons' remaining home games from now through April 12. Learn more at NBA.com/pistons/pistons-dancers.