As you come up the stairs and head towards the Denver Nuggets practice gym, you can hear the workout being performed. But it was not the Denver Nuggets but rather the Colorado Mammoth Wild Bunch holding their annual tryouts before the new upcoming season today, Sunday October 6, 2013. Amy Jo Wagner and her staff were at the gym early. Am Jo otherwise known as AJ, is the leader of the Mammoth Wild Bunch and she had a busy morning.
The Examiner was able to catch AJ for a brief interview.
Examiner: When did you start cheerleading?
AJ: I’ve actually never been a cheerleader. I started dancing in high school to avoid regular gym class and fell in love with performing. After high school, I continued taking dance classes in college and began dancing for professional sports in 1999. My first professional dance team was the AFL’s Arizona Rattlers Sidewinders. After dancing for the Rattlers for 2 season, I became a member of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns Dancers and the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury Hip Hop Squad.
Examiner: Where you ever in gymnastics as a lot of cheerleaders are?
AJ: I think I took one gymnastics class when I was a kid.
Examiner: Are you originally from Colorado?
AJ: I am originally from Minnesota, but went to school in Arizona before moving up to Colorado.
Examiner: How long have you been involved with the wild bunch?
AJ: I began choreographing and managing the Wild Bunch in the 2009-2010 season.
Examiner: Were you ever a member of the Wild Bunch and then moved to being the leader/coach of the team and if so how long did you dance for them before moving into the managers role?
AJ: I was never a Wild Bunch dancer, but I did dance professionally before becoming a dance team manager. I danced with the Arizona Rattler’s Sidewinders Dance Team for 2 seasons, The Phoenix Suns Dancers for 6 seasons and the Phoenix Mercury Hip Hop Squad for 7 seasons before taking on my first management position. After managing the Rattler’s Sidewinders for 19 months, I was offered a full time position choreographing for the Denver Nuggets Dancers. 1 year later, I was given the opportunity to also choreograph for the Wild Bunch.
Examiner: Who creates the dance routines?
AJ: It’s a group effort. I choreograph a few routines each season and we also bring in outside choreographers to mix things up. And, in the past two seasons, the Wild Bunch dancers have choreographed a few of their own routines.
Examiner: How many hours a week goes into being with the wild bunch?
AJ: The dancers put in 6 hours a week practicing for games. On game weeks, we put in about 15 hours between practicing and game day activities. For myself, my hours vary from month to month with the Wild Bunch. The off season is anything but an off-season for me because preparations for the next season start almost immediately. From audition preparations to corporate partners to uniform design, Wild Bunch season prep takes months of work. On average I would say I spend about 15-20 hours per week on Wild Bunch related issues.
Examiner: Are the dances required to make a certain number of appearances outside of mammoth games?
AJ: Dancers are not required to make appearances, but are always happy to get into the community. The ladies make public appearances for the Mammoth organization and for numerous non-profit organizations throughout the year.