More than 110 million viewers saw this year’s Super Bowl, making it the most watched television event in U.S. history. That means a lot of people saw 22-year-old North Bergen resident Ashley Marie Gonzalez, whether they know it or not.
“We were chosen to be a part of the Super Bowl halftime show,” said Gonzalez, who used to cheer at North Bergen High School and is now part of a dance team based in New York. “It was a great experience. We met a lot of people, we did a lot of events in New York and New Jersey, meeting players, doing signings.”
Ashley was on the field performing with some of her fellow Gotham City Cheerleaders. “We were on the platform on the left side of the stage, which was right where Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers were performing,” she said. “Bruno Mars requested a group of girls who were dancers and were pretty. He wanted us dressed a certain way. We were there for the whole show. It was an amazing feeling to be there in front of thousands of people.”
The Gotham City Cheerleaders
“We’re based out of New York and we are the first dance team to cheer for the New York Giants,” said Gonzalez about the Gotham City Cheerleaders.
The three-year-old cheerleading team is not officially affiliated with the Giants, she explained. “We’re not signed by them but we do support them, we go to every home game and do tailgates and do promos. It’s a lot of fun.”
“The New York Giants are a traditional football team so they never had cheerleaders,” continued Gonzalez. “They’re one of six teams that didn’t have an official cheerleading team. My director, Ana [DeVillegas], she was a Redskins cheerleader and she lives in New York and it was her and a New Jersey Nets cheerleader, they founded it and built it. Every year it has grown and progressed. We have so many fans. We do a lot of charity events and gigs all over the city.”
“It was an amazing feeling to be there in front of thousands of people.” – Ashley Gonzalez
Cheering in North Bergen
Gonzalez has a strong background in her craft. “I’m 22 and I went to North Bergen High School,” she said. “I cheered all my years of high school and graduated in 2009. I grew up with my dad being my coach. I was a competitive gymnast so a lot of my experience comes from my background.” That experience included dancing during halftime shows for the Jets.
Moving to Florida to attend Miami International University, she auditioned for the Miami Dolphins cheerleaders. “I danced for a semi-pro team in Florida, the West Palm Beach Makos,” she said. “I did a year with them, and then after college I moved back up here to New Jersey.”
“Every spring is when the NBA and NFL teams audition and I auditioned for several teams,” she continued. “And being as how I didn’t make certain teams I was freaking out as a dancer; what am I going to do? I Googled the Giants and found out about the Gotham City Cheerleaders and I auditioned and I made them. That was last May when I auditioned and I signed the contract from June to March.”
A bit of clarification is necessary here. “We are known as cheerleaders but in the professional world we don’t cheer as in lift each other and jump and tumble or stunt,” said Gonzalez. “We don’t shout cheers. As a professional cheerleader you’re more of a dancer. When you audition for a team they look for your dance background. They like a gymnastics background and I have that.”
“We’re actually dancing to music as opposed to cheerleading,” she explained. “We have choreographed routines and we have our pompoms. I get asked that all the time, even when we’re at promos they ask us to cheer and we tell them we don’t cheer but if you play music we’ll dance to it.”
The Super Bowl
When the Super Bowl gig came up, the coach and director of the team, Ana DeVillegas, selected about 20 cheerleaders to participate.
“It wasn’t my whole team that was part of the Super Bowl,” said Gonzalez. “My team itself, there’s about 25 of us, but my coach and my captain went to Japan in December and did an audition for Japanese girls who wanted to come dance in New York City. Whoever made the auditions was chosen to come out for Super Bowl week and they performed with us at our events. Most of those girls were the ones chosen for the Super Bowl, and a few of the girls who were already on the team. I was glad to be one of them. It was an even better feeling being one of the chosen girls.”
Onstage they were part of a much larger group selected to dance to the music. “There were over 900 of us as part of the halftime show so we weren’t dancing like our team performing. It wasn’t choreographed but we have these dances that we do, we call them snippets, just short little dance moves that we do as a team making us look in sync,” she said. “It was hard and there wasn’t much space for us since we were crammed on that stage. There wasn’t room to move the way we wanted to. But it was a lot of fun.”
Next (dance) steps
“Next I am going to prepare for a different audition,” said Gonzalez. “My contract is still going until March 15 so once that comes I’m free to go. I like to be a part of different teams because you learn different styles of dance from different coaches and different directors.”
“Right now is the down time until the next football season,” she said, “and I don’t want to not be dancing so I was just Googling and I found this team based out of Long Island, the Long Island Lizards, professional lacrosse, they have a professional dance team and they are a spring/summer team so I’m hopefully becoming a part of their team.”
“The best thing that could happen is definitely being part of a pro team where I am performing on the field for an entire season. That’s where I’m trying to get,” said Gonzalez. “What I’m trying to do right now is build my dancer resume.”
Art Schwartz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.