The players and coaches aren’t the only ones prepping for upcoming 2009-10 seasons across Europe; hundreds of cheerleading teams are also putting final touches on routines and getting into shape for opening day.
As unabashed admirers of the glamorous ladies of the CSKA Moscow dance team, BallinEurope thought it might be a good idea to briefly chat with one of the Red Army’s prettier side – ‘cuz, you know, we’re professionals with a website here…
Former world-class rhythmic gymnast for Russia, team captain and six-year CSKA Moscow veteran Anna Burkina, took ten minutes of out her preseason schedule to talk with BallinEurope about training, the team’s greatest aspiration, and her own sort of devotion. And oh yes, lots of pictures are included.
What is your training in dance and what have you done professionally?
I was in rhythmic gymnastics for 15 years, became a world champion, then finished my sports career and went to dance for CSKA.
How does one become a cheerleader in Moscow, especially with its top dance team, CSKA?
It is very difficult. We have one big casting session during the off-season and a lot of casting sessions during the season. Some girls visit our practices regularly but they cannot reach the highest level – physically, aesthetically. We are constantly looking for new faces.
The CSKA Moscow dance team is known worldwide and is certainly one of the most popular teams anywhere. Do you feel that you have a great reputation to uphold when you are performing?
Surely, it’s a big pressure, big responsibility. And a lot of work: Every dance has its own idea – to support the team, to put the pressure on the opponents, to make the fans cheer. You should give your heart out to every dance.
Do you, like lots of the players themselves, have a goal of performing in the USA or elsewhere in Europe?
Of course, it’s one of our goals. I mean we would like to perform abroad one day; last year, we visited the USA and Canada to watch NBA cheerleaders, to gain some new ideas, experience. But our biggest dream is to perform during Olympic Games.
What is the training/performing schedule like during the season? Do you practice with the team in the off-season as well?
During the season, we practice three hours every day except Sundays, plus two or three games per week. In the off-season, we have only a one-month vacation in July.
What are the best things and worst things about being on the team?
I cannot say that there is something bad in our work. As I said, it is a great responsibility to work for CSKA, to perform on the highest level. As for other aspects, they are all positive.
How long do you want/expect to be with the team?
As long as I can. That’s my life, I like my work very much; it’s my number one priority.
Do the CSKA Moscow cheerleaders have “groupies”? Do you get fan mail?
Yes, sure. I think every dance team has its fans. Ours have created a number of communities on Vkontakte.ru [a Russian version of Facebook]. They send us questions and we answer.
Finally, are you a basketball fan? Have you always been?
I was more of gymnastics fan for most of my life – you understand, why. But later I fell in love with basketball and now I watch all the games available – in the Russian league, Euroleague, and the NBA.