The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun
Japanese cheerleader makes the cut for NBA team
Reiko Ogasawara, an office worker in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, has become the first Japanese member of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons dance team. Originally from Fujisaki, Aomori Prefecture, Ogasawara began cheerleading in high school and continued to cheerlead at Tohoku Gakuin University. After graduation, she joined the Devils, an adult cheerleading squad. In 2017, she began helping to pump up the crowds as a member of the Sunrocker Girls, an exclusive cheerleading squad for the B League basketball team Sunrockers Shibuya. She left the team in June to pursue her dream of joining a squad of an NBA team.
Ogasawara worked while she practiced for her audition. Even though some teams were forced to cancel their auditions because of the novel coronavirus crisis, she said that she “was able to take hold of a slim chance.”
Ogasawara took part in a two-day online practice session for the cheerleading team for the Detroit Pistons after it was announced on social media back in November.
“The atmosphere was great, and I was able to have a great time dancing,” she said. Thanks to this positive experience, she decided to take part in the auditions. These auditions were also held online, and she was given a video demonstrating the choreography. Because she would have to perform it live at the audition and the choreography contained some tricky steps, she took time off from work to thoroughly practice.
She passed the first audition Nov. 17 to become one of the 38 contestants in the second audition on Dec. 3. During an interview after showing her dance in the second audition, Ogasawara expressed in English her desire to increase the number of Japanese fans for Detroit Pistons as Detroit is a place where the auto industry is flourishing and has many Japanese residents.
Later, she received another email from the Pistons asking her and 15 other contestants to dance in one more online dance session on Dec. 6. It was at the end of that session the dance team’s manager announced that the 16 had made the cut.
She couldn’t believe it at first, but once they’d asked for her shoe size, she realized that she’d achieved her dream. Not only is she the team’s first Japanese member, but at the age of 34, she is also the oldest of the new recruits. She has become one of about 20 Japanese cheerleaders in the NBA.
“The coronavirus has made it impossible for spectators to cheer out loud, so I want to get the crowds excited through my dancing,” Ogasawara said. “I’ll do my best as a representative of Japan to keep up with American dancers.” (Dec. 27)