Each year, over 100 women show up to try and make the Thunder Girls team on open audition day. Among the veteran Thunder Girls and the first-year audition participants, there are always a few familiar smiles in the crowd who are looking for another chance at their big dream.
Helen Ann will be one of those familiar faces returning to the audition floor.
Originally from Graham, N.C., Helen Ann followed in her older sister’s dance steps and attended Oklahoma City University, where she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance Performance. In addition to her professional training, she has performed, taught and judged dance competitions all over the United States and formed strong friendships with several veteran Thunder Girls.
“To know I was competing with some of the most talented and physically fit girls around was scary, but exciting and fun!” she said.
Helen Ann knew that she needed to be at her best for auditions last year, so she took a prep class and spent a few weeks training with Steve, the Thunder Girls’ team trainer at One Healthy Bod. Her preparations paid off at preliminary auditions. She danced her way through all three rounds of cuts to advance to finals, but fell short of making the team.
“Of course I was disappointed,” she said, “but it intensified my drive and determination to come back stronger and more prepared.”
She kept training to prepare for her second chance to make the team. In spite of all her hard work and focus over the past year, Helen Ann’s dream of being a Thunder Girl would be unexpectedly disrupted again. While running at a training session this past May, she tore the ligaments in her ankle during a fluke fall.
Until that point, Helen Ann had been dancing non-stop since the age of three. She said that being unable to dance and having to wear a boot for six weeks because of her injury was heartbreaking.
“I was devastated by my injury,” she said. “Being injured the past few months has been one of the hardest things I’ve had to accept and overcome, but just like any other athlete, an injury is a common setback and I knew I wouldn’t let it stop me.”
She stayed active throughout her recovery with alternative, low-impact workouts that kept the pressure off her ankle, but kept her in shape. She has worked her way up to a rotation of weight training, hot yoga, swimming, spin classes and prep classes and is medically cleared for auditions, but still feels pain and has to ice her injury regularly.
With auditions fast approaching and a long way left to go, she tries to stay positive and focused. One thing that helps her: Helen Ann says she has quite the cheering section. As the third oldest of five children in a close-knit family, there’s always someone there to offer her encouragement and keep her in good spirits.
“They are very supportive and know that Oklahoma is my home away from the East Coast,” she said. “If anything (the distance) makes us stronger and closer. They know I’ve become an Okie over the past five years and that being a Thunder Girl is my dream!”
During the Thunder Girls auditions in early August, we’ll find out if Helen Ann’s persistence will be enough to overcome the odds and finally make her dream come true.