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Meet Natalie Kirkland

Today we’d like to introduce you to Natalie Kirkland.

Natalie, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I am a professional dancer and former NFL cheerleader for the San Francisco 49ers. Living in San Jose my whole life, I trained intensively in practically every dance style growing up; jazz, ballet, hip hop, contemporary, hula, and more (even salsa and rhythmic gymnastics). After a six years dance break during my tween years, I found a missing piece of myself I didn’t know was gone when I decided to randomly step back into the dance studio for a class or two. A pivotal moment in my life, let alone dance career, I emerged myself back into the dance scene – joining three different hip hop crews, training in jazz and contemporary weekly, and taking any and all adult dance classes in the Bay Area. Fast forward a few years, and I decide I want to once again swivel into a new dance lane of professional cheerleading.

I auditioned for an AFL (Arena Football League) dance team, made the squad, and spent three awesome years representing my hometown as a San Jose SaberKitten for the San Jose SaberCats. Unfortunately, but fortunately in hindsight, the football team disbanded and I was forced to either stop cheerleading or audition for another team in the Bay Area: que San Francisco 49ers. I auditioned to be a part of the 49ers cheer team, Gold Rush, in 2016 and spent three NFL seasons dancing and repping the best team in football (clearly not biased). Getting to perform for an audience of 70,000 screaming fans while wearing the iconic red and gold cheer uniform was an extraordinary experience that elevated my life on and off the field, in and out of the dance studio. The relationships created, the memories now sketched into my brain, and the overall development as a dancer and person will forever be an unparalleled experience in my life.

As all great things typically come to an end, I decided to hang up my poms as an NFL cheerleader and take the plunge of moving to Los Angeles – a vision that has always been lingering in my mind and soul, as it does with most dancers. Luckily for me, I stepped into the entertainment industry with connections most people don’t have. Thanks to my sister, a well known and working choreographer in the dance biz, I have been able to receive high-quality training, guidance, opportunities, jobs, and experiences that I wouldn’t have otherwise been involved in. I’ve been in Los Angeles for just over a year now, and the story continues to unfold. Lingering at an intersection of the pro cheer, hip hop, and heels dance styles, I believe I am forging a path in a new direction – one with larger than life movement, stylized but clean steeze, and industry caliber.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It hasn’t always been easy. I was forced to stop dance completely when I was young due to my dad losing his job during the ’07 financial crises (a lot of change was happening then; I also had to switch from private or public school). It was rough on the family, and it leads me down a no-dance-at-all path.

Gearing up back into hip hop and technique was troublesome. I was so behind my peers. My friends who hadn’t stopped dancing could literally dance circles around me. However, I believe the acknowledgment of this disadvantage turned up my intensity for becoming a great dancer.

Another challenge I faced was when I walked away from my professional cheer teams. If you are on a team long enough, like many things, you start to identify with said thing. The teams became a part of who “Natalie” was, and whether I was forced to end a chapter like in my AFL situation, or I chose to walk away as I did from Gold Rush (NFL), it hurt. In those ending moments, change was honestly scary and somewhat intimidating. How would I function without seeing my teammates who have become family? Would I get to dance as an adult ever again? Will the void that seemed so hollow in the moment be filled by something else? A lot of unknowns lingered.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I am a professional dancer, choreographer, and former NFL cheerleader who specializes in choreography for professional cheer teams, the collegiate dance team circuit, and training camps for pro cheer hopefuls; all while (still) training and pursuing industry dance jobs myself. I am known for my high energy, big movement, “pop hop” style – the type of choreo that you perform on fields and in arenas. It’s clean yet stylized, and it’s hard-hitting.

I am most proud of my ability to give teams an exciting piece that they want to nail. I feel success when the dancers show me they approve of a routine through their commitment and performance. It’s hard work to create steps, formations, and blocking for a dance team, and being able to take my vision from conceptuality to execution is very fulfilling.

What sets my style apart from others is my diverse dance background. From studio training to professional cheerleading, to urban hip hop crews, to my industry experience, I have collected an arsenal of dance insight and knowledge on how to make dancers look and feel their best on stage while keeping the audience entertained and impressed.

Some of my more notable choreography jobs and clients include: San Francisco 49ers Gold Rush, Clippers Spirit Dance Team, Nike, Stanford University, UC Berkeley, and USA Performance Camps.

Some of my more notable industry jobs as a dancer include: Daddy Yankee, New Kids on the Block, Zendaya, Ava Max and Too $hort.

Lastly, I have written an eBook on how to audition and make a professional cheerleading team (my quarantine project). It’s called “Red Lips and Hair Flips: The Pro Cheer Audition Guide” and it’s available for purchase on NatalieAnnKirkland.com.

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