Monday, November 14, 2011

After year off, Nuggets dancer brings smile back to NBA

By Aaron J. Lopez,, 11-10-11

The lure of the NBA can be a powerful thing.

Littleton native Jana learned just how powerful when she took a year off from the Denver Nuggets Dancers to focus on school and her modeling career. Though she enjoyed attending Nuggets games at Pepsi Center in 2010-11, it just wasn’t the same.

“When you’re in uniform, everyone wants to talk to you,” she said. “When you smile, they smile back. When you go to a game in normal clothes and smile at everyone, they’re like, ‘What are you smiling at?’ ”

Naturally, Jana flashes a smile as she finishes her sentence. It’s easy to see how much she is enjoying her return to the Nuggets dance team for 2011-12.

“I missed it a lot,” she said. “It keeps you in shape and gives you something to work on constantly. Modeling, you just show up, wear what you’re supposed to wear and leave.” Jana, 22, started dancing when she was about 7 years old. Her mother was looking for an outlet for her daughter’s seemingly unlimited energy.

“My mom just wanted me to calm down,” Jana said. “I was running around the house, singing all the time. She asked me if I wanted to do soccer, but I’m not good at sports, so she put me in dance.”

Jana joined Cherry Creek Dance and got her first taste of the NBA experience when her studio performed at halftime of a Nuggets game. She later danced for the Denver Outlaws of Major League Lacrosse and joined the Denver Nuggets Dancers in 2009.

“Her experience on the Outlaws dance team and on the 09-10 Denver Nuggets Dancers, as well as the dance studio training she has received, have helped Jana become a very talented and diverse performer,” said Denver Nuggets Dancers coordinator and choreographer Amy Jo Wagner. “She has great technique and performance ability.”

Wagner also noted Jana’s friendly and outgoing personality. She developed a knack for socializing while growing up as the third-youngest of 16 children. Needless to say, handling ticket requests is one of her biggest challenges as a Nuggets dancer.

“It’s a wrestling match,” she said.

Jana currently is finishing up her course work at Metro State College, and she works full-time as a sales coordinator for an office furniture company. Her goal is to eventually open her own studio and help other aspiring young dancers.

“You can mold people and fill your heart a little bit,” she said.

For now, Jana is enjoying the connections she makes with young fans at community appearances around the Denver area. They give her flashbacks to her first year with the Nuggets in 2009-10.

“The little girls are my favorite because they come up to you and have stars in their eyes,” she said. “If you just tell them your name and ask their name, that makes their whole day.”

And it gives Jana another reason to smile.