Fort Wayne, Ind. (WANE) – New name, same game. Fort Wayne’s only professional cheerleading team now has a new member who’s not only changed the make up of the squad but the name too.”
For the last 12 seasons the Mad Ants cheerleaders were known as the Madame Ants because each member was female. When 19 year-old male dancer Torion Pickett joined the squad for the 13th season, the coach decided it was time to throw out the old name and change it to the Mad Dancerz.
“I was sparked by Torion sending me an email saying do you think I can make the team,” said coach and manager Sheenah Johnson, who also owns Sheekristyle Academy of Dance. “I was like, why not, let’s give it a shot. He auditioned and made the squad.”
“When I first started dance it was my freshman year in high school and it’s always been something I strongly care about,” said Pickett. “It’s been my passion for awhile and there aren’t a lot of opportunities for dancers after you graduate. So when I found out about the Mad Dancerz, Madame Ants at the time, I said I have to hop on this.”
Hopping on it is just what Pickett did. His coach and fellow dancers say he’s a natural. “He’s just as good a dancer as anyone else,” said fellow dancer Kaley Gasvoda. “He brings so much joy and fun to the team. I love it.”
“The League (NBA G League) has been incorporating coed dance teams and bringing male dance troupes to the scene and it’s just something we haven’t done before in Fort Wayne,” said Johnson. “So I figured before being asked or requested, let’s jump the gun and add him ahead of time. So why not add that last piece of the puzzle which is a male and bring something awesome.”
“In 2019, a strong topic is boys and dance and I believe that it should be all inclusive,” said Pickett. “There will always be numerous girls. I want to be a representative for boys who want to get into dance who want to step outside of basketball, football and maybe try something they’re not comfortable with. So I definitely want to be that representative for them.”
“Our team reflects diversity with dancers of all ages and sizes, everything,” said Johnson.
While having all the right moves is essential, being part of this squad means you do more than dance. “We work with the Boys and Girls Club clinics and the YMCA,” said Johnson.
“We also get kids out for the fourth quarter dance party during the Mad Ants games,” said Gasvoda. “Getting them involved and trying our best to make sure they have a good time is what we’re all about.”
“When the crowd is having a good time, we’re having a good time,” said dancer Adriane Roberts. “Being able to engage families is one of the things I love to do.”
“I hope everyone can come out and see us,” said Pickett. “Go Mad Ants!”
The Mad Dancerz perform at the Mad Ants home games. The next home game is scheduled for Friday, November 29. Click here to see the Mad Ants full schedule. Click Mad Dancerz for information about the dance squad.