Alumni Focus

Soaring as a Sea Gal

As a cheerleader for the Seattle Seahawks, Pia Gillan showcases her passion for dance before an audience of thousands

by Tina Potterf

2009_winter_alumni2_main

Pia Gillan, ’09, got her dance start as a child back in her native Guam.

Photo courtesy of The Sea Gals

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In the thick of the NFL season, one of the hottest—and hardest to snare—tickets in town is to Seattle Seahawks games. No worries for Pia Gillan, though, who has a prime vantage point at Qwest Field every home game this season. The 2009 criminal justice graduate roots for the team as a member of the Sea Gals, the professional cheering squad.

Although she may be a freshman player on the dance team, Gillan is no beginner. She draws on years of dance that began in a studio in her native Guam.

“A classmate of mine was in dance and asked me to go,” Gillan, 22, says of her introduction to dance as a fifth grader at the SKIP Entertainment Company.

For seven years she sharpened her turns and choreography as a member of SKIP, learning a range of dance styles, from jazz to modern. Along the way she also grew as a performer. Any early stage fright faded in time as Gillan danced in competitions in Europe and the mainland United States.

When she was in high school, Gillan’s dance pursuits took a backseat to sports. But by her junior year at SU, she was ready to get back to it. That year she auditioned and made the cut for the Seattle University Dance Team. It was good preparation for her professional turn with the Sea Gals and the demands of performing at sporting events before unpredictable crowds.

“The experience was a lot of fun. I wish I had done it sooner,” says Gillan, who at SU danced mostly hip-hop and jazz routines at the men’s and women’s basketball games. “I liked dancing at all the games and with excited crowds.”

A friend alerted Gillan to the Sea Gals auditions. Without hesitation, she turned out and was counted among more than 200 women vying for a coveted spot.

Auditions started last April. The first round was a quick-paced, one-minute freestyle dance. Those who made it through this stage had to turn around and learn a longer and more choreographed routine to perform before the judges.

While the experience was initially intimidating, Gillan says she felt more comfortable when she learned she would be doing a jazz number. After passing the first two auditions she was on to the finals, which involved a short interview and two new dances.

“I wasn’t nervous until I made it to the finals,” Gillan says. “I felt blessed just to be there because there were so many talented dancers.”

I was shocked when they called my number. I had to double-check it. I literally ran out onto the stage at Qwest Field.
—Pia Gillan, ’09

When her number was called, indicating she had made the team, Gillan says it took a minute to register.

“I was shocked when they called my number. I had to double-check it,” she says. “I literally ran out onto the stage at Qwest Field.”

The Sea Gals perform at every Seahawks home game and must keep a rigorous practice and game-day schedule.

Sherri Thompson, director of the Sea Gals, says Gillan stood out as someone with a lot of potential. “She is smart, beautiful and a good dancer,” she says. “I look forward to watching her develop into a major asset for our team as she gains experience.”

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