In the two months that 21-year-old Sacha Heppell has taken hip-hop lessons with a private dance instructor, dude has developed some serious moves. So he decided to put them to good use: Yesterday, he got footloose at tryouts for the Denver Broncos cheerleading squad. And while he expected his day to end with the straight "thanks for trying, see you next year, good luck and all" talk, it eventually ended on CNN -- but not on the team.
This morning, Heppell's Twitter account features dozens of reactions to his attempt at becoming the first male cheerleader in the squad's history. It also reaffirms his bio: "Making the most out of life." And while he's received no shortage of attention for his tryout with the squad, Heppell's most important point was made in front of his students.
The Latest Word reached out to Heppell to discuss his moves, his motivations and Madonna. Here's our Q&A:
Westword: Let's start at the beginning. What inspired you to try out?
Sacha Heppell: I wanted to really prove a point to kids out there that you can follow your dreams no matter what people say. If you just choose powerfully and do what you love, no matter what, your dreams can come true. I just threw myself into the unexpected, and I'm going to use this as an example to coach the kids in my program. I work with about twenty to thirty kids at Uzeke, which is a nonprofit project of the Open Media Foundation that's a media-making and performance arts studio. I want to teach them to go after whatever they want without inhibitions, and trying out was a way for me to do that.
What drives me is that every child out there deserves a chance to be heard. You have people hurting others or being bullied or killing themselves, and I think this is kind of an example of what can happen if you just throw yourself in and don't give up. There wasn't a single moment where I questioned anything. I walked in there a Broncos cheerleader.
WW: But why dancing specifically? Why not joining the circus or riding a unicycle?
SH: First, I strongly respect the Broncos and am a huge fan. And second, I love to dance. I love expression. I lose myself in the music. I'm not as experienced as some of the girls -- I only started hip-hop lessons a couple months ago -- but I just love it.
SH: Well, before I started taking lessons, I was inspired to during my time as a sign spinner for some entertainment company here -- I forgot the name. That was the beginning of me getting my dance calling. I had Madonna playing in my ears with "Like A Prayer," "Express Yourself" and "Holiday," and I just got down. There was something about her I really connected to, and I just danced and let loose on the street corner. I don't work there anymore, but it really got me into dancing. Watching the CNN clip about me, it was a great experience for me to see myself perform. (Laughs.) I think I look funny.
Watch Heppell's tryout performance:
WW: Can you walk us through your tryout experience? How did the other dancers react?
SH: I walk into the stadium and the security guard is there. Her eyes opened wide, like, "Are you here to try out?" She let me into the elevator, I walked up to the studio, and I immediately thought, "These girls are beautiful." Beautiful! Stunning! I took pictures of some of them because I was so impressed. Then I sat down, looked over my application and got my head shot together. I got a ton of looks, but none of them were mean to me, not a single one. I got my number, and I sat down and stretched with the ladies. The girls were so nice to me, and we just started talking. I made a lot of friends. Even the veteran cheerleaders from the past years were there, giving me tips and a lot of encouragement. Everyone really respected each other and had fun.
WW: What was your tryout music?
SH: Do you know that song "International...getting down in New York City...ha eh uh...."?
WW: I don't.
SH: Hmmm, well you should listen to it. That was the song they were playing. They played it over and over. It's called "International" something. I took some dance classes, so I had been training a little bit before this and I was just really focused on getting the moves. They go over it like twice, and after that they're done. I really had to pay attention and get out of my head.
WW: How did your family react?
SH: When I woke up that morning, I wasn't too excited. I was like, "Oh God, what am I going to do?" But I've got to tell you: There was overwhelming support. My parents were kind of laughing, like, "Oh God, there goes my kid," but they understand. As for my friends, I couldn't have done it without them. If you go to my Facebook, you'll see I have fans now. Plus all the kids at the studio are cheering me on. Tomorrow morning, I'm going to be on 9News, and I'm bringing like twenty kids in the studio with me.
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WW: What's next for you?
SH: Well, I'm going to practice. Practice, practice, practice. I might even send some of my kids out there. But it's not an easy thing to become a Broncos cheerleader, I have to tell you that.
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