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It's a pirate's life


© St. Petersburg Times, published January 21, 2001

TAMPA -- The Super Bowl pregame show might not get the television exposure the popular halftime show always does, but that didn't stop 500 local Tampa Bay area dancers from working up a sweat during the first day of practice Saturday.

In the warmth of a basketball gym and the chill of a University of Tampa stadium, they twirled, lunged, shot their arms up in the air, practicing their "choreographed sword fighting" for the Gasparilla scene. A tape of Styx's Come Sail Away

played in the background.

An inflatable city will be on the 15 yard line, dance instructor Lesslee Kay Fitzmorris told the group. The dancers will be a holding area, and when Styx sings "Oh, Lord, I try to carry on," she said, "that's your cue to storm the field."

And then: Knock each other down. Block kick. Punch.

Dancers did as told, and the gym looked a little chaotic. But they have a week. "You can sense the emotional high," said Vivian Santiago, a 17-year-old Blake High School student.

In October, the dancers auditioned, most after seeing a flier posted on their dance studio wall. "Come try out for Super Bowl XXXV," it read.

"I was totally into that as soon as I saw it," said Meghan Daly, 15.

Rehearsals take place every day leading up to game day, from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. For many of the dancers, who are still in high school or college, the week's schedule is tight. "We basically will be running on adrenaline the whole week," said Amanda Elliott, 15.

The pregame show -- called "Life's Super in Central Florida" -- will last some 50 minutes, from overture to coin toss. There are three scenes featuring local performers, including a "family-style version of an MTV spring break scene," said Bob Best of Tampa, the pregame show's producer.

Props will be bigger than life, given the stadium-sized set. A gigantic volleyball and net will be used. Dancers will be scattered throughout, some in bathing suits, dancing, Hula-Hooping. PYT, the teen pop group with Tampa roots, will be singing a rendition of the Bee Gees' You Should be Dancing


Then, in 30 seconds, the field will be cleared. The Gasparilla scene comes next.

For that, producers recruited Ye Mystic Krewe, founders of Gasparilla. Dressed in pirate gear, they will be blasting the cannons.

"It's going to be loud," Fitzmorris warned. The Gasparilla scene will have an invasion, with dancers dressed as pirates running toward the inflatable city from one end of the field, and Ye Mystic Krewe from another.

Then, Raymond James Stadium will go live on CBS. Sting will be on stage singing Desert Rose

, his current single, while one group of dancers moves around on field in flowing costumes. Streamers will shoot upward. "It will be beautiful," said Fitzmorris.

During this time, the pirate dancers will be in their changing rooms. They have two minutes to change, so under their pirate costumes they'll be wearing red leotards. When Sting sings the line from Roxanne

, "you don't have to put on the red light," the dancers will come on field in short red dresses and fishnet stockings. "I've never worn fishnets before," said Jessica Duchene, 16.

The dancers won't see the game live, but instead will watch it after their performance from monitors inside the stadium. But that doesn't bother many of them. They get to share a field with the Backstreet Boys and Sting. And they get bragging rights at school.

"All of our friends hate us," said Whitney Warren, 15.

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