The Golden State Warriors pulled off a squeaker against the Sacramento Kings this past weekend, advancing to the second round of the NBA Playoffs and presumably inspiring more than a few impromptu dance parties. But for one group of older Dubs fans, dancing for the Blue and Gold isn’t just about spontaneous celebration—it’s a job and a sacred duty.
Known as the Hardwood Classics, this Warriors dance team is comprised of passionate movers and shakers all over the age of 55 who relish the opportunity to rev up the crowds at Chase Center on game days.
Every year, hundreds audition for the Warriors senior dance team, which started in 2018—but only around two dozen make the cut.
This year’s team features 27 thriving older adults. They range in age from 55 to 77 and travel from all over the Bay Area—with some even coming from as far away as Los Angeles, Reno and Palm Springs to cut a rug on the court.
Some are retired, while others balance family duties as parents and grandparents and thriving professional lives as judges, lawyers, graphic designers, engineers and real estate agents. Some are fitness or studio dance hobbyists while others have professional dance experience from previous careers as dancers for sports teams such as for the Los Angeles Lakers—but all share a passion and enthusiasm for the Warriors.
“Your personality is what transcends more than ‘Oh, can she do a high kick. What's your split look like?’” said Laura, 64, a former Raiderette who’s been with the Hardwood Classics for five seasons. (The team members only use their first names.) “This is a second chapter for all of us, so there's no expectations with those high standards of doing a high kick.”
That being said, the Hardwood Classics’ most mature member, Jan, can still pull off the splits with ease and flair at 77-years-young. The trick is a physically impressive crowd-pleaser, but on the court, charisma is just as important as endurance and flexibility.
Sabrina Ellison, the Golden State Warriors’ director of entertainment teams, explained that previous dance experience isn’t required, but a knack for showmanship is a must. “No matter their background, we selected the best squad of performers, and you can feel it every time they hit the court,” Ellison said.
The team holds a handful of rehearsals in preparation for every one-minute performance; the squad typically performs 20 to 26 times per season, and it can take over 12 hours to perfect any one routine. One of the team’s favorite numbers is a mix of “Survivor"-themed songs because it speaks to the members’ many life experiences—from becoming grandparents to losing loved ones to seeing their children graduate or get married.
“We've all collectively had some journeys,” Laura said. “We just consider ourselves champions, warriors, survivors.”
Sometimes the squad members feel a bit more pain on the court than their younger counterparts, Laura acknowledges, but they power through and tough it out.
“I know that we feel like maybe a little bit more aches and pains,” Laura said, “but then I've also danced with 20-year-olds that take Advil before they even start performing.”
Before every performance, the teams circles up to chant and share positive affirmations and kudos. For special occasions, such as the playoffs, the team’s members will wear yellow laces on their white hightop sneakers.
“We [...] reflect on just how lucky and special all of this is then take that inspiration to the court,” Ellison said.
And while the Hardwood Classics dancers are paid for their services, the honor of dancing for the Warriors and Dub Nation means much more than a paycheck to them—especially when the squad steps out on the court.
“Our main goal is bringing our smiles, our joy and our effervescent, genuine passion for being part of this whole organization to the court,” Laura said. “We all know at that moment that this is a gift.”
Christina Campodonico can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org