• March 22, 2017
The Blues Dance Squad on Eden Park last Saturday night during the Blues v Highlanders game. Photo: Tayla Mitchell
Bluebeard, the Blues pirate, has been pushed overboard.
The Super Rugby team’s first home game saw their old nautical mascot sidelined by an all-female troupe of dancers.
Robyn Rowley, general manager of brand and community for the Blues said “the pirate no longer reflected the Blues brand. He “didn’t help position a Blues game at Eden Park as a dynamic, exciting, modern, live sports entertainment event,” she said.
Ms Rowley cautioned against giving the replacements the wrong name. “We deliberately refer to the dancers as the Blues Dance Squad - rather than girls or cheerleaders. The dancers were recruited for their ability and athleticism.
"We have been working collaboratively with Claire Baxter – who runs the squad and is a former SKYCITY cheerleader -- to present a professional dance squad on-field,” Ms Rowley said.
Ms Baxter backed her comments. “The biggest challenge this year is changing the mindset of the fans to seeing the team as a dance squad and not a cheer team - which costuming, a higher level of dance skill, and adding male members for performances should enable us to do.”
Ms Baxter does have plans to collaborate with an urban team for an upcoming performance this season. She had hoped male dancers would attend the auditions, but only female dancers came.
The Blues aren’t the only sports team to have dancers or cheerleaders before kick-off. Many South African Super Rugby sides have cheerleaders, and the Australian Big Bash team have mixed dance squads.
Fans at the first performance had a mixed reaction to the new crew. Said Lynsey Devine,“It’s like we’ve gone back 20 years - and not in a good way.”
Some men in their 40s were with their children, “and they sat there and thoroughly enjoyed the show.” she added.
Ms Devine believed there was no need for any pre-match entertainment, but if the Blues insisted on it then something that appealed to fans of all ages would be better, she suggested.
The team’s next match is at QBE Stadium on Saturday, when they play the Bulls.