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I became an NFL cheerleader at 29 and learned you're never too old to make your dreams come true

Anneta Konstantinides   

I became an NFL cheerleader at 29 and learned you're never too old to make your dreams come true
  • Dre DiLorenzo was a competitive dancer until she was 18.
  • DiLorenzo took a break from dance for 10 years, but fell back in love with it when COVID first hit.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Dre DiLorenzo, a Miami Dolphins cheerleader and dance teacher who lives in Miami and runs the popular TikTok account @dredilo. It has been edited for length and clarity.

I became an NFL cheerleader when I was 29 — 10 years after I stopped dancing. I'm now 32 and just finished being co-captain for my third season with the Miami Dolphins.

I want to show that you can get back into your passions or start a new one at any age and still be successful. A lot of people are afraid of what others will think or that they're too old and should be focused on their corporate careers. But not everything is linear. Everybody gets from point A to point B in their lives in different ways.

Here's how I did it.

A childhood immersed in the competitive dance world

My mom signed me up for dance when I was 3 years old, and I started competing at 6. I quickly started winning first place in my solo categories and sweeping the competition. When I was 11, my mom took me to my first big audition, and I landed the role of Clara in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. That was my first taste of dancing in a professional gig, and learning an entire Broadway show at that age instilled discipline and a hard work ethic.

From there, I continued my education with the New Jersey Ballet and American Ballet Theatre in New York. I was also one of 22 dancers worldwide accepted into Juilliard's summer program. I got to live in Lincoln Center — a dream come true.

But I took a break from dance when I hit 18. I decided to get my undergraduate degree, and then I moved to New York City and decided to focus on my professional career.

With anybody in something so intense at such a young age, when you have the opportunity to break free and see what else is out there, you realize there's a world of opportunity. It gives you time to indulge in other passions.

How COVID brought me back to dance

I explored my love for music and decided I wanted to get into that industry. I landed my dream job at Resident Advisor, and I went to music festivals around the world.

Looking back, I'm thankful that I had such amazing experiences. But pursuing a corporate career in New York is a nonstop grind — especially in your 20s. I was working so hard to pursue my professional goals, and I was achieving them, but there was something inside me that was still missing.


Hope this serves as your message to get back into the things you love! U CAN DO IT! #ballettok #fyp #balletclass #pointeshoes #ballerina #adultballet #danceprogress

♬ Waltz of the Flowers - The Nutcracker - Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

I didn't have a chance to think about dance until COVID hit. I was made redundant at my company and moved back home. Everything came to a standstill, but I had the opportunity to dream about dancing again.

With all this extra time, I started prioritizing my health again and working out. I got into the best shape of my life. I was still following popular dance choreographers and studios on social media, and during COVID, they began offering free classes. The online classes were great for me because I could train from the comfort of my own home and move at my own pace as I built my confidence back up with choreography. I started taking these classes and quickly realized, "Wow, I still got it."

From ballet to the NFL cheer team

The NFL cheerleaders were holding remote auditions, which was a huge deal. Before COVID, all these auditions were in person. I would've had to pick the team I wanted to audition for, buy the plane ticket, get a hotel room, and rent a car. Now, teams were accepting virtual auditions for the first time.

I decided I wanted to audition for a dance team and, with this new goal in mind, trained every day to become the best version of myself. I had a calendar with multiple goals written on it that I wanted to achieve so I had my best shot of getting on a team.

I had different workouts each day of the week in the morning, and at night, I took online classes. I'm very fortunate that ballet is the foundation of all dance styles, but classic technique is very, very different from dance team and cheer style. NFL cheerleaders need a diverse skill set because we perform different genres — hip-hop, Latin, pom, jazz, technique — so I made sure to submerge myself in each genre.

I submitted videos to a few NFL cheer teams and couldn't believe it when I made it to the finals for a few teams. But I had to narrow it down and just focus on one. I decided on the Miami Dolphins because I was most impressed with their program, and my skill set looked like it would lend itself best to their team.

I made it to the top 15 of finals, but the Miami Dolphins decided not to go forward with a new cheer team because of COVID-19. They said they wanted us to audition the next year, so I decided to fly to Miami in 2021 for the two to three-week audition process.

I went straight to the semifinals because I had already placed in the top 15 the year prior. They taught us a choreography piece to perform at the final audition, and I also had to choreograph a solo routine.

I hadn't done a solo in 11 years, so to be doing it for the Miami Dolphins cheerleaders felt crazy. It was nerves I hadn't experienced in so long, but good nerves. I wanted to do something different and stay true to myself, so I decided to do a pointe solo. I think that's a big reason I got on the team.

When they announced the new team and I heard my name, I started crying as I walked onto the stage. I couldn't believe I had something to show for all my hard work and that I'd be making my dream a reality.

A full-time dancer once again

Taking such a long break from dance gave me a greater appreciation for the art form and other styles. I became more open-minded to other opportunities and realized dancing professionally doesn't need to be on Broadway. It can be whatever brings you joy.

There aren't many classically trained ballet dancers in this space, and I couldn't find any dancers who had navigated a similar switch. That's why I started sharing my story on TikTok. I wanted to show people that you can reenter a hobby and still see success with it. I wanted to show that, with hard work and perseverance, you can do anything you want in this life.


Let’s bring this energy into 2023! #nflcheerleader #fyp #miamidolphinscheerleaders #2023goals #procheer #miamidolphins #nflplayoffs2023

♬ original sound - Boiler Room

The response on social media has been insane. So many people told me, "This is the inspiration I needed," or, "I thought I was too old to get back into dance, but you've inspired me to audition for NFL teams this year." I never thought I'd be influencing people that much, but I knew my story was relatable. I wanted to be that trailblazer for other dancers to look up to.

Dance is a full-time part of my life again. When I first joined the Miami Dolphins, I still worked my 9-to-5 job in the music industry. We have practices three days a week during the season, from 6:30 to 10 p.m., so I'd work and then go straight to practice. Game day is a four-hour marathon. We do a pregame routine, first-quarter and third-quarter end zone routines, and halftime performances.

It's the offseason now, and I just took a leap of faith — I'm now a freelance dancer and dance coach. I currently do private online training for professional dance teams and NFL and NBA cheer auditions. I also teach ballet, master classes, and intensives.

I'm back to where I'm supposed to be. And I feel more motivated than ever before to continue where I left off when I was 18.

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