When Christie Horan got ready to choreograph a performance for the Washington Football Entertainment Team last summer, she approached it like she would any other routine. She got out her pen and paper to draw out her vision, listened to music and performed as much of the dreamt-up routine as she could herself. The process was the same as the she'd gone through hundreds of times. The outcome though that mid-July day was something different.
"There was just a lot of magic and electricity in the room that I haven't experienced from teams before," Horan said.
It left an impression on her. So much so that she wanted to come back and choreograph again. She choreographed three routines for the team last season. In April, the lifelong lover of movement leveled up her involvement with the team, joining Petra Pope and Jade Kenny as the third member of the coaching staff that will lead the first-ever Command Force in the 2022 season.
Horan's journey into dance began before she was even brought into the world. Her mother, a woman who never trained formally as a dancer but loved music and impromptu boogie sessions in the house, thought about how maybe dancing would be an activity her future daughter would enjoy. When Horan was three years old, her mom put her into her first dance classes. It was then that dance became a core part of her life.
"It was just something that brought me a lot of joy. When there were challenges or if there was something uncertain in my life, I knew that dance was a constant," Horan said.
On Saturday, April 23 and Sunday April 24, the Washington Commanders Entertainment Team held open auditions for the 2022 season at FedExField. At the end of the weekend, the panel of judges selected the first-ever Commanders Entertainment team -- a group of 44 individuals made up of dancers, gymnasts, Beat Ya Feet dancers, breakers and more who will perform at all Commanders home games and participate in year-round community and team events across D.C., Maryland and Virginia. (Photos by Emilee Fails and Joseph Noyes/Washington Commanders)
That constant flowed into college where she was a four-year member of the University of Kentucky dance team. Feeding off and giving back energy on the sidelines at Wildcat games, she developed a strong interest in performing at sporting events. Around this same time, her mentor at Kentucky nudged Horan into an element of dance that set her on the path she's now been immersed in for over a decade.
"She is the one who encouraged me to start choreographing as a business. I used to make up dances on the sidelines for my team," Horan explained. "It was something that I expressed interest in and that I had a knack for. I started choreographing for high schools in the Kentucky area."
She loved that experience so much that she moved to Maryland right after graduation to take a job at a choreography school. Settling in the DMV area, she threw herself into her passion for movement. She built her own choreography company, Powerhouse Danceworks, started a fitness business with a focus on women's empowerment and earned a spot on the Wizards dance team. Horan had transformed that tickle of joy she first felt when she was a toddler into a full-blown career, gaining a reputation as a local talent.
Which is why Jade Kenny, a former Wizards dancer and head coach with the then-Washington Football Entertainment team, came calling last summer. Though Horan had never worked with an NFL team, she embraced the challenge of creating routines that worked with the stadium setting and handful of dance styles.
"On that field, you are not just on a stage where you're watching the dance from the front, the stage is 360 and goes up super high. So, the visuals from all angles have to look aesthetically pleasing." Horan said. "And making sure you highlight each section so each artist – whether its dancer, gymnasts or Beat Ya Feet – get a moment to shine as well."
The opportunities to do the unprecedented, collaborate with amazing coaches and the skill and camaraderie among group motivated Horan to want to work with the team in a larger capacity as an assistant coach. As she looks ahead to the inaugural season of the Command Force, she is excited for what the team has in store.
"Coming together as a team is going to be super powerful this year," Christie said.