Washington football has been a part of Jade Kenny's life for as long as she can remember.
"I actually did a kids camp when I was young. I remember coming to practice in Ashburn in the bubble at the time and watching the cheerleaders perform when I was like eight," Jade recalled. "And then in high school, we did a halftime show at FedExField. So, the first time that I danced on the field was when I was 16."
From her days as a starry-eyed camper to where she is today, the franchise has a footnote in almost every chapter of her journey as a performer. Kenny is uniquely equipped to lead this team – as a dance talent, leader with multiple perspectives and connective force bridging multiple periods of the entertainment team's history.
Though Washington football has held such a distinctly important role in her life, it's not where her career as a professional dancer in the D.C. pro sports scene first started. Kenny got her start just a couple dozen miles from FedExField at Capital One Arena as a member of the Wizards' dance team.
"While I was at the Wizards, I looked up to the program [First Ladies of Washington]. I graduated from the University of Alabama a huge football fan, and I was looking for an opportunity to get back into the football world," Kenny said. "So, I tried out for the team and made it."
She was on the team for six memorable seasons that left a deep impact on her.
"For me, the thing I look back on was that sisterhood. And it's not often as an adult that you get to pursue your passion and you get to get paid for a hobby," Kenny said. "Having that sisterhood, that family at the time when you're working full time jobs and you live in a new city. Just like always having a place to go and people to check on you."
Her role in that family and, later, the franchise, grew as the seasons wore on. She became a co-captain and captain and then a host of the Women of Washington (WOW) podcast. She capped off her sixth season on the team with the distinct honor of being named Washington's 2020 Pro Bowl selection. Just as she was setting her sights on her seventh season as a performer, a need arose for a coach – the first coach of the historic co-ed Washington Football Entertainment Team.
"I think they were looking for someone who had boots-on-the-ground experience," Kenny said. "I had a conversation with leadership, and it just clicked…It's been really special because we get to use some of the historical knowledge and traditions that were here from the 50+ seasons of First Ladies to what it has become now. Keeping and preserving the past but also pushing forward to the future."
Combining this perspective with her leadership experience from her time as captain, Jade was an integral part of guiding the team through its first, unforgettable season as a co-ed team last year.
"We created something new to D.C. and new to the NFL as a whole, which came with this sense of 'We have to go out there and show everyone who we are,'" she said. "It started off kind of scary and then it just ended super magical. Every game felt really special to be able to create history together."
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)
Now, she gets to be a part of writing another chapter in Washington football history as she helps lead the team into its first season as the Command Force.
"I'm really excited now that restrictions have lifted for us to get back out community and get to meet fans more," Kenny said. "I'm just excited for the fans to come to the games, get to know the team and root for their favorite dance members."
One of the ways the team engaged with the community this summer was through a kids camp, an experience that was a true full-circle moment for the once camper. As Kenny gears up for the Command Force's inaugural season, she is eager to pull forward the magic they started to generate last year.
"I remember Cinco, one of our captains from Beat Ya Feet he was crying when we got off the stage in Richmond last year,"
Cinco was overcome with emotion, telling Kenny he wanted to feel that way everyday.
"I said 'Good news is you're gonna feel that way every Sunday, every time you touch the field, every game day, that's the feeling!" Kenny said. "That was the moment for me that, with the rebrand and with all the change that we had been through, that's where it made sense: everyone deserves an opportunity to feel that feeling. That is why we're all here and that's why I'm in this position."