University of New Hampshire (UNH) alumnus Driss Dallahi, who majored in dance with minors in business administration and kinesiology, has been accepted to be a New England Patriots cheerleader, one of the two first men on the cheer team in over 30 years.
Even though he has been accepted into this elite group of cheerleaders, Dallahi did not actually start cheering until about a year ago.
“The first exposure I had to cheer was a small team called Gotham Cheer based in NYC that does volunteer work for different organizations in the NY area,” he said.
The audition process for the Patriots was different from what Dallahi was used to. It started with an optional workshop in January, and then preliminary auditions in early March, finals halfway through March, and ended with a two-week boot camp. At the end of the two-week boot camp, the final team was announced, and Dallahi found out he was a Patriots cheerleader.
“There were media interviews/trainings, tests of our knowledge of the team and industry, and how we worked cohesively as a team. It really pushed me so far outside of my comfort zone and I am so stoked to be able to continue to grow and learn with the organization,” Dallahi said.
Since he made the team, his schedule hasn’t slowed down.
“There are practices throughout the week where we will be learning new choreography, continuing with media training, and enduring the BMAX workouts which are designed by Andy Berler to keep us in the best shape possible,” he explained.
Even though Dallahi has only been cheering for a short time, he has been dancing ever since his mother signed him up for an all-boys hip hop class over 15 years ago. Dallahi credits his “crazy dance mom” for the success, as she provided supports and critiques throughout his dance career. Now a Patriots cheerleader; however, friends, family and people who he hasn’t heard from in years are coming out and showing their support for him, which Dallahi called a “humbling” experience that he is grateful for nonetheless.
He started taking dancing more seriously in high school, while also looking at shows like “So You Think You Can Dance” and to choreographers such as Wade Robson, Brian Friedman and Josie Walsh because of their “stunning work and influence on the industry.”
As for his other idol, Beyonce:
“I know it is a little cliche, but her presence, artistry and sheer talent have always been a bar that I want to live up to,” he said. “Always reinventing herself and molting a layer of skin almost to become a better version than before.”
The dance program at UNH challenged Dallahi in terms of his knowledge of terminology, the industry, and his own body. He said the program made him think of everything he had learned about dance and use it all at once, which pushed him outside of his comfort zone. Thus, his perspective on dance started to change from a solo competitive activity to wanting to be part of a team.
“There were so many different opportunities to get involved as well as opportunities to choreograph my own work which was so exciting,” he said, “With company, we had rehearsal every Saturday morning at 8 a.m. and that was perfect because it trained me for my now Saturday morning Patriots cheerleader practices!”
Dallahi says that he is thankful for the dance program at UNH and has made life-long friends throughout his college career.