Lake Charles Native Gabby Barnes Is A Member Of The Saintsations
By Kerri Cooke
It takes many people to pull off an NFL football game. While the players on the field of a Saints game are the center of attention, there is another group of athletes expending enormous amounts of energy — the Saintsations.
Gabby Barnes is a Lake Charles native who has been involved in the Saintsations for the past two years. Barnes says her parents tried in vain to rouse her interest in many different sports in school. It wasn’t until Barnes joined Tammy Palmer’s Center Stage Dance Co. at the age of nine that she found her passion. (She had been taking ballet classes since the age of three but says she never took them seriously.)
She thrived on the live environment where she could perform and hear and see an audience. She traveled to places such as Texas, Tennessee and Florida to dance in front of audiences. For the first time, Barnes says, “my parents didn’t have to force me.”
When Barnes was attending high school at Barbe, she was involved with the dance line team, the Barbe Bluebells, as well as Tammy Palmer’s Center Stage Dance Co. Barnes says that after school, she practiced with the dance line, went to eat supper and then trained at Tammy Palmer’s until 9 pm. She continued this routine until she became co-captain of the Bluebells her senior year, at which point she pulled out of Tammy Palmer’s.
Barnes had dreams and goals about where her dancing would lead her. Her plan was to attend LSU and dance as a Tiger before going on to try out to become a Saintsation.
Barnes’ love of football runs deep. This love is far from reserved for the men in her family. Barnes says her mother loves playing Fantasy Football and beats others at it. “Ever since I remember, LSU and the Saints were the best teams ever,” Barnes says. She still remembers when the Saints won the Super Bowl and how her parents didn’t make her go to school the next day because it was like a holiday.
Life has a way of altering our plans and moving us where we need to be. Barnes said she didn’t make it into LSU because she isn’t good at standardized testing, a problem many students face. She was then faced with a dilemma. What would become of her dreams now?
During her senior year, Barnes found out that Saintsations audition prep classes were being held. Her mom convinced her to give it a try. Barnes says she took the class, loved everything about it and decided to try out for the Saintsations even though she wasn’t even attending college yet.
She took her senior finals and commuted between Lake Charles and New Orleans to audition. Barnes says she thought there was “no way I’m going to make it.” However, much to her surprise, she was accepted for the team. She says, “it still feels like a dream sometimes.” She never imagined she would attain her dream even earlier than she had planned.
Barnes says that “being on the sidelines and in the dome is electrifying.” She explains that you can feel the vibration from the sound of the fans in the stands. Also, seeing the football players up close on the field is quite an experience.
There is one game in particular which Barnes remembers vividly. It was the game when Drew Brees broke the NFL record for most passing yards. Barnes says it was cool witnessing history as Brees’ wife and children came out onto the field and confetti rained down everywhere.
Being a Saintsation takes a certain level of athleticism. The team dances the whole time the players are on the field as they hype up the crowd. This requires stamina, regular workouts and a lot of practice. Barnes says the intensity of the dances and tricks go up every year. The dance styles include hip hop and jazz: styles which work well in an entertainment setting. Game days are so intense that Barnes says she can’t move the next day.
Having just auditioned for her third year as a Saintsation, Barnes says that being a part of the team has taught her the importance of taking in the moment and has matured her and taught her responsibility. Barnes is thankful for the experience and the friendships she has made.
She is currently attending Baton Rouge Community College for a degree in business with a minor in marketing. She plans on transferring to LSU and then, possibly, attending graduate school in New Orleans. The possibility is still open for her to continue being a Saintsation even then. She is allowed to audition every year for as long as she is able to keep up with the physical demands.
She is considering the possibility of working in medical sales in the future. One thing about her future is for sure, though. Barnes says her goal after Saintsations is to become a season ticket holder because she will “still be going to all the games. There’s no doubt about that.”
Barnes describes dance as her “happy place” and says she doesn’t know what life would be like without dance. She says, “I connect with it. I don’t stress about it like school.”