Rider senior earns spot as Philadelphia Flyers cheerleader
Senior musical theatre major Anna Sanzone embraces every opportunity to perform. Most of the time, her performances are on stages, but as one of 20 cheerleaders for the Philadelphia Flyers, the Wells Fargo Center is her main stage.
"It's incredible to feel the energy from the crowd at the games and help keep the spirit alive," she says.
Sanzone's job is more than supporting her favorite NHL team at home games. She attends event appearances as a Flyers cheerleader and participates in promotional photoshoots. Since she was cast this fall, Sanzone has found herself dancing on the Philadelphia Art Museum steps, taking the Flyers' mascot Gritty on a parade around the stadium and participating in fan meet and greets.
"It's so surreal," she says. "Every day that I drive to the Wells Fargo Center and check in at the entertainment entrance, I feel very blessed to be a part of such a unique opportunity."
Though a New York native, Sanzone is a long-time Flyers fan who has countless memories of day trips with her father to attend games. When she saw the audition call this summer, she knew she had to try.
"It was a Thursday and the audition was on Saturday," she says. "I wasn't sure what to expect, but I knew I had to go."
After learning a dance combination and performing twice, Sanzone participated in an interview later that day and was offered the job.
Performing has always been Sanzone's goal. She says she knew musical theatre was her path around 8 years old.
"My parents were luckily very encouraging," she says with a laugh. "I was the kid who was into everything — dance, horseback riding, archery, gymnastics, cheerleading — but there's never been a glimmer of doubt that I wasn't going to study musical theatre."
Sanzone never visited Rider before she auditioned and was accepted. Once she stepped foot on campus, she knew she made the right choice.
"The footprint of how many fine and performing arts students there are on campus immediately validated my decision," she says. "There was such a community aspect that it made it feel like home."
Choosing Rider provided a wealth of opportunities Sanzone is sure she wouldn't have had elsewhere, from hopping on the train to New York City to take dance classes to immediately becoming involved in performances. She was a finalist in Rider's R Factor singing competition her freshman year and quickly joined Alpha Psi Omega, an honors theater fraternity, and the Student Entertainment Council. She has participated in a number of productions as a student including the cabaret Summer of 69: A Celebration of Woodstock, the play These Seven Sicknesses and worked behind the scenes of White Christmas. Most recently, she played a tribe member in Rider's production of the musical Hair.
Being a professional NHL cheerleader requires Sanzone to use many of the skills she's strengthened through Rider's Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre program.
"There's such an emphasis on making you a well-rounded performer, especially with dance and movement training in addition to singing, acting and the technical side," she says. "Rider has also helped me develop the confidence with it all too. The faculty here truly prepare you to go forth and audition."
Photos courtesy of Herb Von Goerres and HopePhoto