Justin Timberlake’s tribute to Prince during halftime of Super Bowl LII wowed fans across the country, but it wasn’t the show’s only surprise with Minnesota ties.
What fans may not have noticed at first glance was the contribution by local talent, including the Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders who participated as dancers during Timberlake’s show.
“Obviously our first hope was that we would be on the sidelines of the game, but to have the alternative as the host of the Super Bowl, to have our dancers be able to use their talent to work on a professional production level, it was a thrill,” said Director of Women’s Initiatives and MVC Head Coach Tami Hedrick. “Even if they weren’t doing certain parts of the show, watching and learning everything that goes into producing a show like that was such a great learning experience for all of them. And then of course the performance opportunity to dance with Justin Timberlake was a highlight.”
The cheerleaders underwent a costume change and participated in different sections of the performance. Also included in the show were the University of Minnesota Marching Band and hundreds of metro-area high school dance team members.
Adding to the thrill of dancing on the Super Bowl “stage” was the excitement of finally letting family and friends in on the secret that the cheerleaders had diligently kept for weeks. For the sake of keeping the show as much of a surprise as possible, all of the local participants were asked to refrain from sharing their involvement in halftime.
“It was super hard for the two or three weeks of rehearsals to try to keep it from friends, family, work – we just told them we were doing Super Bowl appearances,” said Kali, a three-year veteran and MVC team captain. “And then to finally perform and get to tell people, it was a relief, and then they also got to celebrate with us in that amazing accomplishment too, so it was fun.”
In addition to more than 70 MVC appearances during Super Bowl week – spread out among the team – the ladies participated in two weeks of rehearsals, almost all of them running for eight hours at a time.
Lauryn, a four-year MVC captain who has been with the team for six seasons, explained that the practices allowed time for individual groups to learn additional movements and formations, and then gradually all of the aspects were woven together.
“We had four practices with Justin himself, which was so fun,” Lauryn said. “It was honestly like a mini Justin Timberlake concert that happened … it was amazing.
“A lot of us MVC girls, we connected with girls that we grew up dancing with, too, because a lot of them now coach high school dance teams,” Lauryn added. “So it was so fun to just reconnect with those we’d grown up with and be able to go through this kind of experience together and be so supportive of the U of M Marching Band and just kind of have that, ‘You know, this is our house that we’re hosting the Super Bowl in. It’s our home, and we’re excited to show everyone what a great community we are and how happy we are to be a part of it.’ ”
While the cheerleaders were a part of the surprise performance, the Prince tribute was kept largely a secret from even them.
Different pieces of the show were unveiled during different rehearsals, and the guest performers didn’t realize the magnitude of the tribute until halftime of Super Bowl LII. Kali said the nod to Prince as a Minnesota icon was her favorite part of the show.
“It went back to the Minnesota theme,” Kali said. “We didn’t know what was happening until the last day of rehearsal, and then they gave us a little bit of an idea. They played the music all the way through, but we didn’t see the stadium lit up in purple, we didn’t see the display of downtown in purple, so it was really cool the day of to be surprised by that full tribute and see everybody in the stands [participating].”
Hedrick was proud of her team and grateful for the opportunity, emphasizing the privilege of being included in the performance.
“It was great that they tied in … all these different aspects of the talent that’s in Minnesota that were brought together in that halftime show,” Hedrick said. “It brought tears to my eyes to see our dancers down on the field getting to be a part of that. It was a blessing.”