This fall, Melanie Sanches, D15, will spend her days in the Tufts Dental Clinic like hundreds of other TUSDM predoctoral students. She’ll be working with patients, learning from the practice coordinators and other faculty members, and preparing for life after graduation.
But come Sunday afternoons, you’ll find her at Gillette Stadium in a sparkly outfit, cheering as one of the New England Patriots Cheerleaders.
“It just seems like it happened so fast,” she said. “I didn’t think I was actually going to make it, and then suddenly I’m on the team!”
Sanches was recruited in early May to the cheerleading team for the 2014 – 2015 season, and will be seen on the sidelines at all Patriots home games. She became interested in the position through a friend from college who was on the team. She was planning on trying out for the previous season, but cancelled when she learned that the auditions were the same day as the D15’s White Coat Ceremony.
“I decided it wasn’t meant to be for that season,” she said. “And it worked out better – I think I would have been way too busy here last year.”
Sanches said the month-long audition process took place in April and included several auditions and three rounds of cuts, culminating in an intensive two-week boot camp with fitness and physical training, choreography, public speaking exercises and promotional appearance training drills. There were 320 applications submitted during this year’s auditions, but only 17 veterans and 11 rookies, including Sanches, were chosen to join the team. Practices take place on weekends and one night a week, and every cheerleader is expected to make 50 appearances at events throughout the year. It’s a lot of work, but Sanches said there are also many amazing opportunities that come with the job.
“One of the first things we did was travel to Cancun for our annual swimsuit calendar photo shoot,” she said. “I realized then how much fun it is to be a part of this team and how fortunate I am to get this experience.”
Though she wasn’t a cheerleader before joining the Patriots, Sanches has always loved performance. She competed in pageants, and danced tap, jazz, and ballet for ten years, including for the Dance, Theater and the Arts Competition Team in her hometown of Prospect, Conn. Balancing dental school and her new position will be difficult but she’s not worried.
“It will definitely be an adjustment, but it’s flexible in a lot of ways,” she said. “I’ve already completed my externship, and I think I’m doing really well in clinic. So I don’t feel as stressed.”
Her contract with the Patriots lasts for one year. If she decides she would like to continue being a cheerleader after graduation she will need to re-audition next April with the rest of the returning veterans and hopeful new applicants. For now, she is enjoying the adventure.
“They have 69,000 seats in Gillette Stadium – it’s a big audience and I don’t know what to expect,” she said. “But I’m so excited. I just feel really lucky.”