If you’ve taken a class at DEFINE Oakley or been to a Bengals game in the last few years, odds are you’ve experienced the positive and strong energy of Abby Siemer. A dancer, leader, instructor, and master trainer (among many other things!), this powerhouse has humbly earned some impressive accomplishments in the Cincinnati fitness community and beyond. In this story, you’ll learn how Abby found her passion for dance and fitness and get an interesting behind-the-scenes look at the Ben-Gals organization. More importantly, hers is a story of the power of positivity, and how paying attention to your heart and putting in the work can lead you to both amazing and unexpected places!
You’d probably expect that Abby Siemer was born rocking a leotard and pom-poms. While she’s been dancing since the age of three, it wasn’t quite the immediate success story you might imagine: “I was blessed with tight hips and hamstrings,” she laughs. “That, combined with my long limbs did not necessarily mean I was destined to be a dancer.”
It was actually Abby’s sister, Sarah, who had the real knack and natural ability from the get-go. “But I stuck with it,” Abby recalls, “because it was convenient for my mom to drive us both to dance instead of bopping all over the place!” The year Sarah was invited to join the competition team, Abby felt her own passion for dance burning like a flame inside her. If she wanted to compete, she knew what she had to do.
Abby put in some serious work: improving her flexibility, developing a rapport with her teachers, and boosting her confidence on stage. The work didn’t go unnoticed, and Abby earned a spot on the competition team the following year. “Fun fact, [my sister] Sarah and I did a tap duet every year the moment I joined the team until I graduated high school!” Abby’s dedication and love for dance eventually earned her a full-ride dance scholarship to Northern Kentucky University. When graduation came, she made a promise to herself that she would continue to find elements of dance, namely “passion, connection, expression, confidence, and balance” in everything she would do.
Ironically, becoming a Ben-Gal Professional Cheerleader was not on Abby’s radar until her good friend Danielle asked her to come and dance with her at one of the clinics. “I had no desire to tryout,” Abby says, “but I wanted [Danielle] to feel confident through the process, so I committed to being her hype girl for tryouts!” Five minutes into the very first dance number, Abby had fallen completely in love all over again. Even though she was instructing rhythm-based workout classes at DEFINE Oakley, she hadn’t danced stylistically or competitively in four years. But the atmosphere, challenge, community of women, and potential opportunities ahead were tugging at her heart. Just as she had listened to her intuition as a young girl, Abby committed to put in the work and to go for it alongside her friend.
The Pro Cheer tryout process is no walk in the park. For the Ben-Gals organization, “it involved a couple more clinics and two rounds of eliminations, interviews, and a final audition that was open to the public before they announced the 2017 roster of girls to represent the team. Finals felt very much like a pageant,” Abby describes, with multiple challenging routines designed to test each person’s technique, style, personality, and fitness. The competitors performed in alphabetical order, “which meant that I was first for everything!” Talk about nerve-wracking. When the final twenty-eight names and pictures were announced, both Abby and Danielle had made the squad.
So began the practices and game prep for the 2017 season. The Ben-Gals practice two nights a week for about three hours (and up to three times a week in July) and clock in a full 9-hour day for home game Sundays. For a typical 1:00pm kickoff home game, “I usually get up at 6:00am, get full glammed, swoop Danielle from her apartment at 7:15, then we have an hour at the stadium to touch up anything we need before we head to the gym to practice at 8:30. From there, we go outside to run our routines on the field, head back to the locker room to eat a provided meal, and glam again for calendar signings. After that, we come back down to take pictures in the locker room then head to the field for pre-game. We dance, dance, dance; come in to freshen up at half time and then finish the second half around 5:00pm, depending on the length of the game.” Quite a long day, but “so incredibly fun and fulfilling,” Abby says.
Besides the time commitment, the most important expectation of each team member is to represent the team as best they can, both on and off the field. “Something we like to say is ‘be someone whom your teammates are proud to dance and live alongside’; be the best version of you.” For Abby, that means being positive, encouraging, confident, generous, hardworking, consistent, determined, athletic, open, and agile. These qualities and her dedication set Abby apart and she was selected to be a Ben-Gal captain for the 2018 season! This was no accident. Abby’s rookie season had brought so much personal growth that she had found herself with another deep desire: to lead the team and make sure that each member felt poised for success. Her coaches noticed when she offered to meet with teammates over coffee, organized extra practice sessions, provided feedback to her peers, and motivated the squad in a powerfully positive way. When you love “the sisterhood,” it comes naturally, Abby smiles brightly. “It really is a special bond and something I will forever be grateful to have been a part of, long after I retire.”
Recent headlines have shined a less than flattering light on the “Pro Cheer dream,” revealing just how vulnerable dancers in some organizations are unrealistic body expectations, remarkably low compensation, and even harassment. Abby’s experience has, for the most part, been extremely positive: “It is a job and each person understands expectations going into their role, like any career. At the end of the day, we do this because we truly love it.” However, these two seasons as a Ben-Gal have not been without their challenges. “This year as a captain I feel like I have grown so much in giving feedback. I learned how to have hard conversations; I mean HARD; create goals, and help hold ladies accountable.” She credits her time working at Lululemon, a company grounded in vision, goal-setting, and feedback, for the backbone she relies on in this leadership role. “When you see ladies actioning and crushing their goals, inside and outside of the organization, it elevates the caliber of our team, and to be a part of that is absolutely awe-inspiring,” she says.
Her leadership and infectious positivity continue to be recognized, and Abby will proudly represent Cincinnati and all her Ben-Gal sisters at the Pro Bowl on January 27 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. “I feel so honored to have been selected alongside 25 other amazing women across the country who have made such powerful impacts in their own communities. It’s unbelievably humbling.” Off the field, Abby was recently promoted to Analyst in her current full-time job. In May, she married her husband Austin in San Francisco, and he continues to lovingly support all of her many passions. The two have a real-estate business and have accumulated nine rental properties over the last two years together. To top it all off, she’s recently been certified as a Master Trainer for DEFINE and will be hosting trainings in Cincinnati for new instructors.
In case you didn’t catch all of that, Abby is not only a Ben-Gal captain and DEFINE Oakley instructor, but also a full-time Analyst, a partner in a growing real-estate business, a wife, friend, daughter, sister… the list goes on! “I wouldn’t have it any other way,” laughs Abby. “I’m a list master and swear by my digital calendar and iPhone reminders.” Where she gets all of her energy to lead and encourage a 6:00am cycling class, I’ll never know. “At the end of the day,” she says, “I’m always making sure I do at least one thing that brings me joy and fills my love bucket.” A great tip for balancing a very full plate in and around the Cincinnati fitness community.
You can catch Abby teaching DEFINE rev (indoor cycling), body (barre), and bounce (mini trampoline) each one time a week at the DEFINE Oakley studio. Follow her journey to the Pro Bowl next week on Instagram @abby_siemer and @bengalscheerleading. We’re cheering for you, Abby. Who Dey!