Thursday, June 07, 2007

Streator dancer tries out for Luvabulls 

Posted by Sasha at 7:46 PM ET


Abbey Lechner has been dancing since she was in grade school, but she's moving on to the big-time now.

The 21-year-old Streator native has been spending her summer in Chicago trying out for the Luvabulls dance squad.

The Luvabulls perform at the United Center for Chicago Bulls basketball games. The team also makes appearances at trade shows and promotional and charitable events around the country as well as around the world for international basketball tournaments and events.

The group is considered to be one of the most recognized dance teams in sports.

Lechner, now a Columbia College student, was involved with the Streatorettes, the Streator Township High School competitive dance team. Since she's been in Chicago, though, she's had her sights set high: trying out for the famous Luvabulls.

"I've been following the Luvabulls on the Web site because I wanted to try out last year," said Lechner, who moved to Chicago to attend Columbia. "But I thought I would give myself a year to adjust to living in the city because it's such a big change."

To audition for the Luvabulls, a woman must be 21 years old and be either a full-time student or have a full-time job.

Lechner said prospective Luvabulls must "audition for the audition," which includes submitting pictures and filling out a three-page application. From there, she received a letter inviting her to audition. She estimated 150 women were invited, but that number does not include the 15 returning members.

Tryouts began Saturday with a two-part audition: the morning session was interview, freestyle dance and kicks; a dance was taught in the afternoon session.

In the morning, there were big cuts. Lechner said only six women were invited to stay from her morning group of 20

By the end of the day, only 35 remaining "rookies" and the 15 veterans were invited to attend Luvabulls training camp, Monday through Wednesday.

After the one-day tryout, Lechner noticed being a Luvabull has a lot to do with appearance.

"The coach was saying before we left to take it easy this weekend, to watch your weightÉ it's very strict on how you look and how you present yourself," she told The Times. "I think that's one of the main rules, taking care of yourself."

For Lechner, the most challenging part of trying out was dancing for eight hours straight.

"I tried to condition myself, but I was not prepared," she said. "I don't think anybody was prepared for the amount of work we did that day for the one tryout."

She expected the training camp to be just as hard, if not harder, than the initial tryout.

"The most rewarding part is probably being able to have the experience. We auditioned in the United Center, on the floor where Michael Jordan playedÉ we got to dance with the veterans, and that is something that not everyone would get to experience in their life," Lechner said. "Even if I don't advance, this is a huge goal that I've achieved."

Through the Luvabulls tryouts, Lechner has made friends along the way, though she was not expecting it.

"I went in there with the attitude like 'These girls are going to be really intense É really into themselves and not talking to me,'" she said. "Everyone I've talked to is awesome. They're all willing to help out."

She noted how everyone helped each other learn and practice routines.

A lot of women Lechner talked to have tried out three and four times before, so she told herself she can audition again if she does not make it this year.

"I don't want to be too confident because I didn't know what to expect," she said. "I think that if I don't make it this time, I will definitely try out again."

At Columbia, Lechner is studying journalism.

"I love it, it's going goodÉ I really like doing it in the city because we get to cover events going on downtown," she said. "We get to be next to real reporters from ABC. It's neat."

Being a Luvabull will work with Lechner's school schedule, as everything is based in the evening. Rehearsals are from 7 to 10 p.m. with primarily evening games.

"Everyone has been really excited and I like that," said Lechner of the support she's receiving. "Now I don't want to let people down ... I don't think people would take it that way, but now I really want to do it for everyone."

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