Saturday, July 28, 2007

2007 Laker Girl Auditions 

Posted by Sasha at 5:23 PM ET

by Ty Nowell
Los Angeles Lakers
July 21, 2007
Photo Gallery

It’s 9am and over 400 women continue stretching across the gym floor at the Toyota Sports Center as they prepare for the first round of the 2007 Laker Girl auditions. There’s tension in the air as Laker Girls Director Lisa Estrada comes on the loud speaker to welcome all the participants and break down the day's events. The anticipation level rises as the music starts up and the ladies begin to learn their first set of 8-counts.

Since their inception in 1978 the Laker Girls have become known internationally as one of the finest professional dance teams in the world. While the Lakers “Showtime” era took hold of the NBA through the 1980s, the Laker Girls became synonymous with the glitz and glamour of the Hollywood crowd. This tradition continues today as the Laker Girls audition is one of the most well attended in the league.

Here’s how the day unfolds for the hopefuls.

The audition process was surprisingly grueling to this dance neophyte. The process starts with everyone receiving a wristband as they enter the gym showing that they’ve filled out the appropriate documents. Round 1 starts with the entire gym full of girls being taught a routine in a little less than 30 minutes (including practice time). This seemed like way too short a time to learn all the twists, turns, jumps, and hand placements, but I’m also not a professional dancer.

The ladies are then lined up against the east wall and perform the routine in groups of three. As they reach the west wall at the end of their routine the dancers are either given a ticket and told “Please Stay” or “No Thank You” and are asked to exit through the outer doors where they get their wristband cut off.

The first round is effective in its design, weeding out about half of the group.

A little under 200 girl are left for the second round of the day and at this point stop being “nameless girl with a wristband” and become “nameless girl with a wristband and a number as a means to identify themselves.”

We are treated to some new tunes (more specifically it’s “a” new tune, we’ll be here for nine hours today and only hear four different songs) and some new 8-counts. This routine is decidedly more complicated than the previous one and it occurs to me that the first round is really just about doing a favor to the girls that don’t have the dance chops because there is no way they would be able to hang with this one.

We’re also joined by the ladies from the 2006-07 Laker Girls squad that are hoping to return for next year. Having previously been a member of the team does not give you a free pass for the next year. Every returnee has to go through the process with the newbies.

The ladies are called to the middle of the court in random groups of three and asked to perform the new choreography for the panel of ten judges. The individual judges then check off Yes, No, or Maybe for each girl. These results are tallied up to determine who moves along. The judges then meet privately to hammer out a final decision on the maybes.

Lisa returns and calls out the numbers of the girls making it to the next round (roughly 110) before breaking for lunch.

Round 3 is more of the same. We get a new song and new choreography while we all have some new food in our stomachs as well. The ladies seemed to be split down the middle on those who ate a real lunch and those who were too nervous to get anything more than liquids down.

Another new, longer, more complicated routine is taught and once again the ladies are brought up in random groups of three to perform.

Once again, cuts are made the same way, and the group is pared down to 68 women.

’06-’07 Squad Update: All 13 returnees are still alive.

The 68 remaining contenders line up across the court in numerical order for the start of the fourth round.

Most Laker fans may only know the squad from their time on the STAPLES Center floor, but the Laker Girls are also actively involved in many community initiatives as well as representing the organization at many off-the-court events.

The judges use Round 4 as a means to evaluate the ladies personality, as well as their individual dancing styles. Each performer is asked to come up to the front of the room, give their name, explain why they want to be a Laker Girl, and then answer any questions the judges ask of them. After that, they do some freestyle dancing and then return to the line and await the final cut of the day.

The anxiety level is at an all-time high as the judges convene to select the group that will be going through the final interview process. Some pace alone nervously, some try to spark up a conversation, the returnees huddle together and take pictures.

The judges emerge with a list of 40. As the numbers are called in numerical order it is immediately apparent which girls have been passed over and which will be coming back to finish the process. The ladies that have made the finals try not to cheer too loudly in front of the ones that have just been cut, but their happiness spills over as the final 40 remain at center court.

The rest of the week consists of individual interviews before the final call-back on Thursday night.

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