Thursday, July 19, 2007

PCB Field Trip: the 2007 LA Clippers Dance Team Audition (Part Deux) 

Posted by Sasha at 11:52 PM ET

When we last saw our heroines (in part 1), anticipation was high as
they waited for the results of the first cut.

And now, the saga continues...

(Read Part 1 and Part 3)

The First Cut
The judges came back at 12:30. Sadly, it was time to send some girls home. Jessie started off by encouraging everyone who got eliminated to come to a Clippers game, learn all about the dancers’ style, and please audition again in 2008. Then she read off the numbers.

When the dust settled, half of the group – 110 girls – were left standing. FYI - #13 and #58 made it to the next round. Keep your eye on those two...

This was when the veterans showed up. (Girls on last year’s squad get to bypass the first round of auditions.) Shockingly, this year there were only six members of last year’s squad at auditions. It’s unprecedented to have so many open spots. This just happened to be the year that a bunch of people retired or moved away.

One girl was leaving town to go work on a cruise ship.
Love...exciting and new. Come aboard, we're expecting yooooouuuuu...

I will never understand why Dr. Bricker got all the chicks.

Wait - now I forgot what I was talking about.
Drat. I'm sure I was on the verge of something truly profound...

The veterans (L-R): Ashley, Kristin, Harmony, Whitney, Shannon, and Taylor

I don’t know what it was with the veterans. Maybe it’s just because they were standing together like that, but they definitely had that “thing.” They were extra sparkly or ...something. I can’t explain it. They didn’t have extra crystals on their outfits or gobs of body glitter, they were just...sparkly. And I’m going to leave it at that, because I know you're snickering at me. Had you been there, you’d know exactly what I am talking about.

From the newbie perspective, it must’ve been very intimidating when the vets showed up. On the other hand, if there were only six of them that meant 12 open spots for new girls. The new girls will probably never see better odds.

(Ok, technically all 18 spots were open - if that's what you choose to believe. My personal feeling is that one of the vets would have to lose a limb to get booted off the squad. Or else go all crazy at the audition and run around beating people with an umbrella.)

Moving on to other topics...

Without a doubt, the prize for best audition outfit goes to Harmony. Check this out:

Harmony said one of her girlfriends made this for her. (Why don't I have those kinds of friends?)

I hope this sort of thing is the friend’s job and not just a hobby because whoever she is, she’s got mad skillz, yo. (Did I just say "mad skillz"? Yo?? Man, I am so hip, it scares me sometimes.)

Anyway, Harmony was totally rocking it. Not in a "Don’t you wish your girlfriend was hot like me?" kind of way. More like an "I got my outfit. I got my hair did. Let's do this." kind of way. You gotta respect that.

I immediately booked it over there to take a picture. I felt like a fool asking her to turn around so I could take a picture of the back, but come on - the back is totally cute too. Check out the Clippers logo. (Seriously, who is the person who designed this? I would like to talk to her.)

Besides, five minutes later, I saw the videographer filming Harmony's rear end. Now who's the weirdo?

Round 2: The Jazz Combination
The second round was a jazz combination to Avril Levigne’s “Girlfriend.” This round had a higher “cute” factor than the first one. It gave the dancers a chance to show more personality and demonstrate their showmanship. The girls were instructed to freestyle for a couple of 8-counts, and then move into the choreography.

The whole thing was quite - dare I say it? Sassy.
Yep, sassy is the word.

CORRECTION: Grease is the word.
Sassy is a state of mind.

After Andy ran through the new choreography a few times, I dashed out to buy some more batteries. (How was I to know TWELVE double As wouldn’t be enough? Cripes, I'm not trying to power a small country. I just want to take a few pictures.)

I had to hurry though. They teach this stuff SO fast, I was afraid I’d miss something. Andy called it “power auditioning,” and he wasn't kidding either.

Honestly, I don’t know how these girls are able to retain the information. By the time you get to the final eight counts, how are you supposed remember the first eight? Or anything else for that matter? It's only been 20 minutes!!!

Round 2 Audition
I got back just as Andy dismissed the girls to prep for the second round of auditions. It was excellent timing, if I do say so myself. (And I believe I just did.) Then it was time to go through the audition process again – this time with a different panel of judges.

It was the same deal as before. Everyone lined up numerically and auditioned in groups of three. Unlike the first round, the girls danced side by side. At this point in the audition process, they really had to know their stuff because there was zero opportunity for brain sucking.
    Brain sucking [breyn ‘suhk-ing]: watching the girl in front of you out of the corner of your eye. Using her to cue the next move. Hopefully following her quickly enough that no one notices you haven't got a clue what comes next.
The judges wanted to see that the girls understood that this job means performing in an arena. Thousands of people. Biiiiig venue. But also intimate – more so than a theater or football field. Some of those thousands of people are closerthanthis. You need the face. You need the energy. You need big moves. Basically, you need to work it.
    Random observation: An eye-catching outfit really helps you stand out in round one, but it only gets you so far. After that, it’s all about the talent and showmanship. Either you have it, or you don’t. And if you don’t, there’s no outfit in the world that can help you.

The free-styling bit was the dancers’ first chance to stand out. The key was to find a way to do that without being obnoxious about it. It’s not like you can go around throwing elbows and tripping people. Not overtly, anyway. (Not that anyone would. I’m just saying.)

The less experienced girls mostly stood there and waited for the music to start. The more experienced girls realized what was required, and started off with a snazzy pose. You know - give 'em the old Razzle Dazzle.

Who knew you could pack so much activity into 16 counts of music? Some girls did leg extensions or triple pirouettes. A couple of girls did some flips. (If I knew anything about gymnastics, I could tell you exactly what all they were doing. But I don’t. So I won’t.)

One girl danced her way right up to the judges’ table and back to her spot just in time to jump into the choreography. Every eye was on her. Now that's what I call strategy. I must applaud her. Well played!

Many of the girls in the latter part of the line saw what was going on and decided to change it up a bit themselves. There’s always a risk when you do that though. If you try to add stuff in at the last minute, you risk blanking out on the rest of the choreography. (Don’t ask me why I know that. I just do. And no, I don't want to talk about it.)

When each group of three finished dancing, they were instructed to walk up to the judges’ table, and stand there for a moment, so the judges could get a good look at them. This had to be the longest ten seconds of the audition process. But this was also real life, so you gotta get used to it. If you make the team, this is your future:

Learning and perfecting a dance in 45 minutes.

People watching your every move from all four sides of the room.

Standing there, smiling and projecting confidence you may or may not feel.

Sucking in your gut as hard as you can.

Dancing with your hair stuck to your face and various parts of your outfit riding up.

Uh-huh. It's ALLLLLL glamour.

    Random observation: That girl in the shiny orange shorts has the longest legs I have ever seen on a human being. When her leg came down from that last high kick, there was snow on her shoe. I am not even kidding.
You know what? The trouble with these girls is they make it look so effortless. And really, aren't they just endangering us all? If you ask me, it's downright irresponsible. They trick civilians like myself into thinking “Hey, I’ve got rhythm. I go to the club and get my swerve on. I could totally do that.”

That’s how people wind up in the hospital.

There really ought to be some kind of disclaimer somewhere. Perhaps on the jumbotron. Or on the back of their costumes. "Warning: do not try this at home." (Or anywhere else, for that matter.)
I don’t know if it’s possible to pull every single muscle in your body at one time, but I don't plan on learning firsthand.

When round 2 was over, there was another break while the judges deliberated. When they came back, it was Moment of Truth time once again. Jessie called out the numbers and the group was pared down from 110 to 80.

Oh dear. This is getting serious.

(FYI: #58 and #13 both survived the second cut. What did I tell you? Don't sleep on those two.)

Round 3: The hip hop combo
Jessie announced that the round 3 choreography was a hip hop combination, so the girls should put on pants or shorts and sneakers. She also said – in a much nicer way than I am about to – if you’re not wearing makeup, you need to go get some. NOW.

A little bit of red lipstick makes a big difference.

You could tell which girls knew this was coming (*cough*theveterans*cough*) because they brought pants and shoes that coordinated with their outfit. Be afraid, y'all. Those girls do not play.

Most of the other girls wore sweats or other warm-ups. One of them got all thugged out and pushed up one leg of her sweatpants. Another girl wore jeans. (My guess is she didn't get a copy of that particular memo.)
    Public Service Announcement: If I were in a position to give advice (and clearly I’m not) I would tell everyone to avoid dancing around in anything that has a message written allllllll the way across your fanny. Even if you think your fanny is terrific.

    All I'm saying is, there's more going on back there than you realize. I am telling you this because I care.
So now I understand why the girls had to stand in front of the judges during the last round. They weren’t checking them for unibrow/facial hair/visible roots. They just wanted to see what the dancers look like. Here’s the thing - if you don’t wear makeup, the judges can’t really see your facial features. (Yes, even though you’re only ten feet in front of them. Not everyone has had lasik - okay?)

When you’re in a room full of equally pretty, equally fit, equally talented dancers, it’s important that the judges can tell you apart and recognize your face. At least, that’s what I think the point of it was. But what do I know? This is my first time at the rodeo.
    Random observation: I do not understand the footwear situation here. Everyone knows that sneakers squeak on a gym floor. My sneakers squeak. Your sneakers squeak. You go to a basketball game and it’s squeak squeak squeak. But here? No squeaking. NONE. How is that possible? And why am I so fascinated by the floor in this room?
The third round was a trial by fire. The dance was longer, the choreography was more intricate, and the music – Timbaland’s “The Way I Are” - was way faster. (That’s a great song by they way, if you haven’t heard it.)

This was also a test of the dancers’ stamina. Your average human being would be tired after round one and flat out on the floor after round two. The girls had to hide their fatigue and dance full out like this was the very first thing they had to do all day.

Honestly, I'm tired just thinking about it. In fact, I think I will go lay down for a bit.

Mina Ortega took over for round three. Her choreography was so awesome, but this was one of those things where you had to be completely on point to pull it off. There was no way to fake this.

Amateurs - consider yourselves warned.

I have to say, I felt so bad. I was right up in Mina’s face the whole time she was teaching. But did I move? No. (What am I - stupid?) She didn’t look like I was bugging her, but how could you NOT be annoyed by a camera flashing in your face every five seconds?

(It would've been even more frequent if I didn't have to wait for the flash to power up between shots.)

When the girls were about halfway through learning the choreography, I remembered that Mina is going to be at ProDance in a couple of weeks. Uh oh.

From that point on, I was careful to keep the camera in front of my face. Hopefully she won’t recognize me. I’d hate to be escorted off the premesis. That would be really really REALLY embarrassing. Mortifying, actually. I'd have to change my name and move to South America.

Round 3 audition
This was it. The last dance of the day. The last chance to impress the judges. As Mina said “this is your time to get in there and just BRING IT.”

This round went fast. And it was for sure broughten.

Mina’s dance had a freestyle element as well. And the girls did in fact work it like it's payday and the rent is due tomorrow.
    Random observation: you know what’s funny? The girls aren’t supposed to practice while waiting for their turn to audition. It’s too distracting for the judges. But seriously, they couldn’t help it. Several of them were startled to find their arms and legs rehearsing without their permission.

Here’s something else I noticed. All of those people at that front table really want you to do well. Every now and then, a girl would blank out on the choreography and I could practically feel the judges willing her to get back in step. It was pretty funny watching Andy and Mina trying to beam the steps directly into the girls’ brains. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn't. But my point - and I do have one - is this: seriously, the judges and the choreographers want this for you.

Then, of course, it was time for the final cut. This time it went from 80 dancers to 39. And yes, #13 and #58 were still in it. Are you guys keeping track?

Jessie had everyone gather around for information on the next steps in the audition process - interviews and choreography and things of that nature. Let me tell you, there were some big smiles on those faces.

Knock Knock.
Who's there?
Number 58.
Number 58 who?
Number 58 is the one wearing blue.

But they still had work to do. Speaking of which…

Finals are tomorrow night. The girls are supposed to wear hip hop attire and bring their best moves. At the end of the day, we’ll find out who made the squad. And allegedly there will be a "special guest" in attendance. Ooooh, the suspense. Can you stand it?

No? Well too bad.

Stay tuned…

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