Saturday, August 04, 2007

Heat is on: A Bid to Become a Heat Dancer 

Posted by James at 7:37 AM ET

By Allison Atkinson

Sunday was truly an incredible day for me.

I saw a flyer about two months ago with these amazingly beautiful women on it and I realized I wanted to be part of it more than anything. Simply put, my goal was to become a Miami Heat dancer and join the ranks of such famous alumna as Trista Rehn, Jessica Sutta, Layla El, Brooke Long and Johanna Gomez.

Having always admired the great amount Shaquille O'Neal has contributed both on the court and off, I thought the time was now to embrace South Florida sports and give back to the community. So I packed up my essentials, including makeup, eyeliner, mascara, tissues (don't ask), hair spray, a brush and all of the accoutrements of femininity.

Before the tryouts, I went to the Lace to Lust store around the corner to purchase the perfect two-piece outfit that would make them believe that I was serious about this. For this day, I would attempt to be a Miami Heat dancer.

The registration process was insane. There were girls everywhere and from all walks of life. They were trained in every dance discipline, which included everything from exotic dancing and tap dancing to ballet and Filipino dance. There were rookies, experts, wannabes and women who flew out from every major city to be at this audition. The only requirements were a good headshot, a resume and ID detailing that I was at least 18 years old.

I met a really great girl, Jackie, who flew in from Las Vegas with her mom. There was another girl from Chicago. I couldn't believe the love and support I was feeling just for being there.

I was given a number, 33, which I didn't want. I thought from an astrological perspective that it would be the kiss of death. It was much too low in my mind.

The warm-up session was amazing. We all took time to stretch out to make sure we were flexible enough to get through that routine. Those eight-counts would control our destiny, and we were all determined to make every minute count.
Heat Auditions
The Heat dancers from previous seasons put us in lines of six. There was a panel of guys who would be watching our every move. To say this was a nerve-racking experience would be an understatement. But I wanted this more than anything. This was my dream, and I was going to give it my all.

As we were about to go onto the polished basketball court at American Airlines Arena, I looked around and thought 'I am sharing the floor with one of basketball's greatest players ever.' Even though he wasn't there, I still felt the presence of the Shaq. It inspired me and gave me confidence that could not be shattered. This was my day to shine.

So they called my group, which was No. 4. There was a girl in my group who turned around and said "If you think you can, you can." It was some of the best advice I could get at that moment, so thank you, whoever you are.

We skipped, marched, blew kisses to the judges and smiled as we got to our positions on the court. Then the music started to play, and they told us to "freestyle" dance. I had so much fun "freestyling" that I didn't notice the routine had started.

Then the worst thing that could happen, did happen. My legs didn't move. They were frozen to the floor as if they had been nailed down. They felt so heavy. I was several beats away from my counterparts from that moment on, but I didn't care. I was having fun and giving it my all. Sweat was trickling down my back and my face was flushed, but I wasn't giving up.

The judges made their decisions to keep two girls out of my group. The rest of the dancers, including me, were dismissed.

Rejection always hurts. It's like falling in love with something so dazzling and then having it ripped away from you. It's cold, empty feeling. But I didn't see any girls cry about being cut. Everyone held their heads up, strong and confident, as we had done several hours before auditions had even begun.

It turns out the girls who waited longer to get their numbers ended up being the ones who were able to practice more and watch out for the mistakes of others. It proved to be a wise strategic move. The women who waited had more time to work on their "freestyle" techniques. I guess good things come to those who decided to wait!

I didn't want to leave the arena when they dismissed me. I stayed in the stands and cheered for my competitors. When they hit that pose, made that move and worked it, I screamed and clapped louder, which sparked others in the audience to join in. This kept the energy levels high and made the tryout more competitive.

Heat Auditions
I sat outside with a group of girls who didn't make the cut and told them I would see them at the next audition. Then I asked some of them if they could keep a secret, to which their eyes widened.

"You're 17 years old and used a fake ID to get into this audition?" they asked.

"No," I laughed. "I'm 30 years old and married."

I met so many incredible girls this weekend who pushed me to be a better dancer, to be stronger and play harder. I met so many incredible parents and spouses who came out and shared the moment with me. I met so many incredible dancers.

The next round I am so there and ready to "bring it on."

After one sugar-free Red Bull, three potential wardrobe malfunctions, two blisters, one fall and 144 new friends trying for 13 spots, I can certainly say this was indeed one of the greatest days of my life!

When I arrived to work at CBS SportsLine.com on Monday, I was feeling the love from all my co-workers who supported me. In fact, one of them sent me a flyer for the Florida Panthers Ice Cat tryouts this weekend. Stay tuned!

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