Wednesday, April 16, 2008

2 Naples women finalists to join Miami Dolphins cheerleaders 

Posted by Sasha at 6:20 PM ET

By Andy Kent, Daily News Correspondent
Naples News
April 12, 2008

DAVIE — Perhaps all the Miami Dolphins need to turn things around after a disastrous 2007 season is an infusion of some Naples blood into the organization, even if it comes courtesy of the cheerleading squad and not the locker room itself.

Desiree Hernandez and Rena Arellano are one step away from earning the right to perform in front of as many 75,000 fans on Sundays during the upcoming National Football League season as members of the Miami Dolphins cheerleaders.

Final cuts are being made today following a live performance at the Aventura Mall in Aventura, and with 28 returning veterans from last year’s squad in the mix for the maximum of 40 spots, there aren’t too many openings.

The 20-year-old Hernandez, a Gulf Coast High graduate and mass communications major at Edison College, is trying out for the first time and had to initially make it through last Saturday’s open auditions at Dolphin Stadium, where 123 ladies showed up. Her mother made the drive across Alligator Alley with her and sat in a beach chair in the stadium parking lot working on her tan while her daughter performed dance routines and kick lines for the 10 judges who were tasked with whittling down the number of candidates to 56.

"I’ve been working out and I’ve been ready for this for a couple of months," said Hernandez, who was born in Miami and moved to Naples with her family when she was in middle school. "I went to the Miami-Dallas game and I watched those girls dance and got so overwhelmed that after I left that game, I told my mom I wanted to try out. I’ve been working out ever since and I’m still here, so hopefully I can make Naples proud."

Unlike Hernandez, who danced for four years at Gulf Coast High, Arellano, 31, doesn’t have any dance background, but she knew what to expect last week and this week. This is her third year trying out.

Two years ago, the events and promotions specialist for Gulfshore Life magazine made it to this point in the auditions before being cut, while last year she was cut in the semifinals on the first day of open auditions.

Arellano didn’t tell too many of her friends and co-workers the first two times she tried out, other than her boyfriend, but she has garnered a little more support back in Naples this time around and is expecting some friends both from the Naples-Fort Myers area and on the east coast to show up today.

As one of the older participants, she knows she’s at a bit of a disadvantage, but her confidence level and her familiarity with the process has paid off up to this point.

"I’m like a veteran at the audition process and I feel like it’s getting easier," Arellano said. "The first year you don’t know what to expect, and now this time around, because I had been practicing and prepping myself, when I know there are so many eight counts, it helps me in my mind that I know I’m ready for it."

Beginning this past Monday, Hernandez and Arellano were part of a tedious process that included one-on-one interviews and then three nights of rehearsals at the team’s practice facility in Davie.

On Tuesday and Wednesday nights, they were working for nearly four hours on the kick line and two different dance routines, with the threat of being cut before the weekend looming over their heads.

Prior to this afternoon’s live performance, all of the women will first perform in groups of five in front of the judges and audience members in the morning, and then each participant will do an individually prepared routine.

After a break of a little less than two hours, the ladies will wait patiently as the crowd is entertained by T.D. the mascot and the Dolphins Fins Force Crew before returning to the stage for the finale, and somewhere around 3:30 p.m., the 2008 squad will be introduced to the crowd.

"There are several girls that I feel very confident will make the team," said Emily Newton, the squad’s coordinator, director and one of the judges. "There are several girls I feel very confident they will not make the team, and there are a lot of girls what I call on the fence. And I still don’t know until probably the very last day, after I’ve seen their individual talent, whether or not I want them on the team.

"It might even come down to the very last cut but I still don’t know and I might take them on the team and see how they work out the next couple of weeks," Newton said.

For Hernandez, the experience already has been a valuable one, and she is counting on her week-long stay at a South Florida hotel paying off in the end.

"I know the girls are out on the field and they work hard, but it’s a very intense, emotional ride," Hernandez said. "I mean I cried myself to sleep the other night just because I kind of messed up. It’s overwhelming and exciting."

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