Tuesday, April 08, 2008
By Heather Allen
ohegan -- Eight dancers — split evenly on either side of the room — sat on the floor, reaching their arms towards their outstretched legs. Together, they chatted nervously, about their dancing experience and what the afternoon may hold for them.
They all gathered Sunday at the Mohegan Sun to audition for one of 12 spots on the Solar Power dance team.
Those picked will perform at each of the Connecticut Sun's home games and promotional events, this upcoming season.
Sunday's audition was the final of three held. About 40 dancers, in total, auditioned for a spot on the team, said Emily Sasson, the team's assistant coordinator.
All 12 spots on the team are open each year, which means that past members must audition each year. This year, Sasson said, seven hope to reclaim their spots.
Brittany Bonchuk, who was a member of the dance team for four years was helping Sasson judge Sunday and said they are looking for dance technique, showmanship, fitness and audience appeal when evaluating each dancer.
“We are really looking for someone who is having fun,” said Bonchuk, now a New England Patriots cheerleader.
After doing a series of kicks, turns and leaps down the meeting room floor, Sasson assembled the women together and began teaching them a dance routine.
“The beat goes, 1, 2 and 3 and 4 — super fast,” she told the dancers. “It's way faster than that, I'm not even going to lie to you.”
Some of the girls were hesitant, as they tried the first portion of the routine with music — Janet Jackson's “Feedback.”
Sasson then progressed further into the routine, “this business is fast” she said, warning the dancers that the pace picks up even more.
Again, the dancers tried the next few steps along with the music which brought a “holy crap, it is really fast” from one of the auditioners and a collective “whoa” from the group.
But as the group warmed up a bit and started to feel more comfortable, the dancers began to ask more specific, technical questions about the count and choreography.
While some of the dancers struggled, others started adding their own personal touch to the routine.
During a water break, Sasson and Bonchuk compared notes about the progress of the group.
“It's a small turnout, but they are very talented,” said Sasson. “They have lots of attitude.”
Bonchuk said that at that point in the audition, they were looking to see how fast each dancer can pick up the routine — and for the most part, the dancers had it down.
“This is impressive actually. I have a tendency to teach really fast,” Sasson said. “This is really great.”
The majority of the dancers who auditioned have been dancing since they were young girls and are now members of their college dance teams. But experience aside, there were still some jitters.
“I was definitely nervous, because you never know what to expect,” said Krista Vollhardt, 21, a student at Dean College in Franklin, Mass.
And even though the routine is admittedly difficult, Vollhardt said she loved it.
Vollhardt, along with two of her friends from college, auditioned Sunday. Vollhardt auditioned last year and made it to the finals, but decided to go to an intensive dance program in New York City instead.
Brittany Ashlaw, 21, one of Vollhardt's friends, has been a member of the dance team for the last three years and hopes to reclaim a spot on the team again this year.
“For one thing, it keeps me in shape over the summer,” she said during a break. “I just love performing. It's just another way to get out there.”
Ashlaw said she knows most of the fans by name and loves being on the arena floor during games.
Shannon Mahoney, 20, the third of the trio that made the drive from Dean College said she auditioned last year but didn't make it to finals. She's hoping this year will be different.
“This is what I want to do,” Mahoney said. “I love to dance, so I hope I'm doing well.”
The dancers who auditioned Sunday will receive an e-mail today informing them as to whether they made it to the finals this coming Sunday. Sasson said about 30 dancers will be asked to perform in the final round.
Finalists will undergo a 15-minute interview on Friday and will have to perform the routine taught during the preliminary audition as well as their own 1-minute solo routine.
And while Sasson didn't mention any names, there could be a good chance that several of Sunday's dancers will make it to the next round.
“I think it was a really strong group,” Sasson said after the audition. “I think this one did a great job.”