Monday, August 04, 2008

Miami Heat dance squad holds auditions 

Posted by Sasha at 10:47 PM ET

Every year, the Miami Heat invites any woman over 18 to try out for the dance team -- and 201 gave it a shot on Sunday.

By Taylor Barnes
Miami Herald

Gallery | Miami Heat dance audition
Video | Miami Heat dancer tryouts

A series of church bells rang near the AmericanAirlines Arena Sunday at noon, breaking the nervous chatter and silent stretching of the dozens of women lined up outside.

Yamile Mufdi, one of those in line, usually goes to church at 11 a.m., but on Sunday she was in fishnets and dancing flats outside the arena, ready to audition for the third time for what she called a dream: to be a Miami Heat dancer.

Mufdi, 22, said she dreams of her brothers, who follow the Heat, being able to see her dance at games. She wanted to try out this year even though she wasn't called back the last two times because the timing -- she just graduated from Florida International University -- now seemed perfect.

''I know it's in God's plan,'' she said. The wedding planner, in a black crop top with a red bra peeking beneath, added that she planned to attend an evening church service Sunday.

With friends and family in tow, 201 women came with similar attire and the same hope to be chosen for the 24-woman squad, which holds tryouts annually. Sunday's auditions determined the top 29 to be sent to the upcoming week's boot camp, in which the aspirants will have classes each night and interviews with Heat dancer alumni. The final selection will be made on Friday.

The only requirements to try out were to be at least 18 years old and to wear a two-piece, form-fitting outfit while facing the panel of judges.

Clara Stroude, Miami Heat's entertainment director, says the tryouts came down to one criteria: ''You just show what you have on the court.'' Men have tried out for the squad in the past, she said, though none showed up on Sunday.

Squad-hopefuls were given a mini-lesson before dancing up to judges in groups of six to perform the steps.

''One, two, three, booty, twist,'' choreographer Janine Thompson led the lesson, running her hand along her spandexed backside on the fourth beat. ``Let's try it again.''

On the judges' panel sat Heat representatives and local entertainment figures, like Jorge Sedano from Sports Talk 790 ''The Ticket.'' Sedano said he was looking for dancers with a variety of looks because ``that's what Miami exemplifies.''

Variety was in style for the day, with knee-high Chuck Taylors, leg warmers and neon hair highlights as popular accessories to the spandex shorts and crop tops that the majority of the dancers donned. Britani Edwards, 19, arrived Sunday in purple tights, yellow shorts and pink suspenders, along with Brittany Williams, 19, in a pink bikini top.

As Williams and the other hopefuls showed their sharpest moves on the court, Erika Marcantonio picked up on the new steps and danced from her stadium seat. Marcantonio, 40, danced with the Heat from 1991 to 1998.

''It's hard not to want to do it again,'' said the personal trainer, who added that with two young sons, she doesn't have time to dance professionally anymore. ``I still get to shake it every once in a while.''

She laughed as one dancer trying out seemed to improvise her own moves while the others in her group of six danced in unison. Marcantonio encouraged the dancer's hip-hop dance moves known as pop and lock and urged her to keep up the effort.

''She's a pop and locker! Work!'' Marcantonio yelled. The dancer remained standing at the end of the piece when all others were crouched -- and was then selected to go on to the next round.

''They appreciated her energy, I guess,'' Marcantonio said.

After letting out a yell, Joo Veauvy collapsed with excitement when told she had made it to the second round. She had little to say when asked the reason for her strong reaction.

''I don't know. I don't speak English.'' Veauvy, 24, was followed by a film crew making a French reality TV show following contestants living out their dreams, according to Aymeric Beneton, a journalist with her.

In her third year trying out for the team, Mufdi did not end up making it to the second round.

''I messed up a little bit,'' she said while packing her bag in the stands. She said she may try again next year.

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