Monday, August 25, 2008

PCB Field Trip: A-List Girl Auditions 

Posted by Sasha at 7:39 PM ET

One of my resolutions for 2008 was to put more time into learning about and featuring the pro and semi-pro dance teams here in southern California. Having had some luck with the NFL and NBA, I decided to cast my net farther and check out the NBA Development League. There are two D-League teams in this region, Anaheim Arsenal and Los Angeles D-Fenders. The Arsenal has a dance team. The D-Fenders – so far as I know – do not.

When I heard that auditions where coming up for the Arsenal’s dance team, the A-List Girls, I decided to check into it. I tracked down dance team director Jodi Adamo, and she graciously agreed to let me cover the tryouts for the PCB. Woo! [check out the photos here]

The auditions were scheduled for 1pm at Jodi’s studio, Higher Ground Dance and Pilates in Anaheim Hills. Sunny Anaheim. Home of Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm, and ... Well, I have no idea what else is there, but I'm sure Anaheim has it's share of other interesting locales.

I arrived shortly before 1 and there were already quite a few girls there, standing in line for registration and warming up in one of the studios. From what I heard later, turnout was great this year, better than last year. It looked like Jodi would have a strong pool of talent to choose from.

Roland and Jodi

I met Jodi, Julius (Arsenal Media Relations), Roland the choreographer, and the guy from local Anaheim news, and mapped out my strategy. Step 1: get rid of the shoes. Ok, so I know it’s tacky to run around someone else’s studio in my bare feet, but I’d made a poor choice of footwear that morning. It was either take them off, or spend the afternoon clomp, clomp, clomping like a Clydesdale on those wooden floors. Step 2: Pre-audition photos of all the girls.

At this point, I would like to take a moment to thank Marissa for coming over to say hello. You may recognize Marissa from the Clippers audition last month. God bless you Marissa for saving me from my usual pre-audition “Eek –strangers!” freak out. After that, it was pretty easy to go around the room and grab everyone. (I didn’t mean literally, you weirdos!)

One thing you need to know right off the bat is it was hot in there. Aitch Oh Tee Tee HOTT. I imagine this is a good thing when you’re doing pilates and such, as it keeps your muscles warm. On the other hand, it also presented a challenge, as it is extremely difficult to maintain the “cute” under those conditions. There was going to be some major perspiration up in there. The makeup was going to melt and the hair was going to go stringy, but at least everyone was in the same boat.

When it was time to get the ball rolling, Jodi gathered everyone together and explained the plan for the afternoon. There were two choreographers and two studios. The dancers were split into two groups. Half would learn the hip hop combination with Roland in one studio, while the other half learned the jazz combination from Shannon in the other studio. After learning the first dance, the dancers would switch rooms to learn the second dance. After that, they’d perform in small groups for the judges, jazz combo first, followed by hip hop. By the end of the day, the judges would have narrowed it down to the 14-ish strongest dancers for the team.

I started out in the hip hop room where the girls were learning the choreography to Miley Cyrus’ "When I Grow Up." Funny story: Roland started out saying that he had made the routine a bit easier than their normal game day choreography. I think this was meant to be a reassuring piece of information. As in “Don’t worry girls, this won’t be completely impossible choreography.” Being the cynic that I am, I immediately interpreted this as “Oh snap, y’all. You betta pick up this easy stuff right quick because if you make the team, it is ON, for real.”

So Roland got started. It was a cute routine. Definitely not simple. Definitely not cutsie. Definitely not "too sexy for your shirt". Perfect for the court. Most of the girls picked it up quickly. I didn’t look at my watch, but it seemed like it went super-fast.

It was close quarters in there, so I apologize to everyone whose hands/feet/personal belongings I stomped on the name of photographic excellence. I also did best to stay out of the way of the guy with the camera from the local Anaheim news. He had the big camera, the rolly tripod, etc. Being the graceful creature that I am, it was practically begging fate to knock me over that tripod and bring the whole works crashing down on my head. I don’t know how much that stuff costs, but I doubt I’d have sufficient funds to purchase replacement equipment. So I stayed the heck away from that guy.

After a bit, I moseyed over to the other studio. Over there, Shannon was teaching the jazz combo to "Mercy" by Duffy. Very very very cute. In a sassy way. I likey. By the time I got there, they were done learning the routine and the girls were taking turns performing it in small groups. They were also starting to melt. Those who weren’t dancing, were fanning themselves, chugging bottled water, and carefully blotting their foreheads so as to avoid futher damage to the makeup. I was wiped out just from being in the same room with them.

I don’t know where the time went, but all of a sudden, it was time to go before the judges. The dancers were excused to freshen up, the judges table was set up, and we were off and running. One of the judges was Cliff Dochterman, President of the Anaheim Arsenal. (And on a side note, both Jodi and Shannon danced for both LA NBA teams, the Clippers and the Lakers.)

They started with the jazz combo. Each group was asked to perform the dance twice.

Next up: hip hop. Again, each group performed twice.

The judges called the dancers back a few times for a second look at one or both routines and to see specific dancers performing side by side as if they were on the team together. After the callbacks, the judges agreed that they had seen enough to make their decision.

The problem was, they had 16 finalists instead of 14. They discussed. They compared notes. They paced. They laid all of the girls' photos on the ground and studied them intently. They scratched their heads.

In the end they decided to keep all 16 as finalists.

Jodi called the girls back in to congratulate them and talk about the next steps in the process. This week, she will meet briefly with each candidate to get to know her a bit, explain the team schedule and level of commitment required of the dancers, and generally see if she's a good fit for the squad.

Here are (most of) the 2008 A-List Girl finalists. We're close to the final squad, but not quite there. Jodi has some decisions to make. Will all 16 ultimately make the team? We'll find out in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, check out these photos and more in my Flickr gallery.

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