Monday, March 02, 2009

PCB Field Trip: ChivaGirl Preliminary Auditions 

Posted by Sasha at 8:07 AM ET

ChivaGirl auditions started on Sunday Feb 15th at the Home Depot Center in Carson, which is a bit south of Los Angeles. I took tons of photos for you all so you can see how the process went. If you haven’t had a chance to look at them, you can do that right here

I was so excited to be invited because I was really really really looking forward to it. I love going to auditions. LOVE it.

(I’d love it even more if there were no cuts, but alas, that is the nature of the beast…)

One thing about auditions is they are crazy repetitive, but that’s actually one of the best things about the process. It’s a great opportunity to see new choreography, to see what the dancers are made of, to see familiar faces from other auditions and see how they’ve progressed, to see which dancers rise to the top of the pack, and of course it gives me a chance to work on my photography skills (such as they are).

I was particularly excited for these auditions because firstly, I (heart) the ChivaGirls and their director Aimee Edmundson. Secondly, I was hoping that Mr. John Peters would do the choreography, because Mr. John Peters is super-cool. And thirdly, the auditions were scheduled to take place in a building called the Velodrome. What’s a velodrome? Heck if I knew, but once I became aware of its existence, I was compelled to know what goes on inside.

Velodrome…It sounds like a place where mysterious and exciting things happen. As in “Welcome to the Velodrome, where cheerful elves make fairy dust out of rainbows and happy thoughts!”

On the other hand, the Velodrome could also be a place where dark, sinister things happen. Dancers check in, but they don’t check out. As in “Welcome to the Velodrome. Abandon all hope ye who enter here. (Kindly ignore the screams from the basement)”


So on Sunday morning, I motored over to the Home Depot Center campus. There are several different venues on the premises, but some helpful person had posted arrows to guide cars in the right direction. When I got there, the nervous-looking girls standing around in track suits were also a good indication that I was in the right place.

I was heading inside, when veteran ChivaGirl Alana, drove into the lot.

When you see a veteran first thing in the morning on audition day, it is NEVER good news.

Alana, it seems, is planning to study abroad this year. And since you can’t be a ChivaGirl whilst living in another country, she is “taking a year off.” WhatEVER. That is no different from when your boyfriend says he wants to "take a break." Shyeah. You know you're never gonna see that dude again. We all know what happened when Ross and Rachel took a "break."

I went inside and woohoo! Harris sister spotting! I love me some Harris sisters. But then, I looked a little farther down the table, and there’s Linette, another ChivaGirl veteran. That did not bode well.

On the one hand, she was wearing dance clothes. On the other hand, she was standing BEHIND the table. Linette retiring too? I told her this was completely unacceptable. She gave me the big old twinkly Linette smile with the dimples and everything. Like that was going to make it ok. I told her to talk to the hand, because the face ain’t listenin'.

So now I was in a MOOD. Because now I had to do a headcount and figure out who all else was flaking out on me.

Yeah, I take it personal when people retire on me. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: you veterans really need to tell me ahead of time if you're not going to re-audition. You can’t just spring it on me. I’m a very sensitive person and I find this kind of surprise very upsetting. (Clippers Girls, this goes for you too especially. Consider yourselves warned.)

Thankfully, I didn’t see anymore veterans, so I opened the double doors and got my first look at...

The Velodrome

(Imagine the NFL theme music playing in the background.
Wrong sport, but whatever)

The Velodrome is a place where people in spandex, who take biking very seriously, go around and around and around in circles. It’s a big oval track that curves up in some places like the walls in a skate park. Picture a big wooden bowl with twisty sides and a flat bottom.

Random thought: I’ve never been to a roller derby, but this looked like a place where a roller derby might go down. That could be interesting.

You enter the Velodrome at the top, and step downward through the stands to the track. Barriers are in place to keep rowdy fans from jumping down on the track. Another set of barriers separate the track from the floor at the bottom. (I guess those barriers are meant to keep rowdy cyclists from jumping down on the floor…?)

The ChivaGirls audition would of course take place down on the floor. Duh. But there didn’t seem to be a direct path to get down there. This looked to be a serious problem. I was prepared to jump over the barrier if I had to, but that seemed a little extreme.

Then I heard someone call my name and saw my girl Kelley waving from the floor. She then explained to me that – get this – in order to get down there where she was, I’d have to walk down the hall and go through a secret door the ladies room.

THROUGH the ladies room, you say?

Riiiiight. That doesn’t sound shady at all.

I thought we were friends, Kelley, but you know what? You can talk to the hand too. I’ll find my own way down there.

Turns out I owe Kelley an apology for all the uncomplimentary things I said about her under my breath. She was right. You do have to go into the little girls room, where there’s a door that leads to a set of stairs. Those stairs end at another door that takes you outside of the building. Then you have to go along the sidewalk to another door, where you go back inside the building and down another set of stairs, and then up a little ramp and out onto the floor.

I’m not saying the person who designed this building was high at the time. I’m just saying that I do not understand the thought process behind it at all.

If nothing else, the design is horribly inefficient.

Down on the floor, the judges were chatting, and many of the aspiring ChivaGirls were warming up. The veterans were there, which I wasn’t expecting. I eyeballed them and came out with 9 veterans re-auditioning for a team of 17 to 20 dancers. If I were a newbie, I’d consider those pretty good odds.

Best part – two former Clippers girls were auditioning, Tiffany and Laura. Yesss! The two teams I (heart) most are ChivaGirls and Clippers Spirit. When they overlap, it makes me happy. Especially since Laura was one of the girls, and she was, is, and will always be, a freakin’ rock star.

Laura and Tiffany

Meanwhile, I had to find Aimee right away, because I had a little gift for her.

Sidebar: At some point during my formative years, I can’t remember exactly when – somebody, somewhere produced an obscure made-for-tv movie about the Laker Girls. All I remembered was that Tina Yothers was in it and she could not dance at all. Like, not even a little bit. And there was another girl who auditioned who was supposed to be a ballet dancer and she couldn’t dance either. Ballet or otherwise.

Anyway, at a Chivas USA Game last summer, I’d mentioned the movie to Aimee, and she’d revealed that she not only knew about the movie, she was in it.

She was IN the movie.
With Tina Yothers.
And the ballet chick.
Wearing MC Hammer pants.

We were in the ChivaGirls locker room at the time, and Ashley, one of the ChivaGirls, overheard our conversation. Ashley had recently been selected to the 2008-09 Laker Girls, so when she heard us discussing the Laker Girls, her ears perked up. (Not literally, of course). Ashley had never heard of the Laker Girls movie.

Ohmigawd, I had to fix that situation right away.

That night, I went home and scoured the internet for that movie. I really wanted to see Aimee doing the running man in purple and gold harem pants. I also thought it would be educational for Ashley to learn a little about the history of her new team. (I can’t believe they don’t sit all the Laker Girls down and force them to watch this movie as part of their initiation.)

I didn’t find anything on youtube or any of the other video sites, but shockingly, I DID find it on DVD on Amazon. It was only $6 y’all! I immediately ordered three copies. One for Aimee, one for Ashley, and one for myself. (You can get one right here.)

You have GOT to see this movie. It is so awesomely bad. Tina Yothers starts out as a rollerskating carhop somewhere in the Midwest. From there it just gets better and better.

All the major themes for cinematic excellence are represented here. A hero. A villain. Sibling rivalry. Adventure. Dance. Glamour. Romance. Ambition. Deceipt. Forgiveness. Fame and fortune. What it lacks in explosions and high speed chase scenes, it makes up for in big hair and belted leotards.

I could not wait to give the DVD to Aimee, so when I found her I presented it with a flourish. As if I’d done something extremely clever.

Mr. John Peters came over while I was talking to Aimee. Mr. John Peters is THE MAN when it comes to this type of choreography. Nobody can touch him. He knows right where the line is with this kind of dance. Big, but not too big. Sassy, but not trashy. Cute but not cutsie. The man knows the value of a well-placed kick or turn.

So he came over, cool hair and all, and revealed a deep dark secret: Not only was Aimee in the Laker Girl movie, but she was also in the movie Teen Witch.

Shut. Up. Teen Witch???

This is totally off-topic, but I have to reminisce for a moment. You HAVE seen Teen Witch, right? Not "Sabrina the Teenage Witch." I'm talking about the original, the first, the OG movie. Dorky girl finds out she’s a witch and uses her magical powers to transform herself into the most popular girl in school and snag the hunky captain of the football team.

That’s not even the best thing about this movie. The best thing is ....

...wait for it...

….it is a MUSICAL. Featured songs include “I like boys” and “I’m gonna be the most popular girl.”

“I like boys” features the cool girls who rule the school dancing around in the girls locker room. The lyrics go something like this: “I’m turning in my teddy bear for a leather mini skirt because I. LIKE. BOYS.”

There is also a rap number.

So. Awesome.

I have a whoooole new level of respect for Aimee. And for Mr. John Peters, who actually sang part of the chorus for me.

(I don't know why I call him Mr. John Peters. I just do. I'm sure his pals call him John, or Peters, or Johnny P., or something.)

Still reeling after that revelation, I trotted off to get my camera stuff together. I was skipping along happily, when WHAM! Next thing I know, I’m on the floor. Had I been paying attention, I might have noticed the five-inch drop from the wooden layer to the concrete floor beneath it.

I landed on my hands and knees, which you might think is no big deal, except it made a really loud noise when my palms slapped down on the wooden floor. THWAP! So of course Aimee and Mr. John Peters, and God knows who else turned around, and I’m trying to jump up like “I’m okay, I’m okay, nothing to see here folks.” Only I can’t jump right up because my ankle kind of hurts, and the only thing worse than falling in the first place, is trying to get up and then falling again.

A sign would've been helpful.

I don’t know how it did it, but I managed to get up, all casual-like, and stroll over to a seat, where I took a few minutes to break into a nervous sweat, calm down, cool down, and evaluate myself for broken body parts.

All of my limbs were intact, so it was time to get to work. First order of business: get photos of all the dancers before the auditions. This has always been the hardest part for me, walking up to a total stranger like “hey, what’s up, can I take a picture?” So here’s how I handled it: I’d mosey on up to a group of girls and ask if any of them saw me fall on my face just now.

After that, it was time to start the auditions. Aimee welcomed everyone and thanked them for coming, and then Mr. John Peters began teaching the choreography. He had some helpers to assist him in demonstrating the dance: Linette, of course. Summer from the Charger Girls, and Laker Girls Jeri-Faye and Nicole.

FYI: there were Laker Girls, past and present, throughout this whole ChivaGirls experience. It was a bit shocking, as I have been scheming to ingratiate myself with the Laker Girls for several years now - with zero progress. But I will not give up. Some of my Clippers girls and ChivaGirls are over there, and I demand to know what they're up to.

Don't get me wrong, it's not like I'm obsessed with the Laker Girls, it just that the harder they make it for me, the more determined I am to infiltrate the entire organization. Um...on second thought, I probably shouldn't be writing this in a public forum.

My point, anyway, is that this pro dance stuff is a small world. I'm starting to see a lot of familiar faces.

By the way, I’ve decided that I would also like to have a hyphenated name. Sasha-Faye? Sasha-Lee? Sasha-Lynn, maybe? Perhaps I’ll change my name to Sasha-Lynn and pursue a career in country music.

Jeri-Faye and Nicole.
FYI: Jeri-Faye was a ChivaGirl in 2007


Wow, do I know how to veer off topic, or what?
Back to the ChivaGirls audition...

While the teaching and learning was going on, I circled around to find the best angle for photos. See, the first thing you gotta do in this situation is figure out which way everyone will be facing for the money shots – the kicks, the leaps, the moments in the dance when they slow down for half a second. There were 2 or 3 professional photographers there, so I tried to watch and imitate.

For a while, I sat on the floor in front of the judges table, but then I noticed a short set of stairs leading up to a small platform above the judges. A couple of the photographers were up there and I thought to myself “hmmm…this looks promising.” So up I went. It was a good spot for capturing the action. (In a minute, you'll understand why this is relevant.)

The music was a song called “Krazy” by Pitbull (feat. Lil Jon). I hadn’t heard this song before. It goes like this: “…(la la la la) KRAZY, (la la la la ) Krazy, (la la la la) Krazy.” (The “la la la’s” being the part I didn’t know.) I’m pretty sure one of the lines is “Yo mama, she gets Krazy.” Here’s a link, so’s you can hear the song.

One of the things that makes Mr. John Peters fun is the way he teaches. The way he describes everything not only makes it easier to do, but also easier to remember. There’s the “karate,” the “kick the cat,” (I forgive you Mr. John Peters for being a cat hater,) the "hand on the shelf," the “single hootchie,” the “double hootchie,” and my favorite, the “Disney.” He had to help some of the girls figure out the vibe of the dance. It wasn’t supposed to be all “pretty pretty princess,” you know? But don't go too far in the other direction - this isn't a 50 Cent video. This is a dance team, ok? It’s family entertainment, not the nudie bar.

Not that I know what goes on at the nudie bar.

They were about halfway through the choreography when I managed to make a jackass of myself all over again. Only this time it wasn’t just a few people who saw me. Everyone saw me. EVERYONE. I am not exaggerating in any way, shape, or form. I actually hid afterward.

Remember that I mentioned I was sitting up on the platform behind the judges? Everything was fine - until I decided to get up. Somehow, in the process of standing up, I managed to crack my head on a metal sign attached to nearby pole.

It is very important to me that you understand that this sign was attached to a free-standing metal stand. I don’t just go around knocking into stationary objects. This sign had been moved to a place where I did not expect it to be. I’m not saying someone was out to get me. I’m just saying that thing was NOT there when I sat down.

I didn’t knock it over or fall on it or anything, if that’s what you’re thinking. No no, that would be too simple. Let me tell you about this sign. This sign had a bell on it. I’m not talking about cute little jingle bells, or sleigh bells, or door bells. I’m talking about a big “have you been to Philadelphia and seen the Liberty Bell?” kind of bell. I hit the sign, and the bell went “BONG.” It wasn’t a little “bong” either. It was an enormous “Hey everybody, stop what you’re doing and look at me!!!” BOOOOONG.

Why me, God?
Why me all the time?

Aimee looked up and asked me what I was doing. I told her I was working on a concussion, and she was like “geez, I can’t take you anywhere.”

One of the other photographers just looked at me and shook his head.

Stupid bleeping sign.

Oh well. It wasn’t the most embarrassing moment of my life, and it for sure won’t be the last.

I waited for everyone to go back to what they were doing, then gingerly made my way back down to the floor, where I stayed put and did not move one inch until Round One started. My head hurt. My ankle hurt, and my dignity was in tatters. I was thinking, Aimee’s going to make me sign a waiver before she lets me into finals. If she lets me into finals.

First my ankle and then my skull. Things tend to happen in threes, you know. I spent the rest of the day expecting an anvil to fall from the sky and flatten me like a pancake, Wile E. Coyote-style.

After teaching the combination, the DJ put the song on a continuous loop so the dancers could practice. I noticed that they all scooted off to one side, out of the judges’ direct line of vision.

I scurried over to my bag, pausing to warn the Harris sisters to be careful, as it was obvious the whole entire building was booby trapped.

The time between learning the choreography and the actual audition, is one of the most interesting parts of the day. This is the part when you look around and start picking your favorites. (You don’t discuss any of this with the judges of course.) Some girls sat down and looked rather relaxed. Some marked the choreography along with the music. A few danced full out.

Don't forget, there are loads more photos right here

It warmed the cockles of my heart to see the veterans helping some of the other girls. I noticed Amy and Marie in particular, walking through the counts with a couple of girls who seemed unsure about the steps.

If Dr. Laura was here, she would point at Marie and Amy and say (in her grand Dr. Laura way) “those two are women of character!” (That’s a complement, by the way. Dr. Laura is sometimes right about things.)

Speaking of Marie, I forgot to mention one other thing. The ChivaGirls 2009 calendar has just been released. Marie made me remember, because she’s on the cover (with Alana and Jessica.)

That calendar came out gore-juss. I’ll tell you lots more about the calendar some other time, but I assure you, it’s a fine piece of work. I spotted a stack of calendars, helped myself to one, and took it around the room for everyone to oooh and ahhh with me.

(This crappy photo I took doesn't do justice to the cover at all.)

I am awfully proud of that calendar, which makes no sense, since I had nothing to do with the making of it.

Meanwhile, this was a good time to check out the outfits. Most of the girls were wearing the standard bright-colored two-piece ensemble. There were a few notable exceptions, though. One girl was wearing a teeny yellow skirt, which was super cute. Another girl was wearing a sparkly bra-top under a black mesh top. A third girl was wearing silver hot pants and matching silver shoes.

Nothing says "confidence" like silver hot pants.

My favorite top was red with a bow in the middle and red paillettes all over. (Pailettes are big fancy sequins with the hole at the top instead of in the middle.)

(Why am I explaining this? There is not one person reading this, thinking "Wow, I always wondered what pailettes are, and now I know. Thanks Sasha!")

The bow is what put it over the top for me. Not as cute in the photo as in real life, but still super cute, right?

I’ve seen this girl at a few different auditions now. I wish I knew her name, so I could be all "hey, there's Cindy." (Or whatever her name is.) Instead of "hey, there's that blonde girl I've seen before."

Right. So after some rehearsal, it was time to start the auditions. There they went, three at a time. It was not easy. They had to freestyle for a few counts and then jump right into the choreography at a place that wasn’t completely obvious. I thought they all did a good job, and a few really sparkled. It went really fast.

La la la la Krazy. La la la la Krazy. La la la la Krazy.

I found out later that Silver Hot Pants messed up the choreography and instead of freaking out, she did a couple back flips. I can’t believe I missed it. Let that be a lesson to all. If you screw up, it's not about how bad you look, it's about how well you recover. Seems to me like a pretty good way to get the judges' attention - if you're willing to risk it. The judges don’t remember her as “the girl who messed up.” They remember her as “the girl who did a back flip.” (And made it to finals, by the way.)

In silver hot pants.

After everyone had a turn to perform, there was a break for the judges to deliberate. (I try to tune out during that part. Otherwise, I might offer my advice at a time when nobody’s looking for it.)

Spying on the judges. Mwahahahaha...

I think this is when the bikers started to show up. Not “Hell's Angels” bikers. Bicycle bikers. Going around and around, like there was nothing else going on in the room.

If I were a professional bike rider, I’d put some cool tassels on my handle bars.

It wasn’t too long before the judges announced the first cut. One of the girls I was particularly rooting for didn’t make it, leaving me with some very upset feelings, in addition to the throbbing in my ankle and the dent in the top of my head.

After the cut, we took a group photo of all the girls who made it to the next round.

Then it was time to learn the rest. Rather than teaching a different combination for the second round, Mr. John Peters added on to the choreography they’d already learned. The new stuff included a calypso leap, (anything with the word “calypso” in it is bound to be fun), and ended with a dramatic, Flashdancy kind of pose.


The big finish

I can’t remember if the new stuff was longer than the old stuff. It seemed to take less time to learn it though. And then it was time for the second cut.

Each group of 3 performed the dance. After that, they were called up to the judges' table to say their name and a little about their dance history.

The first few groups had to answer off the cuff. Later groups found out what the questions were, and had a moment or two to prepare. Unfair, I say!

Each girl was asked if she speaks Spanish. Woe unto to those who lied about it, though because then one of the judges would ask a couple of questions in Spanish. It wasn’t difficult stuff – what do you like to do in your free time, what’s your favorite food, where are your parents from, etc. But it was enough to tell a native speaker from a poser. There were no posers in the house though. Those who couldn’t speak Spanish admitted it, and several volunteered to purchase Rosetta Stone. That’s not to say that you have to speak Spanish to be a ChivaGirl. Many of the veterans do not speak Spanish. But they do like to have at least a few Spanish-speakers on the team.

After that, there were more deliberations, and then another cut. I took the opportunity to go out to my car to fetch Ashley’s copy of the Laker Girls movie. I don’t have Ashley’s contact info, so I wasn’t sure how to get it to her, but as luck would have it, Jeri-Faye agreed to pass it on. (After giving me the "you are a very strange person" look, which was understandable. If I weren't me, I'd wonder what I was doing running around with an obscure Laker Girls DVD like it was secret footage of the aliens crashing at Roswell.)

By this time, I was feeling some pain. I managed to play it off and walk normally while inside the Thunderdome. Er… I mean the Velodrome. But as soon as those double doors closed behind me, it was like “OOOOOOW, ow, ow, ow, ow!” It seemed to take forever to get up those stairs, shuffle out to my car, grab the movie, and shuffle back inside and down the stairs.

(FYI: going down the stairs actually hurts waaaaay more than going up them. That was a nasty little surprise.)

I handed the DVD to Jeri-Faye. She wanted to watch the movie too, and I told her she absolutely should. I think they should pass it around and all the Laker Girls should watch it. If for no other reason than to see their director Lisa Estrada, in the role of “Beth” the choreographer. Tee hee.

I made it back inside just in time for the final cut. All of the veterans made it. A couple of my other favorites also made it. All in all, 30 girls were left standing. I had them all gather together for another group photo, and then it was time to go.

Day 1 was over.

Candidate interviews were scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, leading up to Wednesday’s finals. (I'll tell you about finals in a few days.)

Incidentally, for those who care, that night my ankle blew up to the size of a small grapefruit. I couldn’t walk on it at all, but I needed an ice pack and some Advil in the worst way so I had to find a way to get to the kitchen. Unfortunately, my knees were horribly bruised too, so I couldn’t even crawl there. I wound up using my vacuum cleaner as a crutch. (By the way, I do NOT recommend that, as most vacuum cleaners have wheels on the bottom and sometimes move when you do not expect them to.)

Stupid Velodrome.

Read on...

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