Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Final auditions for the 2009 ChivaGirls took place on Wed, Feb 18th. (Yes, I know that was three weeks ago. If it weren’t for this pesky day job getting in the way, I’d have finished this a lot sooner. )
If you missed prelims, you can read all about them here. All of the photos from prelims and finals are right here.
I drove down to the Home Depot Center that afternoon, confident that I knew exactly where I was going. When I got there, I found out that there was an LA Galaxy game that night and there was a lot going on in the parking lot. I told the parking attendant why I was there, and she directed me to Lot 13. What? That’s miles away from the Velodrome!
Get out of my way, lady. I know what I’m doing. I hit the gas, drove right by Lot 13 and proceeded to the Velodrome, where there was plenty of parking. Ha! Did you see all those idiots in Lot 13? Suckers!
(Sidebar: I wonder why the Galaxy doesn’t have a dance team? Switch the red and white for and blue and gold and viola! The ChivaGirls are now the Galaxy Girls It’s not the first time a dance team ever did double duty for multiple teams. (Where is the Galaxy suggestion box? I need to write this down.)
I parked, got out of my car, and immediately noticed that there was something weird going on. There were an awful lot of people around, and none of them looked like future ChivaGirls. Many of them were carrying bicycles. They didn’t look like the sort who would conveniently schedule practice during auditions, so they could ogle all of the dancers.
Inside the building, there was definitely something wrong. Aside from all the cyclists zipping around the perimeter, there were two full on knee pads-and-everything volleyball games in progress. I got the feeling they had all been there for a while. It didn't look like any of them planned to exit the building in the near future.
Hmmm. This was certainly a puzzle. Was I out of the loop? Had the auditions been rescheduled?
My first thought was “Oh, no! Does Aimee know about this?” So I whipped out my phone and called her to report that dozens of crazed volleyballers were squatting in the Velodrome.
If I had thought about it for even half a second, I suppose I would’ve realized that as the Director of the team, Aimee was the one who booked the location for the auditions. She would of course know if there was some complicated activity going on beforehand.
If the venue had changed, she’s probably the one who changed it. She wasn’t going to answer the phone all freaked out, like “Volleyball! Oh no! Auditions are in less than an hour. Sasha, you have to get rid of all those people!” And then I’d have to get a bicycle pump or something and chase them all away.
(I have been known, at times, to overestimate the importance of my role in certain events.)
Long story short: finals were scheduled for the tennis pavilion, not the Velodrome. Duh.
I got in my car and drove back around to the front, where the parking attendant directed me to – guess where? - Lot 13. I guess that made me a sucker too. I cheated and parked in 10 though. 10 was a little bit closer to the building. I was still a bit twinge-y in my ankle and didn’t want to walk any farther than absolutely necessary. (If you missed out on the whole sprained ankle thing, all you need to know is that there was an small “incident” at prelims that left me with only one working foot. That’s all I care to say about that particular topic.)
When I got to the tennis pavilion I realized – thank you, Lord – there was a ramp to the door instead of the five hundred flights of stairs at the Velodrome. Maybe some things were going to go my way tonight.
Inside, Aimee and the camera crew were getting set up. (There’s a crew filming the ChivaGirls for an upcoming reality show.) The judges’ table was set up on one side of the room. Instead of one long table, there three or five small desks, kind of like the ones you see in elementary school. But bigger, of course.
Nicole and Lauren
Liz, Emi, and Sandra
Many of the girls had arrived early and were busy warming up. Mr. John Peters was also in the house. Judging this time. Not teaching. If you ask me, that kind of sucks. With regular “I have never seen you before and therefore am not biased at all,” judges, you could miss a small step and maybe nobody would notice. Or maybe they’d think one of the other girls messed up instead of you. But when one of the judges is the choreographer, you are sadly outta luck. That guy’s not going to miss a thing. Dang.
Gloria, Aimee, Mr. John Peters, and Lisa
I had arrived early enough to scope out the situation beforehand. It was going to be something of a challenge, photography-wise. The lighting was a bit dim, and the wall opposite the judges was nothing more than a series of glass doors and windows. I worried that I would wind up at the end of the night with 50 photos of my own reflection, and another 50 of the light from my camera flash.
However, I wasn’t the one with the major challenges. The dancers had a bigger problem to deal with. The tennis pavilion is somewhat tent-like and vulnerable to the elements. I imagine in the summers, you can open all the doors and enjoy the weather outside, without actually being outside. But on this particular evening, nobody appreciated the cold weather creeping indoors. All of the ladies were zipped up from ankles to eyeballs. I put on a sweater over my short sleeves and was fine. Then again, I wasn’t wearing a little two-piece audition outfit. I really felt for the dancers. For them, it was going to be a bit like tap dancing nekkid in Antarctica.
On a side note, Juicy Couture must’ve made a bloody fortune on those velour track suits.
At one point, Aimee deputized me to help out with the photos. The girls were instructed to line up on one side of the room, where Gloria was taking Polaroid head shots. After the Polaroid, they had to come to the other end of the room, where I was shooting individual photos. Those photos would be posted on the Chivas USA site when the team was announced the next day.
This is how cold it was in the room: the girls would do the Polaroid, put their warm-ups back on (for the five second walk to the other end of the room), whip the warm-ups off for a quick photo or two, and then jump back into the sweats and zip them up as far as they could go.
A couple of girls tried to get sneaky after the Polaroid. Instead of coming directly to me, they’d try to huddle down for a few minutes to get warm. I don’t know who they thought they were fooling, but it ain’t yours truly. I can see you over there! Don’t be a weenie. Get over here and take this photo like a man!
After the first 9 or 10 girls, I resorted to “escorting” them across the room for the second photo. Not that they wouldn’t have made it there on their own, but I’m a “rip the band aid off” kind of gal. Yeah, you’re freezing your buns off, but it’s only for a minute. Just get it over with.
It didn’t take long to finish with the photos. I like to think that my “warm air is for losers” approach helped move things along. There were a couple of snafus – Gloria ran out of Polaroid film and I missed getting one of the girls, but for the most part, it went well.
- Let’s talk about Gloria for a minute. Who is Gloria? She’d been at prelims too, to help tabulate the scores. Gloria, Gloria, Gloria. I knew I’d seen her somewhere. But where? So far, I know she was on the Beijing Aoshen Olympian (NBA D-league) dance team. But I know I’ve seen her somewhere else too…Hm….
(Note to self: figure that out.)
I was standing off to the side, minding my own business when – holy crap. Lisa Estrada popped up out of nowhere. One minute she wasn’t there. The next minute, she was. I bet this is what the natives felt like when Captain Kirk beamed down from the Enterprise.
Lisa Estrada – for those who don’t know - is the Director of the Los Angeles Laker Girls. I’m sure I’ve previously mentioned my ongoing mission to cover the Laker Girls for the blog. I might’ve even called it “stalking” a time or two. The Laker Girls have been a tough nut to crack.
Here was an opportunity to talk to The Chief Chick-In-Charge Herself.
Oy. What was I gonna do?
I had to say something, right? This might be the only time I ever saw Lisa Estrada in person. I had to at least introduce myself. It’s part of the job. I was uncomfortably aware, however, that I could really screw things up for this whole entire blog. No Laker Girl coverage EVER. I was skeered to talk to her. Most of this is in my head. But I was still skeered.
This reminds me of the time I went scampering across a football field in Oxnard, chasing after Kelli Finglass, Director of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. As I was running after her, half of me was saying “Just do it, honey. This is probably the only chance you’ll ever have to introduce yourself and show that you are not psychotic.” The other half of me was rolling her eyes, saying “For God’s sake, Sasha. You’re a grown woman. Where’s your dignity?”
Apparently I had none. But I did meet Kelli Finglass and she is a lovely woman.
Now history was repeating. I didn’t know if Lisa was staying or what, so if I was going to do this, I had to do it right away. I got ready to scurry over there. Feets don’t fail me now!
But then I stopped. What exactly was I going to say to this woman?
I couldn’t run over there and be all “Hi-Lisa-My-Name-Is-Sasha-I’m-from-the-Pro-Cheerleader-Blog-I-don’t-know-if-you’ve-heard-of-it-Nice-to-meet-you-I-promise-I’m-not-a-creep-See-don’t-I-look-like-a-nice-respectable-person?-Can-I-come-to-a-game- and-do-some-behind-the-scenes-coverage?-How-about-a-rehearsal? -How-about-auditions?-You-tell-me-where-to-sit-and-I-promise-not-to-move-at-all-or-make-any-sound-whatsoever-You-won’t-hear-one-peep-from-me-no-ma’am-Not-one.”
She could very well look down her nose at me at tell me to get lost. I knew she wouldn’t, but still. That lady with the chimp who went crazy and attacked her friend never saw that coming either.
Not that I’m comparing Lisa to a chimp. People are unpredictable, is what I’m getting at. And so are animals.
I decided to head her way and hope for the best.
Then I started thinking about the Laker Girls, and the Laker games in general. As usual, my overactive imagination (and outright narcissism) got the best of me.
What if I accidentally trip Kobe and he breaks both arms and both legs and all of a sudden I’m all over the news as the person who single handedly destroyed the Los Angeles Lakers. I would be universally hated. Publicly reviled. People I work with would throw things at me.
Plus, there are lots of celebrities at Laker games. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t care about gawking at celebrities. To be honest, they aren’t all that interesting. But what if I dropped my camera on Jack Nicholson’s head?
What if I stepped on Victoria Beckham’s foot and destroyed her $5,000 Manolos?
What if I was pointing at something and accidentally clotheslined Lindsey Lohan?
I could get yelled at. Sued. Taken out back and shot.
Lindsey Lohan’s mom is scary!
Only consider the almost unlimited potential for catastrophe!
Then again, I’m in no danger of weaseling my way into a Lakers game, so perhaps I should just calm down about the whole thing.
I decided not to talk to Lisa. Status quo was ok by me.
Incidentally, on a somewhat related note, Amazon.com completely sold out of the Laker Girls movie. They've been out of stock for almost two weeks. How many copies of this thing are you people buying???
Right about then is when I overheard three girls talking about how they had to go to Target at the last minute to get some trunks for finals. I guess Target doesn’t carry much in the way of black trunks, so some girls had to go to more than one store.
In my head I was thinking: Let me get this straight. On Sunday, you had a complete outfit for auditions. Today is Wednesday and now half of your stuff is missing? All three of you? Listen, unless all of you live together on a houseboat and it caught on fire and sank to the bottom of the ocean, taking all of your clothes with it, I can’t think of a real good excuse for losing your bottoms right before finals. It’s not like you took them off on the way home and left them somewhere.
Then Laura helpfully pointed out that everyone had been instructed to wear black trunks or shorts to finals, instead of their regular bottoms. Some people didn’t own any and had to go out buy a pair.
Well in that case, never mind.
Before I completely change the subject, I have to raise my hand and ask “what is up with that?” I’ve seen auditions where the dancers were made to wear identical outfits, or dress in black. (This is so the girls who shelled out for a particularly fetching outfit don’t have an unfair advantage over everyone else.). But why make them wear black on the bottom and not on the top? There must be a reason for this. I just had no idea what it might be. Why just the bottoms?
No, really. WHY?
I didn’t have much time to ponder that, as it was time for the audition to start. I’ll put that on my to-do list to figure out later. Right after the Gloria situation.
The first item on the agenda was to have the girls do the dance they’d learned on Sunday. You remember the song.
"...La la la get Krazy. La la la get Krazy. La la la get Krazy. La la la get Krazy...."
They performed in groups of three. The original plan was for each group to do the routine twice, but the judges decided that once was enough. This is how the process worked for the dancers:
- 1. Sweats off
2. Dance real fast
3. Sweats back on
Wax on, wax off, Daniel-son.
(That doesn’t have anything to do with anything. I just felt like saying it.)
I wish I’d brought an electric blanket or a hot water bottle. Something to help a sista out.
Finals are when auditions get really tough. Once you whittle it down to such a small group of women, they’ve all got similar levels of talent, presentation, etc. It becomes much more difficult to thin the herd, so to speak. Everyone knows the dance so the judges have to look at other things. Technique. Experience. Polish. Charisma. Charm. Fitness. Maturity. Overall appearance. And of course , you’re looking for some diversity. From what I’ve observed, most teams like to mix it up. Some blondes. Some brunettes. Some tall girls. Some short girls. Girls of different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds. Girls at different stages in their lives. It keeps things interesting.
Having said all of that, the judges didn’t seem to be struggling with their scores. They were all in a great mood. Somebody had brought brownies, and baked goods make people happy. The judges were pretty relaxed. This wasn’t one of those auditions where the judges look at you stone-faced like “impress me or die.”
Meanwhile, I was having some issues. (I know, what else is new, right?)
The guy with the video camera had the primo spot for filming the action. I sat on the floor in front of him for a bit, but it was skewing the perspective in my photos. (Nobody wants to see a bunch of nostril shots.) After a while, I decided to ease in behind the video guy and shoot my photos around him. He was kind of crouched over, so it seemed like a feasible plan.
One thing I didn’t realize was that spot where I was trying to go was right next to Lisa Estrada. Oh snap! What now?
I figure this was the Lord’s way of saying “get on with it already.” Someone once said “When God wants you to do something; He gives you a certain amount of time to get it done. Eventually, if you can’t get take care of business, He’ll take over.”
I was afraid if I didn’t say anything to Lisa, the Good Lord would see fit to drop kick me right at her feet.
The Time Had Come. So I gathered up my courage and said hello.
I have no recollection of what was said after that. All I know is it was quick, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t say anything funny, fascinating, or clever. I’m sorry, ok? It was scary for me. The more I try to be normal and professional, the more I sound like a complete idiot. I am convinced of it.
My impression was that Lisa is a nice lady. I didn’t quite get a read on her, but she seems like good people. I’m still a bit intimidated though. She is a very “together” kind of person, and I SO am not. Unfortunately, I’m about 85% nonsense.
Brittany, Tiffany, and Nicole
Dalila and Amy
After everyone had performed in groups of three, the judges called them back to dance in different groups. They were bigger groups this time, five or six at a time. I’m not sure how they decided how to group the girls. It didn’t look like they were doing all the blondes together, all the brunettes together, etc. One thing I did notice though is the last few groups were mostly veterans with on a couple of new girls mixed in. I think it was to see if the newbie could bring it like the vets. And I guess also to see how hard the vets would fight to keep their spot on the team.
(Please keep in mind that I’ve never judged an audition and am most likely talking out of my rear end.)
Sandra, Alheli, and Serena
Amy, Erica, and Liz
Ariel, Tiffany, Marie, and Lauren
The very last part of the audition was freestyle dance. All of the girls lined up and each one had few eight-counts to dance on her own. Freestyle is an opportunity to show off a bit. If you have the highest kicks or the best turns, or can flip from one end of the room to the other, this was the time to do all of that. It also shows what you can do when you don’t have to focus on remembering choreography. You can play around with the music and let your personality come out a little bit.
This part was pretty fun to watch. The music cut off during one girls turn. She didn’t miss a beat, just kept dancing until the song came back on again. Nicely done.
Psst! Lemme let you in on a secret. By this time in the process, the judges have pretty well decided who they want on the squad. This portion of the audition was basically a final chance for the “iffy” girls to influence the final thumbs up/thumbs down vote.
After freestyle, Aimee gathered the girls around to discuss the next steps in the process. She explained that the names of the 2009 ChivaGirls would be posted online by 5pm the next day. The newly-selected team had no time to waste. They’d jump right into mini camp the following weekend. The first home game is scheduled for March 21st. Yikes – that’s right around the corner!
And then it was over. The girls packed up their stuff and headed out the door. Some stopped on the way to thank the judges for the opportunity. Okay, on paper that might sound like a blatant suck up. But it was a pretty smart thing to do. It shows confidence and good manners and leaves the judges with a positive impression of you. (As long as you don’t act like a total suck-up while doing it.)
After the dancers left, the judges gathered their notes together and went to the office to talk it out. It was sort of anticlimactic.
I went back to the parking lot - and promptly forgot where I’d left my car. You know how that goes. You look around for about five minutes, and then you start to get a bit agitated.
This is where I left it, right?
Or maybe it’s the next lot over.
Or did I park all the way the other side of the building?
What am I going to do if I can’t find my car?
How will I get home?
How will I get to work tomorrow?
What if someone stole it?
What if I forgot to set the brake and it rolled down the hill, through a brick wall, and out onto the freeway???
And so you walk up and down the rows of cars, all casual-like, because you don’t want to look like some maniac who can’t remember where she left the car. This isn’t a needle in a haystack, for pete’s sake. Its 2, tons of metal, plastic and a variety other man made materials. How do you LOSE as 2,000 pound vehicle?
I was about 3 seconds away from a full on meltdown, when I finally found my car. Probably 10 minutes had gone by. It felt like hours.
At 5pm the next day, I went to cdchivausa.com. The names hadn’t been posted yet. I hit refresh., but nothing changed.
5:15 – Refresh. Refresh. Nothing.
5:30 – Refresh. Refresh. Nothing.
5:45 – Still nothing. Now I was getting mad.
5:55 - Refresh Refresh Refresh Refresh Refresh Refresh Refresh Refresh Refresh Refresh Refresh Refresh Refresh Refresh Refresh Refresh Refresh Refresh Refresh Refresh Refresh Refresh Refresh Refresh
The list of names finally appeared at 6pm. By then I was totally stressed out, never mind the girls waiting to see if they made the final cut!
For those of you who didn’t lose patience with me and go to the Chivas site to see for yourselves, I give you the 2009 ChivaGirls!
Ah, but wait! There’s a twist at the end of this particular story. Stay tuned. All will be revealed in the near future….
Row 1: Alheli, Amy, Ariel, Ashley, and Dalila
Row 2: Emi, Jebbell, Kelley, and Laura
Row3: Mandi, Marie, Megan, and Monique
Row 4: Nicole, Sandra, Serena, and Tiffany