I’ve been to Phoenix three times in the past year and each time I come back to this place it is hotter than ever. I knew that Phoenix would be hot in July. Temperatures were forecast to be 110 degrees. They lied. It was 115 degrees as I arrived at my hotel in Glendale, Arizona. 115 degrees. Surely, this must have been the hottest place on earth.
Why was I back in Phoenix? To cover the 2010 Phoenix Suns Dancers auditions. Arizona has quite the reputation for beautiful people and in my experience, it‘s true. The professional sports teams of Arizona have been very supportive of our endeavors here at UltimateCheerleaders.com, so it was natural for us to want to cover the 2010 Phoenix Suns Dancers auditions. The Suns are a great NBA franchise with a rich tradition and they have a wonderful dance team. We don’t often get the opportunity to cover an NBA dance team and when we do, it is a rare treat indeed…one that I hope our readers enjoy.
Kari Herrick, the Director of the Suns Dancers, allowed us full access to the preliminary auditions and in this report, I will document the audition process for our readers. So, let us begin.
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The 2010 Phoenix Suns Dancers preliminary auditions were held on July 10th at the Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. Over a hundred girls and one guy showed up to audition for one of the sixteen available spots on the squad. The requirements to become a Suns Dancer were that candidates had to be at least 18 years old, must have a high school diploma or equivalent, and have a legal right to work in the United States. Candidates were required to wear two piece audition attire, game day ready make up and hair, and all tattoos were to be covered with make up and all piercings removed.
My first impression was that, for the most part, each and every participant was fit and trim. This audition seemed to be devoid of the handful of people that are here for the experience and unlikely to make the dance team, if you get my meaning. These were all qualified candidates, at least at first glance.
Registration began at 9:00 a.m. and the festivities began promptly at 10:00 a.m. with stretching and an informal warm up dance session to get the girls (and one guy) in the spirit.
DJ Kool started things off by getting the girls to shimmy to a few select songs. At one point, C&C Music Factory’s, “Everybody Dance Now” came over the speakers and a few of the girls spontaneously began to do “The Robot”. They all had a good laugh at that one.
Then DJ Kool gathered the girls together in the middle of the dance floor to form “the Magic Circle”, where one girl would do a solo and then call up another one to take over. This kind of reminded me of the line dance on the old TV show, Soul Train, except that this was in a circle.
A little after 10:00, Kip Helt, the Vice President of Game Entertainment, addressed the girls (and one guy) and emphasized the role and importance of the Suns Dancers. He then introduced Kari Herrick, who described what the day’s events would entail.
Kari introduced Karen the choreographer and Weezy of the APS Solar Squad, who would lead the group in the formal stretching and warm up phase.
After the warm ups, the across the floor routine was taught to the hopefuls. Candidates were able to rehearse the routine several times before they were segmented into three groups to perform the across the floor routine…across the floor. Judges would score each candidates performance, but no cuts would be made for this round.
It was a little after 11:00 a.m. and the girls (and one guy) were given a break to recover and hydrate themselves before the next phase of the audition. When everyone reconvened, Karen the choreographer began introducing the audition routine. As is customary, the entire routine was broken down into individual eight count segments and installed sequentially. Throughout the process, the candidates were given the opportunity to rehearse each segment with spoken cadence and music. Through repetition and incremental installments, the entire routine was demonstrated in about an hour and a half. One and half hours of instruction for a routine that lasts a little over a minute.
At 12:30 p.m., the candidates were excused for lunch. There were several dining facilities in the Talking Stick Resort that the girls (and one guy) were able to choose from. Kari highly recommended that people eat a hearty lunch because the process was not even half over and second round of judging was yet to come.
When the candidates returned from lunch, they were able to rehearse the audition routine several times. It was time well spent because about two thirds into the song, the routine became very challenging. A musical section made following the eight counts difficult, if not impossible. This would be the portion of the routine that might pose a problem for some. Perhaps, that was the intent, to throw in this difficult section to separate the candidates from those truly qualified.
At 2:00 p.m., the second round of judging began. The candidates were lined up in numerical order and given strict instructions to not practice the routine as they waited their turn to perform. And then it began. Candidates were called in groups of four to perform the routine they just learned.
There would be a cut at the end of this portion of the audition, so the tension was palpable because it was for real. People would be going home after this round, so it was time to shine.
For this round of the competition, the candidates would be scored with either a “Yes”, “No”, or “Maybe”. Comments would be noted to clarify a candidate’s qualifications. Since this was a preliminary audition, it is my belief that this round was mostly to eliminate those clearly unqualified due to their physical fitness or dance ability.
In truth, I noted only a handful of “sure things” and even fewer that were clearly unqualified. The majority of the rest had at least one of the three qualities that I look for in a dancer: 1) looks, 2) dance ability, and 3) charisma/showmanship/sparkle. I may not be a dancer, but I’ve been attending NFL/NBA/college games for more than 30 years and I can recognize those that have the special qualities that make a good dancer and those that don’t. Bottom line, the judges would have a difficult time in setting the cut off point. The level of competition was that close. That’s a good thing because this squad is going to be hot.
It was 2:46 p.m. and this round of the audition was over. The judges retired to tabulate the scores and to review the comments from this round and the previous round.
A little after 3:00 p.m., the judges reconvened in the main ballroom to inform the candidates of the results. Of the 100 candidates that began the day, 54 would be continuing their quest for one of the 16 spots on the roster. For those whose numbers were not called, their day was over. Their journey was at an end.
For those remaining, the audition process would continue. The remaining candidates were called in reverse order and required to perform the audition routine a second time for the judges. This time, they were called in groups of three and the judges would only be writing down comments.
At the conclusion of the performances, Kari called all the candidates over to the center of the ballroom and let them know what would happen next. The judges would review their notes and render their decisions by 7:00 p.m. At that time, candidates would be able to call into a hot line to learn their fate.
If they made it to the next stage on the morrow, they would be scheduled for an interview, take their squad photos, and then perform another dance routine that would be evaluated in front of another panel of judges. That’s what they had to look forward to, if they made it that far.
It was 4:21 p.m. and the remaining girls (and one guy) were excused for the day. For the judges, their day would continue with another round of deliberations. As for me, my day was over. It was time to head back to my hotel room and try to cool off.
On July 10th, Phoenix, Arizona was the hottest place on the earth and I’m not talking about the weather.
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I would like to thank Kari Herrick for the opportunity to cover the 2010 Phoenix Suns Dancers auditions. I had a wonderful time covering your auditions and hope to see you next year. And a special thanks to Krystal Heaton and Casey Taggatz of the Phoenix Suns Public Relations Department for their hospitality and support.