Hotter than an Arizona Summer: the 2011 Phoenix Suns Dancers Auditions

What’s hotter than an Arizona Summer?  We’ll get back to this later.

I am told that the weather is nice in Phoenix…for six months of the year.  I wouldn’t know because every time I visit the Valley of the Sun, it’s hotter than…well you can imagine.  But as hot as the weather was, it’s was hotter inside the Student Recreation Center at Grand Canyon University.

This past weekend, the Phoenix Suns held auditions for their 2011-2012 Suns Dancers.  Over 160 women and one guy braved the searing Arizona heat to try out for one of the 18 coveted spots on the team.  By the time I arrived at the facility, there was already a long line of girls waiting to register.  After filling out the requisite paperwork, the girls queued up to take photos for the Suns website.  I picked up my media credential and made my way to the far side to get set up for what would be a long day of work.

I was there a little bit early for the 10:00 a.m. auditions, so I decided to snap a few photos of the girls lounging to give you an idea of the scope of the auditions.

The veterans were already in attendance, so I snapped a photo of those girls who were trying out again for posterity.

A little after 10:00 a.m., Kip Helt, the Vice President of Game Entertainment, welcomed the attendees and let them know how important the Suns Dancers are to the organization and to their efforts to provide a great experience for the fans.

Next up was new Dance Team Director Teresa McAuliffe, who let everyone know what the audition process would entail.  Teresa was a former Suns Dancer who has danced professionally in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami and New York.

The auditions began in earnest when Jonnis Tannis, the choreographer, led the group in a series of stretching and warm up exercises.  You may remember Jonnis from the first season of So You Think You Can Dance.

Once the girls were warmed up, Jonnis taught the group an across the floor routine which included kicks, spins, and a jazz walk section.

They were instructed to perform the across the floor routine from stage left to stage right.  Once they completed the routine, Jonnis instructed them to perform the routine from right to left, reversing all the moves and footing.  They girls had a few minutes to practice then they reversed the routine and performed it from right to left.

No cuts were made after the across the floor routine, but I think the judges got a pretty good idea of what each girl had to offer.  The next stage would involve a cut, so attending to details was important.  The girls paid close attention as Jonnis began the laborious process of introducing the audition routine, which included a choreographed segment, followed by a freestyle portion, ending with a repeat of the choreographed portion.

Once the entire routine was demonstrated, the girls were separated into two groups and allowed to practice the routine to music, Lady Gaga’s “Silly Boy”.

After the rehearsal, the audition portion began.  Girls were called up in groups of five to perform the audition routine and the judges evaluated their performances.  A cut would be made after this round, so the girls had to turn it on as there was no reason to hold back at this point.

After the last group of five performed, the girls were excused for lunch while the judges deliberated and scored their performance.  It was 2:15 p.m.

After the girls had eaten lunch and refreshed their make up, they began to gather in the rec center to begin rehearsing the audition routine again.  Even though the first round cuts had not been announced, the girls understood that there would be another round of auditions.  So the returning veterans led the hopefuls in rehearsing the routine.

At 3:30 p.m., the judges returned and Teresa called the girls over to announce the results of the first round.  Of the over 160 girls and 1 guy that started the day, 72 individuals would make it to the next round.  Those girls who were cut, gathered their belongings and made their way to the exit.  Their day was over.

The remaining candidates were lined up in order and the second round began.  This time, they were called up in groups of four and they were asked to perform the audition routine for a second time.

At the conclusion of this round, Teresa addressed the remaining candidates to let them know what was next.  A cut would made later that evening and the candidates would be notified by calling in and listening to a message with the numbers of those progressing to the next round. If a candidate was moving on, they were instructed to visit the Suns web site to download music to which they were expected to choreograph an original piece for the dance portion of Sunday’s round of auditions.

She let them know that Sunday would be a busy day. The first part of the Sunday auditions would be an interview session and a photo shoot.  The girls were instructed to come dressed appropriately for the interviews and to bring along their performance attire for the dance portion which was scheduled for the afternoon.  That round of the auditions would include two dance routines, the audition routine and their original choreography.  So even though it was 4:30 p.m. when the remaining candidates were excused, they would have a busy evening ahead, preparing for Sunday’s events.

As the candidates filed out of the building, I gathered my belongings and made my way to the exit.  I was met with a blast of hot, 109 degree air.   They say you get used to the heat in the desert.  They lie.

Oh and to answer the question, what’s hotter than an Arizona summer?  Yeah, I think you know the answer.

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I would like to express my deep gratitude to Kip Helt, Teresa McAuliffe, and the staff of the Phoenix Suns for allowing me the opportunity to cover their 2011-2012 Suns Dancers auditions.  I had a wonderful time and hope to visit you soon again.

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