This past Saturday, the Phoenix Suns held their preliminary auditions for their dance team at the Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. Over a hundred girls tried out for roughly 18 positions. With 13 veterans trying out again, in reality the 100 hopefuls were essentially auditioning for five open slots, give or take an unexpected vacancy or two.
It was clear that the returning veterans were clearly a cut above the majority of those trying out. A season’s worth of rehearsing and performing was evident in their technique, showmanship and ability to learn the audition routine quickly. From this person’s perspective, there was a clear difference between the veterans and the other girls at this audition.
That is not to say that there weren’t any qualified candidates in attendance. In fact, I saw many girls who had previously tried out for the Suns Dancers or the Arizona Cardinals Cheerleaders and many of them were quite talented and good looking. But with only a handful of openings in any given year, many talented dancers go wanting.
But I am getting ahead of myself…
Registration was set for 7:30 am, but the media wasn’t allowed into the proceedings until the formal starting time an hour later. As a general rule, we were only allowed to shoot the rehearsal and the actual audition routines. We were not allowed to cover the introductions and the announcements of the cuts, so no “kiss and cry” shots or “jube” (jubilation) photos.
At 8:30 am, thing got started with the compulsory stretching and warm up session, led by Suns Entertainer Weezy and former Suns Dancer Kendal.
After the warm up session, new Suns Dance Team Manager Sumer addressed the crowd of hopefuls and welcomed them to auditions. Sumer let the girls know that they were in for a long day and then proceeded to introduce the instructors who would be teaching the audition routine.
With the girls warmed up and stretched, the instructors began the laborious task of teaching the audition routine in short, 8 count segments.
To this untrained observer, the audition routine was rather technical, particularly the hip hop segments. Why do I say so? Because it was hard for me to track the dancers as the routine evolved and it was a challenge to capture the fullness of their body movements in an aesthetic manner within my camera’s viewfinder. This is not something that is normally all that difficult for me to do, but this routine was a work out for this photographer as well as for the dancers.
In fact, you could tell this routine was a physical and a technical challenge by the number of runs and ruined tights on the dancers. I have never seen so many candidates with runs in their nylons…those that were wearing them. This was a routine that judges could separate the “men from the boys”, so to speak. Well done, instructors. Well done.
10:30 am. The girls were gathered in numerical order and brought before the panel of judges in groups of three to perform the audition routine. This would be the first of two rounds of cuts this day.
At 11:45 am, the first round was completed and we adjourned for lunch. Most of the girls ate a light lunch or nibbled on some healthy snacks to regain their energy.
Me? I wandered on down to the Blue Coyote Cafe and ate a hearty lunch. Photographing dancers is hard work and it is important to keep your energy levels up!
When the girls reconvened at the appointed time, the judges announced the results of their deliberations and those girls that were cut gathered their belongings and quickly made their exit. As we, the members of the media, waited to be allowed back into the audition, the dismissed candidates filed past us on their way out of the resort.
At 12:30 pm, the auditions resumed. For the next half hour, the candidates were taught a sidelines routine by Kendal, a routine that would be performed at the final auditions.
At 1:00 pm, the second round of auditions began for the 50 or 6o girls that remained. Unlike other auditions that I have been to, the Suns ran the remaining candidates through the same audition routine for a second time. As before, the girls were assembled in numerical order and called up in groups of three.
Once all the girls had performed, the girls were called back to the stage in specific groups of three. Veterans and potential rookies were matched together to see how they would mesh and girls that were similar were grouped together to see who would stand out.
At 2:15 pm, Sumer called all the tumblers to the floor and had them perform for the judges. Tumbling skills are a plus, but not at the expense of dance ability.
After the last tumbler had performed, the Suns management gathered the remaining candidates together to perform a Soul Train dance line and the girls were able to showcase their freestyle dance ability one final time for the judges.
A little after 3:00 pm, the media was escorted out of the audition area. Kip Helt, VP of Game Entertainment, wanted to address the remaining candidates and I was under the impression that the judges were about to make the second cut of the day. I was later told that the actual announcement of who made to the final round would be via a recorded message that the candidates could call in beginning at 7:00 pm.
By the time we were let back in, most of the girls were gathering their belongings and beginning to leave. It was 3:30 pm and the preliminary auditions were complete.
Phoenix is blessed with two things: hot weather and beautiful girls. Judging from the 100 or so girls that started the day, the 2014 Phoenix Suns Dancers are going to be one hot looking squad! Check ’em out.
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I would like to thank Kip Helt, Kelsey Dickerson and the Phoenix Suns for allowing me to cover their 2o14 Phoenix Suns Dancer auditions. I had a wonderful time and hope to see you again soon.
If you are in the Phoenix area during basketball season, check out the Suns. They are one of the most fan friendly organizations in professional sports and well worth your time if you enjoy sports.