Over the years, one of my favorite events to cover has been the Arizona Cardinals Cheerleader auditions. It’s not because I get to photograph some of professional sports most beautiful cheerleaders. It’s not because I am able to shoot in one of the most amazing locations to hold auditions…University of Phoenix Stadium. It’s because of the people I meet here, from the Cardinals staff to the cheerleaders to the other photographers covering the event. They are very nice and so welcoming to me, that I thoroughly enjoy my time here.
Okay, maybe the beautiful girls have a small part in my fondness for this event. Long hours, slaving behind the camera…shooting an endless line of beautiful and talent young women…a lot of hard work and passion goes into covering this event. And like the girls trying out for the squad, for me it is also a time to shine.
I have been covering this event since 2009 and every year, it gets better and better. Better in terms of the sheer number of gorgeous girls that try out. And better in terms of the dance talent that the Arizona Cardinals Cheerleaders attract. This year, I noticed a number of Phoenix Suns Dancers trying out to make this squad. This was in addition to two girls who came from Japan and a couple of NFL cheerleaders from other teams who tried out their luck.
Over 170 girls registered for this year’s auditions. This included 18 returning veterans who were trying to secure their spot on the 2016 squad. Preliminary auditions would span over two days and include three rounds of dance in front of a judging panel. At the end of the first day, 170 candidates would be whittled down to 57 semi finalists…and that’s when the real competition began.
The preliminary auditions were held at UOP stadium in Glendale, Arizona…the home of the Arizona Cardinals. It was a fitting place to hold auditions and I got a sense of the place where these girls will ultimately perform as I walked through the heart of the venue.
Registration was at 9:00 a.m. and when I arrived, there was a line of eager girls waiting to register.
After registration, the girls were escorted down to a lower level locker room area where they could get ready and apply the finishing touches to their hair and make up. I walked on over to the Fiesta Bowl Conference Room to check out the venue and to get a sense of the shooting angles. I snapped this shot of the stage area and let me tell you that the staff really focused on the little details that make this event special. It was very impressive.
At 9:00 am, the girls were led into the conference room and were addressed by Kristina Ferdig, the director of cheerleading for the Arizona Cardinals. She let them know what was on the agenda for this portion of the auditions and then she introduced Kristen, the AZCC’s pro bowl representative, who would lead them in a brief warm up session before demonstrating the first round audition routine.
Upon conclusion of the instructional period, the judges were called in and the candidates performed the first round routine in groups of three.
At the conclusion of the dances, the judges retired to deliberate and a short time later, Kristina returned to announce the results. Those that didn’t make the cut were excused for the day and the 18 returning veterans were quickly ushered into the room to learn the second round audition routine. Time was short and there was still a lot to do in the hours that remained in the day.
Kristen returned to to demonstrate the second round audition routine, which took an hour and fifteen minutes in total. As I gazed across the crowd of assembled hopefuls, I could not help but notice that there were a lot of blondes in the room.
After the dance was taught, the girls had a few minutes to freshen up before the judges returned to score the second round.
Once again the judges retired to deliberate. This time, there was a noticeable delay before the results were announced. Of the 170 candidates, only 57 remained. They would go on to perform on Sunday. But this day was far from over and the remaining girls learned a third routine that would be performed for the semi-finals.
It was a long day, but another chance to shine. As they say in college basketball, “survive and advance”.
The remaining candidates got to sleep in a bit…semi-final registration wasn’t scheduled until 11:00 am. The actual judging wouldn’t start until 12:00 noon, so they had about an hour to practice and rehearse. There would be two dances performed today back to back, the second round routine and the one they learned at the end of day on Saturday. This would be a good test to see how much the girls retained and how they would perform under a pressure packed situation.
But first, the mandatory warm up session.
And then the girls had a few minutes to rehearse the routine under the guidance of Kristen.
At 12:00 noon, the judges were assembled on the upper deck of UOP Stadium and the 57 semi-finalists were called up before the panel in groups of three. They were instructed to perform the second round routine followed by the semi-final round routine. Two technical routines back to back.
After the last group had performed the two routines, the judges retired one final time to deliberate. It must have been a tough call because the judges took over an hour to determine what would be the 35 finalists. Kristina returned back to the stage area and called all the candidates back to inform them of the results. Audition numbers were called and the joyful girls ran up to the stage to be embraced by their fellow finalists.
At the end of the day, 35 young women remained. They were the finalists, the ones that remained standing….the ones that shined the most.
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I would like to thank the Kristina Ferdig, Tim, Aaron and the rest of the staff of the Arizona Cardinals for allowing me to cover their auditions. I had a great time and hope to see you during the regular season!