The final day of DCC auditions, Round 3, never gets easier. It’s been the same story for each of my 14 years as a judge. How can 82 talented, beautiful girls be compressed to 46? The answer…it takes hard work and a very long day! Festivities kick off with fun solo routines in the morning, then on-field dance combos and kick line in the afternoon, and are capped off by the intense judges’ deliberations in the evening. If the judges felt wrung out emotionally by the end of a 13-hour demanding day, imagine how the candidates felt!
But, hey, the good news is that we are going to have another awesome squad this year. R3 candidates ranged in age from 18 to 31. You may be thinking, ‘A 31-year old is too old’ or ‘an 18-year old is too young.’ Well, you’re wrong on both counts. Youth will definitely be served, because there were only 23 returning veterans that re-auditioned this year. That means that a whopping 13 of last year’s 36 squad members retired. Usually there are only about 5 or maybe 7/8 veterans retire each year. This was good news for the rookies though….a lot of opportunities for new blood!
As a judge, I signed a waiver with CMT for “Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team” which precludes me from giving away too much. But I can definitely promise that this year’s show (to air in early fall) will be full of drama!
Here’s the more stunning upset: 3 of the veterans did not get invited back for 2015! One of them has been a favorite the past three years, so I’m still completely shocked. But honestly, she and the other two (both of whom I also really like) were beaten fair and square by talented young hopefuls. The take-away is don’t ever take your successes for granted. Always bring your “A Game” to DCC auditions!
Morning “SOLO” session - Each candidate has 90 seconds to “WOW” the judges with routines set to everything from show standards to rap, country and classic rock. They selected their own music, costume, choreography and props. This is the time of day where we can really see distinctive personality and showmanship. Two memorable moments to share:
- The most unique solo was a tap dance routine by a candidate from Arkansas. It stood out because it was different. You have to be careful, however, when doing something unique like tap or ballet or lyrical, because you are begging this question from the judges: “Okay, she’s great at tap, but does she have the ‘power’ to perform the typical DCC choreography.” That’s because “power” is one of the criteria listed on judges’ scorecards during R3 (the other criteria are: beauty, appearance, combination, kick, splits, and showmanship).
- My favorite moment from solos, however, came from one of the top veterans, Melissa. Last year as a rookie, Melissa tapped the top of her head with her foot during her solo. I mean that she kicked-up her leg from behind….and it goes so high that she can do a toe-touch on the top of her head! Honestly, you have to see it to believe it! So before this year’s solo I jokingly offered Melissa $10 to tap the top of her head with her foot again. She said it wasn’t part of her choreography this year, but what the heck? So she added it last-minute. Not only did she do it for me, she did it TWICE! Cost me $20, but it was worth every penny. (She didn’t want to take the money, but I made her because you should never squelch on a bet or a dare.)
>>Questions: if you had 90 seconds in front of the judges, what would you do? What music would you choose?
Afternoon dance combos and kick line session - The girls lined up on the field at the 50-yard line; judges were seated on the second level of stadium so we could watch the girls on the giant center-hung digital board. Why? Because when there are 90,000 fans on average at Cowboys games, and most are watching the DCC on the big screen. And a high-def, 60-yard-wide screen will make a little jiggle in your belly look like a jello landslide!
Like R2, the candidates performed in groups of 5 with DCC-style choreography. They perform the jazz combination twice, then do two rounds of kick line. Competitors are dressed alike, performing to the same song, and doing the same choreography. It’s truly the apples-to-apples comparison for judges. And it’s always a challenge for us, because candidates have had a full week to rehearse. In R2, a lot of hopefuls can’t keep up with the new choreography. In R3, they were all awesome! And that’s also why, even with fun celebrity judges like Neal McCoy and Melissa Rycroft Strickland (The Bachelor, Dancing With the Stars), it took about 3 hours for us to deliberate.
We discussed every single candidate…all 82 of them. Each judge voted YES (I think she’s a DCC), NO (not this time around), or MAYBE (I can’t decide). Some candidates were slam dunks for unanimous YES or NO votes. And for the handful of split votes, we spent upwards of 20 minutes discussing pros and cons. Although the day was grueling for judges, I know it’s worse for the candidates who are waiting to hear the results. Many have family members who are waiting outside in the stadium in the parking lot. It must feel interminable!
We finally narrowed the list of candidates to 46, but that doesn’t mean that they’ve made the final squad. They still have three months of training camp to survive! By August 29th, when the Cowboys play the preseason opener at AT&T Stadium against the Vikings, the hard work will finally pay off. That’s when the squad performs for the first time in front of a full stadium of Cowboys fans. The emotional rollercoaster of auditions and the torrid pace of summer training camp rehearsals will be in the rearview mirror. And then we know why the DCC are called “America’s Sweethearts” and why they are “often imitated, never equaled.”