Often imitated but never equaled, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders are known as “America’s Sweethearts.” If you’ve seen them on the sidelines at AT&T Stadium in Arlington or watched episodes of their hit TV show Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team, you know rookie hopefuls face stiff competition to join the most prestigious dance team in professional sports. During auditions, judges look for more than great dance technique and pretty faces. We’re looking for well-spoken, well-rounded ambassadors for our community and the Cowboys’ brand. Tryouts are closed to the public, but as a DCC judge for 18 years, here’s my chance to give behind-the-scenes details about the process.
Kicking off May 18, Round 1/Prelims (freestyle dance) are flooded with several hundred hopefuls. About 110-120 return for Round 2/Semifinals on May 19. After spending the morning learning choreography and the famous DCC kick line, they perform for the judges. Only 60-70 continue to Round 3/Finals on June 1. At Finals, they compete against returning veterans.
Returning Veterans Must Re-Audition
Just because you’re a DCC member doesn’t mean you’re automatically on the squad next year. Many Cowboys fans are surprised that DCC must re-audition every year. The good news for returning veterans is that they skip to Round 3/Finals. All the judges (and contestants) love Round 3 morning session: solo routines! Solos are fun because contestants can play to their strengths and show their individuality. During solos, contestants perform their own choreography and choose their own song and costume. Styles can vary from lyrical, to ballet, to hip-hop, to jazz, to tap. We might see a routine to a Broadway show tune, or a country western-type of dance, or maybe a returning veteran like Ciarra, a native of Honolulu, will choose to do a Tahitian-style hula.
When contestants make it to Finals, contestants take a written test that factors into the overall evaluation. The test contains several subjects: Dallas Cowboys team history, general football knowledge (X’s and O’s of football), DCC history, dance terms, current events and pop culture. Examples of a Cowboys/football question are, “Who is the all-time leading rusher in NFL history?” (answer- Emmitt Smith) and “Which Cowboys linebacker, who set a team record in 2018 for most tackles by a rookie, celebrates big plays by howling like a wolf because his nickname is ‘The Wolf Hunter’?” (answer – Leighton Vander Esch). A current events question could be, “Who is the US Attorney General that is testifying in front of the Senate following his summary of The Mueller Report?” (answer: William Barr).
Through panel interviews, judges get to know the hopefuls and ask about current events or the Cowboys/DCC/NFL. Contestants don’t know the questions in advance. The judges sit across the table and the questions come rapid-fire. DCC represent the Cowboys’ brand to fans, sponsors, corporate executives, military members and political leaders around the world on USO Tours. They must be articulate and knowledgeable. After all, they are representing our community, our team and the DCC brand. The interviews can be make-or-break. A contestant may be an awesome dancer, but if she can’t communicate well, she probably won’t make the squad. On the other hand, we’ve had contestants who are so impressive in panel interviews -- so intelligent and warm and inspiring -- they help their prospects of making the squad.
There is No Age, Weight, or Gender Requirement for DCC Hopefuls
Cowboys fans often assume there are strict guidelines for DCC audition. In truth, there are very few requirements to enter. You must be at least 18 years old on Day 1 of auditions, but there is no maximum age. We’ve had ladies in their 50’s tryout (even a 62-year old, if I remember correctly). There is also no rule regarding gender. We’ve had male contestants, including one during 2018 auditions. In a given year in Round 1, we could have an 18-year old high school senior alongside a grandma. We may have a stay-at-home mother of three kids next to a biomedical engineer – in 2016 we had two biomedical engineers make the squad. A woman from Japan could be next to a woman from Colombia (that’s happened in the past). Contestants travel around the globe to compete to become one of “America’s Sweethearts”.
Made It Through Auditions? You’re Not Officially a DCC…Yet!
That’s right, making it through auditions means you’re invited to DCC Summer Training Camp. You are not a squad member…yet! Once a DCC hopeful makes it through Prelims, Semifinals and Finals, the real work is just beginning! Of the several hundred contestants that begin, about 43-46 make it through Round 3/Finals to be invited to DCC Training Camp. Only 36 make the squad by the end of summer. During the 3 months, there are rehearsals each weeknight at the DCC studio at the team headquarters. It’s similar to the football players trying to make the Dallas Cowboys’ roster, but the DCC training camp (10 weeks) is much longer than the players’ training camp (3 weeks).
A diverse group of women comprises "America’s Sweethearts," and it’s an arduous process to make the team. I have said for many years, as both Dallas Cowboys Sideline Reporter and DCC judge, it’s tougher to make the DCC squad than for a football player to make the Dallas Cowboys’ roster! Good luck to each of the DCC hopefuls who plan to attend Round 1. I will be watching you from the judges’ panel and rooting for you!