We just wrapped the third and final round of 2016 Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders auditions. I’ve got two words for you: holy smokes!
The morning solo routines were terrific, and the afternoon session on the football field was fun to watch. The truth is that the competition gets more and more fierce every year. There were talented, beautiful girls that didn’t survive the final cut that would have made it to DCC Training Camp in past years.
We judged 71 contestants in this year’s Finals. Only 47 were invited to camp.
Of the 71 contestants competing in Round 3, less than half (28) were from Texas. We had a total of 25 states as well as two foreign countries represented. So out of 71 girls, 43 traveled from some other part of the globe to be in Arlington for DCC auditions!
I’ll remember the 2016 auditions thanks to a young woman from Osaka, Japan named Yuko. She has cheered for professional baseball, soccer and basketball teams in Japan. She’s a cheer and dance coach back home in Japan. She watched the DCC television show on CMT called “Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team.” She decided to travel to North Texas to audition… and she did a great job!!!
Because CMT is taping more episodes of the popular DCC show again this year, I’m not supposed to give any spoilers. But if you start watching the show this fall when it airs new episodes, I think you will be inspired by Yuko and enjoy watching her go through the process. I can tell you that she left a very favorable impression on the judges through all three rounds (hint, hint!).
Of course, the DCC has had an international presence for many years. One of our Aussie veterans, Jinelle, is returning to the squad. Again, no spoilers allowed, but her family back home in Melbourne, Australia should not expect to see her until DCC training camp concludes.
In a previous blog posting I’ve written about the diversity of the DCC squad. I don’t just mean contestants that travel overseas to attend auditions. I’m talking about the composition of the squad.
The DCC are truly ‘America’s Sweethearts’ because they come from all over the U.S. I mentioned that 25 states were represented in this year’s auditions. Texas had the most (28) followed by California (6) and Missouri (3). Several states had two contestants in Finals: Arizona, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Utah.
Do you live in any of those states? If not, maybe you live in one of these (one contestant from each of these states): Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, South Carolina, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
I think many Cowboys fans are surprised to learn that DCC are from across the country (and now, across the world).
Fans are also surprised that returning veterans must re-audition every year. Unfortunately, not every veteran makes it back on the squad. Sometimes they get beat-out by a DCC rookie hopeful. That happened this year. I cannot give names, but two veterans did not get asked to DCC Training Camp this summer. They got beat out.
It’s interesting because, in talking with DCC veterans, many will tell you that it’s tougher to audition as a veteran than as a rookie. As a veteran, they know what is at stake. There’s lots of pressure. Also, the judges know the veterans so they each veteran must live-up to the standard they already set for themselves. You don’t get cut slack as a veteran; the judges hold you to a really high standard. As a rookie hopeful who is new to the process, you may be blissfully ignorant of what’s in store in regards to the audition process. The new girls are nervous, of course, but they feel a different kind of pressure/intensity.
This year’s rookie class which is about to enter DCC Training Camp is an excellent class. There is a lot of talent and potential. It’s also a large rookie class. Only 23 returning veterans re-auditioned. Only 21 made it back to camp, so the veterans are actually outnumbered by the rookies.
The great news is that our returning veterans are outstanding. Jennifer is the returning group leader and there’s no finer person than Jennifer. We all love her and she continually sets the standard for her teammates. She was amazing, of course, in Round 3 of auditions. She performed to the Michael Jackson song Dangerous during her solo routine. And if we’re on the subject of amazing routines, a special shout-out to returning veterans Megan and Lacey for stunning lyrical routines. Megan performed a beautiful solo to You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman. She was completely awesome. So was Lacey who chose the wonderful Ingrid Michaelson version of I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You. And I’m a huge fan of Melissa and Holly P who were also outstanding.
The morning session of Round 3 is really fun, but each girl is doing her own choreography and her own song. It’s an apples-to-oranges comparison. The afternoon session, which is the choreographed combo routine and signature DCC kick line is apples-to-apples. All the contestants are wearing the same outfit. They’re performing on the football field. As judges, we’re sitting at the yard in the lower seating bowl. We’re watching them on the giant video board, the same way the majority of fans will watch the DCC on game day.
Any contestant who makes it to Round 3 is going to be good. They’ll know the choreography; they’ve had a few days to learn the routine. But how will they score in ‘showmanship’ and ‘power’? Even if they master the combo, the thing that separates good from great is the kick line. There are excellent dancers who don’t have the flexibility or endurance that is required for the kick line.
Once the afternoon session on-the-field is complete, we start judges’ deliberations.
How long do they go? Well, it can lengthy. In fact, this year’s deliberations lasted nearly 3 hours. We individually discuss every single candidate. We cast a simple vote of “Yes,” “Maybe” or “No” for each contestant. It sounds simple, but only a very small handful of candidates receive unanimous votes. So we discuss… and discuss… and discuss.
If there is a candidate that a judge particularly likes, we can argue for them. Yes, I argued for two in particular this year. That’s okay, we want opinions and everybody gets a chance to push for their favorites.
By the time we wrapped judges’ deliberations, it was almost 8:30pm. But it still took another hour for the final results to be announced to the contestants. That’s because everything is taped by the CMT production crew. They have to set up camera shots, etc.
It was nearly 10pm when the names of all 47 Training Camp invitees were announced by DCC director Kelli Finglass. Obviously there are tears of joy for those contestants whose names are called. But there are also tears of disappointment for those who didn’t make the final cut. Hopefully they return next year to try again. This year, we had at least four contestants who had been cut the previous three years (in some cases, four years), but made it to camp this summer. They’re either remarkably persistent – or stubborn – or both. But good for them! Their persistence definitely paid off.
Now the hard work begins. Not just for the rookie class, but for the returning veterans, too. DCC Training Camp last nearly three months. It begins after Memorial Day weekend and goes through mid-August.
Our first chance to see the 2016 DCC squad is the preseason home opener at AT&T Stadium on August 19th when the Cowboys host the Dolphins. That’s one of my favorite nights of the year because I know the DCC rookies are just as anxious and excited about the rookie Cowboys players.
Congratulations to all of the contestants who took part in 2016 DCC Auditions. As a judge, I can assure you it was the most talented group we’ve seen so far. Whether you made it through one round – or all the way to training camp – you should feel very proud of yourself.