AT&T Stadium was blown away yet again by this year’s Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Auditions.

The level of skill, talent and dance technique were higher in the Final Round of 2019 DCC Auditions than at any of 18 years of auditions I’ve been privileged to serve as a judge.

Yes, I know I write the same thing every year, but it’s true. The competition gets tougher every year! That’s because the DCC draws the best dancers from not only the USA, but from around the world.  America’s Sweethearts are now the World’s Sweethearts. And here are some notes from this year’s Final Round:

1. Getting to DCC Finals

In just two weeks, 350 contestants in Round 1 are whittled down to 80 talented dancers for the 2019 Finals (Round 3). This year a high number of returning veterans re-auditioned; 28 of 36 DCC from last year’s squad re-auditioned when the number is usually around 23 – 25. 

Many Dallas Cowboys fans are surprised that veterans must re-audition every year.  Being part of DCC one year doesn’t mean they automatically keep their spot on the 36-person squad.  The good news for returning veterans is that they skip the first two rounds and proceed directly to Finals (Round 3).

With so many returning veterans this year, that meant it would be even tougher for rookie hopefuls to earn an invitation to DCC Training Camp.

2. Aced Finals – Are you on the squad?

Here’s another surprise for Dallas Cowboys fans: surviving Finals earns an invitation to DCC Training Camp which runs all the way into the second week of August.  As judges, we finish our final deliberations late in the evening of Round 3 and select 45 Training Camp Candidates.  This year’s Final Round was cut from 80 to 45. Of the 45 invited to Training Camp, only 36 will make the final squad.

A couple of other numbers from Finals: 

  • two Finalists were from Japan
  • four Finalists were age 30-and-up
  • two Finalists were “legacies” (daughters of former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders)
  • special shout out to Edmond, Oklahoma which was hometown to three finalists
  • 32 different states represented
  • 42 different universities represented

One number that is not fun at all:  1 returning veteran did not make the final cut and was not invited to Training Camp.  Sorry, but I can’t tell you the name because the CMT folks will not want me to spoil Season 14 of the network’s Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders:  Making the Team. You’ll have to tune in starting this Friday!

3. Double Edged Pom-Pom: The Final Round Is a Two-for-One

Finals are divided into two portions:  Solo Routines take place in the morning on the dance floor in the one of the Club Lounges at AT&T Stadium.  All 80 contestants select their own music, costume, and choreography.  It’s a chance to play to their strength.  Some dancers want to show off their hip-hop moves while others may go with a lyrical routine to emphasize elegance and technique.  Heck, we see tap dances and routines to Broadway show tunes.  The Solo Routines are everyone’s favorite part of DCC Auditions because we get to see the individuality of each contestant.

The second portion of Finals is the Pom Routing/DCC Kick Line which is performed on the 50-yard line on the field of AT&T Stadium. As judges, we are not on the field.  Sitting in the 200-level of seats at the 50-yard line, we watch the Pom/Kick routine on the giant center-hung digital board at AT&T Stadium. 

Why are we watching the 60-yard wide video screen instead of watching from the sideline at field level?  Because the vast majority of the 90,000 Cowboys fans attending games at AT&T Stadium are watching the cheerleaders on the big screen.  We want to see contestants the same way the fans watch them on game day.

The contestants perform the same Pom/Kick routine the Semifinalists performed in Round 2.  The returning veterans are taught the new Pom routine the week before Finals, but the Kick Line stays the same each year as a staple of the DCC.

The morning’s Solo Routine lasts about 3 hours and the afternoon session on the field lasts around 90 minutes.  Judges deliberations this year were pretty intense because the competition was so close.  But deliberations went a little quicker this year…if you consider 3 ½ hours quick!

Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders 2019 Final Round of Auditions squad photo

4. Variety Is the Spice of Life

I mentioned that Solo Routines are the best part of the entire audition process because contestants get to show their personality and play to their strengths. Here’s an idea of some of the songs/routines we saw in 2019:

Two returning veterans, both of whom were DCC Group Leaders last year, were given the honor to start and finish the competition.  DCC Director Kelli Finglass wants the top vets to set the pace as well as close out the competition on a high note. Amy was contestant #1, and Maddie was #80 to send us out in style.  Great choices on both!

I can always count on Amy to mix-in some tap dancing in her routine which is usually a Broadway show-stopping tune.  She did a more contemporary Broadway song, so a lot less tap and more contemporary this year.  She was awesome, of course.  And Maddie…no one on the squad is better at doing their own hip-hop choreography.  Maddie is a rock star on this squad, and she rocked us again this year to Bruno Mars’ “It’s My Birthday.”

But there were so many other highlights.  Heather took us back to the 80’s with “What a Feeling” from Flashdance.  Christina went full rock-n-roll with a cool routine to “Come Together” by The Beatles.  Jalyn channeled her inner Britney Spears with “Oops I Did It Again.” Amber did a beautiful lyrical number, followed by Caroline’s terrific lyrical to “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman.” Bridget was awesome and picked up the tempo with “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen.

Any fans of The Greatest Showman? You would have loved Madeline’s “A Million Dreams.” Brennan did a terrific routine to the Eagles’ Hotel California. Cianna is from Honolulu, Hawaii and she did a hula routine to Elvis’ “Hula Rock” before transitioning into “I Love Rock n Roll” by Joan Jett.  Savannah did the ramped-up version of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” and she totally rocked it!  Alanna (a former Laker Girl) nearly out J-Lo’ed Jennifer Lopez during “Let’s Get Loud.” One of our legacies, Victoria, did a great lyrical to Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me.” 

And I have to give props to my girl, Gina, for her grace and technique and style as she performed a lyrical to Lady Gaga’s “I’ll Never Love Again,” the final song in the movie A Star Is Born.  I look forward to Gina’s routine every year!  

I don’t have space to list every routine and my apologies to the contestants whose routines are not specifically mentioned. They were all so good, it was hard to choose a few to single out.

5. You Can See Behind-the-Scenes at DCC Auditions on CMT

The new season of CMT’s Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team debuts on Friday, August 2nd at 9 p.m. eastern, 8 p.m. central.  You don’t have to take my word for the greatness of 2019 Auditions; you can watch the full season on CMT and see all three rounds of auditions, plus follow the squad through their Summer Training Camp. The payoff is finding out which rookie hopefuls make it all the way to the Preseason Opener at AT&T Stadium.

Believe it or not, this is the 14th season for the DCC’s television show on CMT.  But time flies when you’re having fun!