Auditions for the 2015 LA KISS Girls kicked off over the weekend in Irvine, CA. It was the first day in a four part audition process that includes an open call, panel interviews, finalist bootcamp, and a final dance audition.
* (Skip all the blah blah blah and check out the photos) *
It was obvious from the word go that this ain’t your momma’s dance team. Usually when I walk into a pro dance team audition, it’s all candy-colored track suits, Swarovski crystals, and long flowing hair extensions. Not here. Here the ladies were dressed in black, with metal studs, edgy hair, and lots of ink. We ain’t in Kansas anymore.
Outside in the corrider, six members of last year’s team, Vanessa, Alexis, Xandi, Julianne, Sheldon, and Niaps were on hand to greet people at the door and direct them into the audition. These six (and perhaps a few others from last year’s squad) will join the audition process at finals, in hopes of keeping their spots on the team.
Before the audition started, I had a chance to say hello to the new KISS Girls Director/Choreographer Lindsay Rodolico.
First impression: enormous blue eyes, big bright smile, and tons of positive energy. Warm and friendly, but make no mistake, this one takes care of bizness.
While all of the dancers were filling out their applications, I eyeballed the group to see if I recognized anyone from last year’s audition.
I saw at least four or five that I recognized.
But THIS was someone I’d never seen before. Six feet tall. Flaming red hair. “Big Red” is her handle, and you couldn’t possibly miss her. I bet that hair glows in the dark.
I am in awe of that hair. That takes guts. I could never pull that off, but she totally owns it. (She did admit, however, that the maintenance is a nightmare.)
I also noticed this lady. Isabella, the only one who auditioned in a KISS shirt. Smart! In retrospect, I’m shocked that nobody else thought of this. Especially since they had no idea whether the members of KISS would be present.
There was also a dancer from last year who I did not recognize at all. And can you blame me? Last year Ellie wore pink. This year, she didn’t even look like a distant relative of the girl I remember.
If not for the Aussie accent (she’s from Perth), I never would’ve realized it. When I asked her about it, she said her overall look last year was “orange.” Hence, the makeover. LOL.
When it was time for the audition to begin, Lindsay gathered everyone together to explain how the audition would work. The dancers would be taught a combination, which would then be performed for a panel of judges in groups of three. At the end of the day, finalists would be announced, and those chosen would move on to the next phase in the process. Simple enough, right?
She also introduced last year’s KISS Girls and said that they were an example of what the organization is looking for. She also explained that the members of last year’s team only had an advantage until the end of the day. Once the open call was over, the dancers had to turn in their costumes, and from that point on, they were the same as every other finalist.
And then it was time to get started. The dancers spread out on the floor and Lindsay began teaching the first eight-counts.
Sheldon and Niaps
It was a little nerve-wracking for the dancers, as tons of gym-goers were loitering around, openly staring through the windows.
Lindsay has a very fun, relaxed teaching style, and the dance was just right for the occasion. Challenging but not too hard. Fun, and full of attitude, although Lindsay did have to warn them not to go too far over the top with the sexy. Some (relatively few) women can successfully pull off the sexy/sultry thing when they dance. Everyone else should just stick to a pretty smile because – it has to be said – what they think is a sexy face, looks more like stankface.
The music was “The Beautiful People” which samples Marilyn Manson, with a hard, driving beat that is enough to get anyone’s blood pumping. The combination had break for a tiny solo in the middle, before repeating the from the beginning. The dancers would essentially have a chance to do the combination twice. Lindsay explained that this was by design. She and the judges want to see the ladies dance as much as possible, to get a good read on their abilities.
(Apologies for the quality. $100 Flip cam + gym lighting = you get what you get.)
I particularly enjoyed the hair whipping about 35 seconds in. I find myself doing this move at random moments throughout the day. Very awkward when I’m at the office, where we generally don’t see much stomping and head banging.
After about an hour of learning the choreography, it was time for the audition to begin. Lindsay left the music on repeat for the dancers while she gathered the judges around to talk about what they were looking for and how to score the dancers.
The judges were an eclectic group, each one more accomplished than the next. The panel included a professional dancer/choreographer with a resume as long as my arm (Diddy, Rihanna, BEP, Katy Perry, Pussycat Dolls, Romeo, Snoop, and on and on), radio hosts from Playboy Radio (they broadcast from the concourse at home games), the General Manager of the fitness club hosting the auditions, and representatives from the LA KISS organization, including a wide receiver, the social media director, and the team president.
Personally, the judge I was most excited about was Bonnie-Jill Laflin (in orange above). Bonnie-Jill is a reporter for Fox Sports. Before that, she was a scout for the Lakers. Before that she was a cheerleader for the San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys. She’s also a huge advocate for animal welfare and for our armed services. I’ve seen her everywhere for years, and had no idea she was a close friend of Lindsay’s. So it was a chance to say hello to someone I’ve admired for ages.
Once the judges were assembled, last year’s KISS Girls took the floor to dance together for the last time as members of the 2014 team. #bittersweet.
No pressure, right?
The ladies auditioned in groups of three. Some groups were asked to do the combination a second time. My theory on this is in some cases, it was because they’d completely screwed up and Lindsay was giving them another chance. But in other cases, there was one dancer who did such a great job, the group needed to go again so the judges could pay attention to the other two ladies in the group.
About half of the groups had performed when team President Schuyler Hoversten did something I’ve never seen before at an audition. He pointed at one dancer and said the group had to do the combination again because she’d completely screwed up the whole thing. OUCH! I am sure she was mortified. After the group did the combination, Schuyler called a halt to the proceedings to remind everyone what they were here for. The KISS Girls are the best. They aren’t like any other dance team. They go hard. They have attitude. Their dances are challenging. And they know the frikkin choreography!
Ok, he didn’t say that last bit, but that’s what he meant, and we all knew it.
On the one hand, I couldn’t blame the guy. It’s extremely frustrating to watch one lukewarm performance after another. It’s boring, and as a judge you feel like their time is being wasted. You’re trying to do something great here, and it’s annoying when the dancers don’t deliver. On the other hand, a lot of girls audition for a pro dance team just for the experience of doing it. They aren’t professionals, they aren’t used to learning choreography so quickly, and the whole experience is stressful. Stressful and very very scary. But after Schuyler read the whole room, they knew they needed to get it together. Immediately, if not sooner. Because the reality is this: LA KISS would rather have NO dancers than mediocre ones.
Well ok then.
Lindsay had the six KISS Girls come out and do the dance again. Think of it as sort of a palate-cleanser. A way to hit everyone’s mental “reset” button on this process.
And we’re back…And many of the dancers visibly upped their game.
After the dancing was done, the judges went off to deliberate. When they returned, Lindsay announced the 27 finalists.
She congratulated everyone and explained the next steps in the process.The purpose of the interview is to get to know each dancer. The purpose of bootcamp is to learn the rest of the choreography, see how these ladies work, and see if they can look fabulous while doing it. The purpose of finals is to blow. the judges. away.
Then she served up some audition realness.
Dancers were expected to show up looking and acting the part at every stage of this process. From now on, they are representing the team, and need to comport themselves accordingly. They would be provided with tips and tools for how to do this, but it’s up to them to take advantage of that. She also mentioned that dancers could be cut at any point between now and finals. Dancers would be excused for having shady crap on facebook and instagram. And – this was interesting – Lindsay would likely be doing an additional invitation-only open call, so there might be some new faces at finals. (So don’t be giving the new girls the side-eye, all “Who is SHE???”, okay?)
The competition is just beginning.
So by now the dancers have been through interviews, and bootcamp is next on the agenda. What new faces will be in the mix? Will any of the other veterans audition? Who will ultimately be chosen for the squad? Patience, my friends. All will soon be revealed…
In the meantime, click here for more photos from the open call.