Click here for tons of photos from Saturday’s prelims!
Click here for tons of photos from Saturday’s prelims!
By Michael Florek
ARLINGTON — Lauren Herington is the last in her group of five. In a purple-with-pink trim dance outfit, she smiles as she faces the two rows of judges.
After the four other members introduce themselves, Herington takes the microphone. Cameras from a CMT reality show focus in. She has 10 seconds.
“I’m Lauren Herrington. I’m 19 years old and I’m from Decatur, Illinois. I’m a full time student working on my biology major and I’m also a client care representative at the local veterinary in my home town.”
After a moment, Kelli Finglass, director of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, releases the group to the floor. Ninety seconds of freestyle dance would either validate or repudiate Herington’s past six months.
Herington made the decision back in October. This year was the year. She was going to audition to become a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader.
She began working out three hours a day and found a full-time job in order to have the money to come to Dallas. When college got in the way, she switched to online classes.
“Some of my family was like, ‘Oh you need to just focus on your schooling,’ ” Herington says. “I’m still managing to go to school full time. I still have good grades. I’ve just got to stay up late and devote time to homework and everything like that.
“But my family has always been supportive. They know I’ve always wanted to do this.”
Herington is one of over 400 at Cowboys Stadium on this first Saturday in May.
They come from 36 states and four countries. They are missing graduations and coming home from honeymoons. They are 18-year-old high school seniors and experienced dancers in their 30s and 40s. They are twins and grandmas, collegiate dancers and cheerleaders from eight other NFL teams.
“Everybody knows the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders are the cheerleaders,” Herington says. “Might as well shoot for the stars and miss rather just land on something that’s OK.”
Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader hopefuls line up to getstamp a stamped signaling all their paper work was handed in before the start of the preliminary auditions for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders at Cowboys Stadium Saturday May 4, 2013.(Ron Baselice/ The Dallas Morning News)
The girls spread out among the concourse, applying makeup and fixing hair in the mirrors of the “Fluff and Puff Station”, taking pictures in front of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders sign, and finding empty spaces to practice steps and pirouettes. But most of all, they wait.
They wait for the others to check in. They wait for the first announcement. Herington arrives at Cowboys Stadium at 7:30 a.m. They aren’t brought to the section 123 and met by Finglass until 10:15.
Finglass is the leader, a former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader now in her 23rd year of overseeing auditions. She stands on top of the field-level suites and lays out the journey.
Today, Saturday, is the preliminaries, a simple 90-second freestyle dance. Make the cut and you’re into to the semifinals on Sunday, where you’ll learn a choreographed dance routine. Then it’s on to the personal interview. Ace that and the finals await, consisting of a written test, a 90-second talent presentation, and a choreographed dance combination and kick line. From there, it’s on to training camp, where the veterans await. And by the way, more of them are returning than ever.
The judges grade on four criteria: appearance, figure, showmanship, and free style.
“Do you look attractive?” Finglass says to the group. “Does it look like you fit into our uniform?
“We want showmanship and bright smiles, dynamic people who can bring notice to us.”
There is still an hour until auditions begin. More pirouettes, more puffing and fluffing.
Eventually, the auditionees are instructed to take their seats on either side of the dance floor. The judges are coming. There are 15 in total. Finglass and Charlotte Jones Anderson, the Cowboys Executive Vice President. Choreographer Judy Trammel and fitness instructor Jay Johnson. Media members, sponsors, even the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders official dentist.
Around 11:15, it’s time to start.
Herington is No. 345, closer to the end than the beginning, and for more hours of waiting. She watches some performances, keeps her head down for others.
“I try to think (positively) so I don’t get in my head like, ‘Oh, I’m not good enough to do this,’ ” she says. “You just have to go in and be like, ‘I’ve got this.’ ”
The hour lunch break arrives. Herington still hasn’t gone.
That means more counting of steps, more dancing, more thinking.
“You have so many people back at home that are like, ‘Oh, you’re going to do this! You’re going to do this!’ ” Herrington says. “You don’t want to have to come home and be like ‘I didn’t do it.’ ”
And if that happens?
“I don’t know. I’m living day-to-day.”
Just after 3 p.m., a full seven and a half hours after first arriving, Herrington makes her introduction and gets her 90 seconds.
When the Top 40 music dies down and the flurry of hair flips, spins, and leg kicks stops, the contestants are brought to the front for one more pose. The judges make their final “yes”, “no”, or “maybe”, marking on their scorecards. Herington’s audition is over.
She dons a smile as she returns to her seat. It felt good.
“The routine I had ready, it didn’t really happen,” she says with a laugh. “I just started doing something.
“Once we got done we were like ‘We want to do it again.’ I was just so excited just to be up there. … It’s such a rush.”
The rest of the girls perform. The judge leave to deliberate. They say they’ll be ready with the semifinalists by 5:30. The white board containing the numbers of the semifinalists isn’t rolled until after six o’clock.
Security guard Phil Whitfield has that honor. He takes it outside, where a gray morning has turned into a cloudless afternoon and the girls wait in front of CMT’s cameras. Slowly, Whitfield rolls himself in the sheet, revealing the numbers.
There are screams and hugs and interviews with CMT. Herington stands way in the back, wiping away tears.
One hundred and thirty seven names were on that board. No. 345 wasn’t one of them.
ARLINGTON — Jinelle Davidson doesn’t know much about football. It’s not really big in Melbourne, Australia.
Yet, she flew 19 hours to join the hundreds of girls at Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders auditions on Saturday anyway.
Davidson has been Rugby League cheerleader for the past seven seasons back in her home country. After seeing country mate Angela Rena make the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders a couple of years ago via CMT’s Reality Show, ‘Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team’, Davidson decided to try it out for herself.
“I was just really inspired by her,” Davidson said of Rena. “I love cheerleading so much that I wanted to come and have a go here too. … The NFL, it’s not big in Australia, so I’ve had to learn a lot so far.
“It’s really complicated.”
Davidson wasn’t the only international auditioning. Natsuki Kaito-Fritz, 31, was an “office worker” and cheerleader for Japan’s football league up until three years ago, when she came to Dallas and won a spot as a Mavericks dancer. She left the Mavericks and tried to dance for the San Antonio Spurs, but couldn’t dance due to visa issues.
“I kept getting approached to try the Cowboys,” Kaito-Fritz said.
Kaito-Fritz was one of two from Japan. Another came from Canada, another from Guam.
Kaito-Fritz didn’t made the first cut, as did Davidson, both advancing the semifinal round on Sunday.
“I’m really just kind of going day-by-day,” Davidson said.
She’ll last at least one more.
ARLINGTON — More than 200 hundred women came to the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders auditions on Saturday. Only one was a grandmother.
Susie Sanchez is 39 years old and the mother to a 19-year-old, a 14-year-old, an 11-year-old and grandmother to a two-year-old. She’s also a former Raiderette.
Sanchez quit dancing for 11 years before picking it back up in her early 30s. The California native spent five years trying to become a Raiderette. In 2011, the dream was realized, shortly after her grandchild was born.
“The year I was on that team, some of the girls were born the year I graduated,” Sanchez said. “If you look at the numbers, it’s ‘What am I doing?’ ”
With 40 closing in August, Sanchez wanted to take one more shot. This time with the Cowboys.
“I thought why not?” Sanchez said. “I got to go to the big guys. I’ve got to go to the best team in the NFL.
Sanchez caught a flight in to Dallas on Thursday. Given no. 373, she was one of the last dancers of the day, but not the oldest, which was 41.
Just like the 18-year-olds she was competing against, Sanchez got her 90 seconds in front of the judges. The dream ended a short while later during the first cuts.
“This year I decided this was going to be it for me,” Sanchez said. “I was telling myself, I’m going to end it here.”
While the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders were in town for the 9th annual Amarillo Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Cinco de Mayo Fajita Festival on Thursday, I got the opportunity to chat with veteran cheerleader Jackie Bob. Her journey to Texas is interesting, thus reinforcing the power of the Dallas Cowboys franchise/brand. I will say that Jackie is extremely personable and I’m not sure if she gave me a hug out of pity (I waited, like, three hours to get this interview) or if she’s just super friendly like that, but she just got a new recruit for the JB team!
Interview with Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader, Jackie Bob:
Q: Since you’re from California, how did you make it to Texas?
A: I’ve always been a huge fan of the Dallas Cowboys. I would sit at home and watch their show and I would find myself getting inspired. So I booked a ticket, not even really expecting to make it, and God willing, I made the team, and now I’ve been living in Texas for the past four years.
Q:What part of California are you from?
A: I’m actually from the Bay area. I was born in Los Angeles and lived in the Bay area.
Q: Thoughts on Amarillo?
A: The best fans I’ve probably met outside of Dallas. I mean, there have been hundreds upon thousands of people lined up, decked out in Dallas Cowboys attire. From the time we’ve got off the airplane, people were wearing Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader T-shirts. It’s just been so welcoming. I’m, like, overwhelmed with all this love and attention and it feels really good. I’m so happy to be here.
Q: What’s the most challenging part about being a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader?
A: There’s two things that I would say are challenging, although great: The one thing was being a Rookie. You have to go through a long, rigorous training process before you’re actually on the team. And the second thing is, you kind of have to manage your time. We all are full-time students or either have a full-time job, and so that can be a struggle, but I think if you manage your time and stay on top of things, you’re able to live your personal life, your career, and be a cheerleader at the same time.
By Eboni Graham
By Elaine Bonilla/se news editor
Amelia Bren Smith is a typical college student who attends NE Campus when she’s not busy being a sweetheart, or rather one of America’s Sweethearts.
America’s Sweethearts is what the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders are called, and Smith has been one of 39 cheerleaders on the squad for the 2012 season.
The Louisiana native moved in 2009 to East Texas, where she attended Kilgore College. Smith auditioned for the famous Rangerette dance team at the college and became part of the 70th line.
After her two years at Kilgore, she moved to Dallas to audition for the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders along with 500-600 other women.
“I gave everything I had and moved to Dallas unknowing the outcome and auditioned,” Smith said. “I am completing my second year as a DCC as of now, and I will be auditioning in May for the opportunity to cheer a third season as one of America’s Sweethearts.”
Smith’s mom, Debbie Smith, said her daughter has been dancing since she was 5 years old, and she first started talking about trying out for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders when she was in the eighth grade.
“She has always loved the DCC,” Amelia Smith’s aunt Sheri Kyle said. “She wanted to go and spread her wings in Dallas.”
The tryouts consisted of three rounds. The first was a freestyle round where the girls showed off their moves. The second round involved learning a jazz and kick routine, and the third round was a solo dance routine, panel interview and a jazz and kick routine.
“If you make it through all of this, you are invited into training camp, which lasts all summer with the possibility of being cut any night of the week,” Smith said. “It’s basically a time to learn the ins and outs of being a cheerleader and to become familiar with the 50-plus dance routines we learn for the year as well as the rules involved with the organization.”
Alexandra Gandara, a rookie alongside Smith, said the process was intimidating and takes a special young woman to show up at auditions.
“It’s scary to put yourself out there,” she said. “Showing up is half the battle.”
Game day is a long process that starts out arriving at Valley Ranch practice facility about four or five hours before kickoff.
“We travel as a team to Cowboys Stadium where we rehearse as if we were performing at the actual game. This means we go through each of our quarter dances,” she said. “We run pregame show, and we practice our entrances and exits.”
The practice takes almost two hours before they head back to the locker room and start getting ready, which takes about another two hours because of taking pictures and having fun, Smith said.
Football is just a small part of being America’s Sweethearts.
The majority of the time is spent making charity appearances. The appearances are on a volunteer basis, so it’s usually a small group at a time.
“We have worked with Make a Wish Foundation, Salvation Army, veterans hospitals of Dallas and Fort Worth,” she said. “We make appearances at local hospitals in the DFW as well as assisted-living facilities and elementary, middle and high schools.”
Smith said it can be difficult balancing school and the cheerleading squad, but cheerleaders are required to either attend school or have a career.
“I would consider myself a very focused person,” Smith said. “I take it one day at a time and do my best to accomplish each of my goals in my schooling and my cheerleading career.”
Smith said the charity events are the most rewarding part of being a cheerleader.
“Giving back to our community is the least we can do,” she said.
Gandara said Smith is kind and caring. She was the rookie who always volunteered most for community service.
Debbie Smith said her daughter likes her charity events.
“Being on the field is flamboyant and flashy, but the other moments are really what count,” Debbie Smith said.
Traveling around the country is also something the squad gets to do.
The cheerleaders recently came back from a swimsuit calendar photo shoot in Mexico.
“It’s definitely lots of fun to be there working and having fun with 38 of my best friends,” she said.
Smith has had the chance to march in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, Kyle said.
Smith said being on the squad has helped her grow tremendously as a dancer and an individual.
“I have learned discipline, time management, life skills, and I have become more comfortable within myself and gained confidence in areas that I lacked it in,” She said. “I am very grateful for my experiences as a cheerleader because it’s shaped me into the person I am today.”
Smith plans to pursue a communications degree at the University of Texas at Arlington in the fall.
“She’s just your average, sweet, down-to-earth girl,” Kyle said.
“She’s still our Amelia even after she puts on her uniform.”
Veteran members of the 2012-13 Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders squad are in the midst of fittings for the team’s annual swimsuit calendar shoot. The DCC have been tweeting and posting photos @DCCheerleaders.
Jackie, Collin, and Holly
by Jacie Scott
While my fellow interns were facing the perils of fact-checking, I spent my Hump Day jump-splitting on the steps of the Texas Capitol and schmoozing with Gov. Rick Perry. Why, you ask?
I’m one of 39 girls that have the honor of donning the blue and white star-spangled uniform as Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders. (Insert hair flip.) During the season we spend our weekends in Jerry’s World, and in the off-season we can be spotted anywhere from hockey games in Georgia to, well, the steps of the Capitol.
As a rookie cheerleader born and raised in Louisiana, these past months have been similar to a ride on the old Texas Giant rollercoaster at Six Flags. Fast-paced, and a little bumpy and exhilarating. But, I digress. We’ll save those stories for a different post.
Twelve cheerleaders, including myself, ventured to Austin on a windy Wednesday for a performance and appearance. The Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association, a collection of independent oil and natural gas advocacy groups, gathered in Austin this week to discuss issues affecting the oil and gas industry at its 67th annual convention. Naturally, they invited the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders to kick off the event… literally.
Despite a request from a young girl that we do “The Wobble,” we performed our signature kick line and jump-split. Following our performance, we signed photos, met a few officials, and moved inside to meet Gov. Perry. He greeted us with a “Howdy,” and I couldn’t help but feel Texan. (“Howdy” isn’t exactly a common word in Louisiana.)
Stay tuned for more tales. Meanwhile, here’s a treat for those who don’t quite grasp the concept of a jump-split. You’re welcome.
Jacie Scott is a D Magazine intern, too.
By Air Force Master Sgt. Chuck Marsh
LivingSocial.com is offering a three-day trip for an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the making of the annual Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders’ swimsuit calendar.
What you get:
The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders spend the whole season on the sidelines, but once a year they take center stage for the annual swimsuit calendar. Pay $6,999 ($16,000 value) for an exclusive behind-the-scenes peek at the making of this fan favorite.
With this once-in-a-lifetime package, you and a guest will be whisked away to Riviera Maya, Mexico, from April 7 to 10. There on the sunny shores of the Rivera Maya you’ll enjoy an all-inclusive three-night stay at a five-star hotel and a chance to watch the swimsuit fashion show featuring the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. You’ll also be able to mix and mingle with the cheerleaders at a meet-and-greet and enjoy a group dinner with staff and guests. Once you arrive back at DFW on April 10, you’ll have a lifetime of memories to share with friends and family. Mark your calendar, because this is one date you don’t want to miss.
Someone on ebay is selling the two Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders movies on DVD. $18 for the set, and he has a few copies to sell. If you’ve never seen these movies, they’re a hoot. The movies aired on tv in 1979 and 1980. Huge ratings the first time, hence the sequel.
HUGE disclaimer here, folks. I don’t know the seller and am not involved in this auction in any way. As far as I know, these movies never been “officially” released on DVD, so you’re taking your chances in terms of quality (the video below is from youtube, not from the auction.) However, if you’re willing to risk it, and haven’t seen these movies, they’re awesome.
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