I have met a lot of great people through this blog. One of my favorites is Audrea Harris. I met Audrea through the Los Angeles Clippers years ago. She immediately struck me as such a class act and she became a wonderful friend. I was so incredibly jazzed a year or so after we met, when she took over direction of the Clippers entertainment teams and really put her stamp on the organization.
Audrea (at right) with her mom and sister Adrianne
Last month Audrea decided it was time to move on to new challenges and part ways with the Clippers.
I will admit to being totally gutted by the news at first. It was bittersweet. You know how it is when you know your friend is making an important and right decision for herself, but your inner 7 year old is all “But whyyyyyyyy?????”
It is the end of an era, that’s for sure. Audrea had been with the Clippers organization for 16 years, including four as a member of the Spirit Dance Team. (Cue the vintage awesomeness.) It is difficult to imagine the Clippers in general, and the Spirit in particular, without her.
Well, c’est la vie! Off with the old and on with the new! I am pleased and proud to announce that the Clippers’ loss is the Phoenix Suns’ gain. Audrea is packing her bags and next month, will start her new job as Game Entertainment Coordinator for the Suns! It’s a big promotion, a big step up, and a very exciting new opportunity. I cannot wait to see the creativity, professionalism, and fun she will bring that that new role.
Game on, Suns fans! Please join me in saying congratulations!
BTW, I already checked Google Flights and I can get from Burbank to Phoenix in 90 minutes. Don’t think I won’t do it. Mwahahahahahaha….
This year’s Clippers Spirit auditions kicked off on Sunday morning at the Clippers training facility in Playa Vista, CA. Over 200 ladies queued up for
the opportunity to represent the Clippers organization and entertain fans at home games this fall.
The entire thing was filmed by a tv crew, so the place was crawling with black-clad crew members with cameras, microphones, clipboards, and other mysterious looking equipment
The dancers, who’d started arriving before 8 am, had plenty of time to warm up and get ready for the day.
The day kicked off at 9:30 am with a pep talk, where dancers were encouraged to do their best, put it all out on the floor, and try to have some fun with the process.
They also introduced the judges and the numerous helper elves (interns) there to make the process go smoothly.
Clippers Spirit alumni Brianna, Justene, Anasheh, Brittany, Bianca, and Michelle were on hand to assist the choreographers.
The Clippers organization shook up the audition process this year. In addition to the change in venue (Air conditioning! Praise the Lord!), there were different choreographers, and a different format than usual.
Unlike past years, where the audition began with a technical across-the-floor combination, this year, the first round one didn’t involve any choreography at all. Instead, for this “First Impressions Round,” the dancers were called into the room in groups of 25.
Then they took the floor in groups of four or five to introduce themselves to the judges, and then freestyle and show off their best moves.
We saw lots of tricks, lots of technique, a little bit of tumbling, and more than one dancer twerked it out for the judges.
As each group of 25 finished up, they were steered outside to hear their fate: in or out.
Those who made the cut headed back inside to wait for the next round. That first round took almost three hours. After a break for lunch, the veterans from last year’s team made their entrance. Fourteen of them, dressed all in black, matching down to shoes and accessories.
I know and like all of these ladies, but heck, even I was intimidated when they walked in.
14 veterans. 18 spots on the team. That’s scary odds for both the veterans AND the aspiring rookies. After the lunch break, everyone gathered around to hear the plan for the rest of the afternoon: first a jazz/technical combination, then another cut, then a hip hop combination, followed by a third cut.
Sophia Aguiar choreographed the first combination. Sophia’s resume includes performances with JLo, Nicki Minaj, Justin Timberlake, and heck if I know what all else. She’s a member of the cast for Britney’s Spears’ Vegas show. Just so you know. This is no slouch off the street. Sophia chorographed a really fun dance to Pharrell’s “Freedom.”
This went fast. 30 minutes later, she’d taught the combination, the dancers had run through it a few times, and then it was time to line up for round two.
Show us watcha got, ladies!
By 3pm, round 2 was over.
Clippers Spirit, past and present, waiting for the judges to finish deliberating.
90 minutes later, the second cut was announced, narrowing the field down to 60 danceers
There was no time to hug your girlfriends goodbye. Everybody get up and put your pants on, it’s time for hip hop. The choreographer for this round was Bryan Tanaka.
Because why wouldn’t Beyonce’s dance captain be choreographing for the Clippers Spirit audition? Honestly, sometimes I actually forget this is Los Angeles. And then something like this happens.
Bryan’s combination was to Dawin’s “Dessert”. (The song will confuse you at first. But the jam hits you about 45 seconds in. “Watcha gon, watcha gon do with that dessert? Murder dat, murder dat, murder dat dance floor.)
This time there were less than 30 minutes to learn the dance. This is where they separate the boys from the men. So to speak.
On to round 3 judging:
And then it was over. Nothing left to do but wait for the judges.
Spirit vets with Bryan and Sophia When the judges returned, they cut the group down to 41 dancers (including all 14 veterans – woot!), who will duke it out at finals tomorrow night. It’s going to be insanely competitive. To say the least. Stay tuned!
Save the date!
The playoffs are on and the Clippers are on fire. Don’t you wish you were part of it? Well, maybe you can be next season. Auditions for the amazing, glamorous, talented Clippers Spirit dance team are coming up in July. The team is hosting two pre-audition workshops to help you put your best foot forward. This is your chance to talk to the director of the team and current members, learn about their dance style and choreography, learn a dance or two, and get some invaluable advice on how to prepare yourself for auditions.
Click here for details!
Nearly 200 women from across California will be participating in this year’s MISS CALIFORNIA USA competition with the hopes of advancing to the national competitions. The winner of MISS CALIFORNIA USA® will go on to compete at the national MISS USA® competition which will be televised live on NBC.
This year, five current or former professional cheerleaders will be competing in the event.
Shelbi Buchholz – Miss Greater San Diego, San Diego Charger Girl
Chanelle Riggan – Miss Beverly Hills, Anaheim Duck Power Player
Jenny Ting – Miss Diamond Crest, Former Laker Girl and Charger Girl
Alexis Swanstrom – Miss Del Mar, Former Charger Girl
Brittany Wagner – Miss Universal City, Former Clippers Cheerleader and Ontario Fury Dancer
I have been fortunate to photograph four of these amazing women: Shelbi, Jenny, Alexis, and Brittany.
The MISS CALIFORNIA USA® pageant will be held in Long Beach, California at the Terrace Theater on January 9-11, 2015 and is open to the public. Tickets for all three pageant events are available via ticketmaster.com.
For more information on the Miss California USA pageant, please visit their website here.
A member of the LA Clippers Spirit
The ladies of the Los Angeles Clippers Spirit dance team recently completed their photo shoot for the upcoming NBA season. Here’s a little sneak peek at how the day went. [photo gallery here]
It took place at the Clippers training facility in Culver City, which is south of Los Angeles proper. This is the same place where they had final auditions in July.
(I tried to get a photo of the outside, but there’s a tree in the way)
As everyone who has been through it knows, on photo shoot day, there’s a lot of this going on.
It starts with hair and makeup to get everyone glamorized
Veronica looking lovely even half done with curlers in her hair
Brooke gets her hair done
Kellie’s all glammed up from the neck up. (Not so much from the ankles down.)
This was the outfit for the individual shots:
This one has just a slight shimmer under the lights. This team wears a lot of red. More than white. Much much more so than blue. Now that I think about it, Clippers blue may be a hard color to match. And I doubt the boots come in that color.
Lights! Camera! Action!
Once it’s time to get started, some of the rookies were a bit nervous, but the team’s director Audrea Harris was there to make sure everyone looked her absolute best, from head to toe.
Gabri (working it without even trying.)
In between shoots, the crew from Fox was also filming for this year’s “Making the Team” special.
After all of the individual shoots were over, the ladies changed costumes. This was the costume for the group photo.
Karissa and Brianna after the wardrobe change.
And this happened:
I have no idea. I turned around and she was in the middle of doing it.
Audrea also took a turn on camera…
…and that was when we noticed the tinsel wall, and its many possibilities.
Sharon and Kellie started it.
The tv crew’s lighting set up was excellent, so we took advantage.
Yay! Sister photo with Tatum and Tyra!
Text thing I knew, it turned into this and this and this.
Veterans Kelsey, Brooke, Natalie, Tatum, Brittany, Kellie, Brianna, Candace, and Karissa
Just the vets for now. Nina was still shooting, so we didn’t get to to a rookie shot until after:
Rookies Gabri, Mariah, Tyra, Amber, Sharon, Jen, Nina, Veronica, and Roxy
The group photo went really quickly. Ten minutes. Fifteen max.
They lined everyone up by height, made a few adjustments, and click-click-click it was over.
The day started around 8am and everyone was finished by 2. It goes so fast! In prior years, the team shoot has been at the dance studio, and it’s followed by several hours of rehearsal. This year, they got a break. Once the shoot was over, they were free to go.
These are the faces of women visualizing the Double-Double and fries they’re about to order over at the In-n-Out Burger. (Mmmm….burgers…)
I’m not sure how long it will be before the Clippers site is updated with the new photos, so I leave you with a hit of what to expect.
Brianna (year 2)
Brittany (year 8 )
Candace (year 3)
Karissa (year 3)
Kellie (year 5)
Kelsey (year 3)
Natalie (year 2)
Tatum (year 3)
The Clippers have announced the members of their dance team for the upcoming NBA season. The team has traditionally been 16 dancers, but last year they expanded to 17. This year they added yet another dancer to make the squad 18 strong. I can’t wait to see this extremely talented and beautifully diverse team wearing red, white, and blue on the floor at Staples Center this fall. Congratulations ladies! (Click here for more.)
It is Sunday afternoon, and somewhere about 20 miles south of here, the 33 finalists for the Clippers Spirit are sweating their buns off. It’s hard to believe that this year’s auditions have already come and gone. Final auditions always go by so quickly. All that build up and then it’s over. Each dancer only has about two minutes of performing to do in front of the judges. Everything you do in those two minutes has to be on point.
This year, finals were at the Clippers training facility in Culver City, which I was extremely happy about. Finals are usually at the dance studio where the team rehearses. I think the venue change had to do with the camera crew from Fox. There are some logistical challenges with filming in the studio, not the least of which is photographing dancers performing in front of an entire wall of mirrors without catching the crew and equipment in every single shot.
Whatever the reason for the location change, I was pleased because I got lots of great photos. [CLICK HERE] to check out my photo gallery.
I arrived at 4pm and about half of the dancers were already there. The first thing they had to do was check in and be photographed for the fan vote.
One thing that seemed really strange that nobody was dancing. Everyone was just standing around. I found out that they’d been instructed not to rehearse until everyone had had their headshot taken. This was so (a) nobody would be sweaty and disheaveled in their photo, and (b) the ladies who arrived early and been photographed first wouldn’t have that extra time to rehearse, while the others were still waiting to be photographed. Makes sense, when you think about it.
Jayda and Amber
Rina, Kellie, and Ena (rhymes with “Jenna”) are sorority sisters.
This is Brittany’s 8th audition for the team. Kinda makes her seem old doesn’t it? But she just turned 25 last month. Happy belated!
Choreographer Kristin with Spirit Director Audrea. Kristin was happy to be off-duty for the night.
But as always, any time spent waiting around turned into hijinks.
When the last headshot had been taken, DJ Dense turned up the music and the dancers started running through the choreography.
Tatum, Tessa, Brianna, Brittany, and Natalie
After that, it was time to line up and begin the audition
Hip hop was first
Once everyone had been through hip hop in groups of three, the judges had them perform it again in larger groups.
After that, it was time to whip of the sweats and do the jazz routine
Then the ladies went through jazz again, in larger groups
And then it was time for the home stretch…solos!
And then, bada boom, bada bing, it was over. Audrea and Marianne wrapped up, thanking everyone for their efforts, explaining a bit more about the fan vote, and advising them to enjoy the next couple of days off before the team’s work weekend.
The ladies are in the midst of that work weekend right now, and have probably learned 5 or 6 new dances in less than 48 hours. Whew! Lots of hard work, and lots of waiting. The fan vote will be open through August 2nd, and the team will be announced early next week. Vote, vote, vote, and watch this space. As soon as I know who made the team, so will you!
The Clippers want your input. Click here to cast your votes!
The 4th of July is my most favorite holiday of the year. Friends, food, and fireworks, with no stress-inducing gifting or familial obligations. It is the best holiday of them all. But as great as July 4th is, it is only the second best thing about the month of July. The first best thing about July is Clippers Spirit auditions!
This year’s auditions took place last Saturday at Redondo Union High School, and as I pulled up in the parking lot, I marveled anew at what a nice school this is. Even the parking lot is nice. Like so many schools in the area, the lot boast brand new solar arrays that shade the cars but also save on energy costs. I got the last spot right up front. SCORE! It was gonna be a great day.
[Click here to check out the photo gallery!]
As I approached the entrance, the first thing I noticed was the film crew. Fox Sports did a series about Spirit auditions last year, and they were back to do it even better in 2014.
The first people I ran across were these two, twins Rina and Ena. I found out later that one of them is in a sorority with Clippers veteran Kellie, and is in fact her big sister. When you see these two in photos later, remember Rina is wearing green-a. Har har.
Inside, the ladies were already warming up and preparing for a long day of dance.
I found Spirit Dance Team Director Audrea Harris (left). Audrea keeps it in the family. Every year her mother and sister Adrianne help out with auditions.
I also discovered this year’s helper elves who would assists with teaching the choreography, Spirit Alumni Bianca, Justene, Shannon, Becca. Shannon had to choose between the team and spending the fall semester in the UK. She chose study abroad, and can you blame her? But maybe we’ll get lucky and have her back next year. You never know! I’m afriad the other three are retired for good, although there’s always hope!
The audition started right on time, with Game Entertainment Manager Marianne Bogoyevac introducing Audrea (Game Entertainment Teams Director) and the choreographer for the day, (and Spirit alumna) Kristin Hollowaty (née Egusa.)
Marianne gave a little speech which was both awesomely honest, and also terrifying.
At every audition, someone stands up at the beginning and gives the candidates a little pep talk. Thanks for coming, glad you’re here, do your best, we’re all rooting for you. But Marianne added something that everyone knows but nobody ever says: listen, there are a lot of you in the room and most of you aren’t going to make the team. So why not just have fun with the experience and enjoys yourselves? She said it in a much nicer, more uplifting way, but that was the gist. And she’s right. 16 spots on the team means the odds are astronomical. Marianne keeps it real.
And it was time to get down to business. Kristen stepped up front and got it started. Kristin choreographs a lot of fun pieces for the Spirit, who there’s no one better to put the dancers through their paces on audition day. (Although she has been known to whip out a hip hop combination so intricate, dancers start crying in teh middle of the audition. No wait, that was me crying, last time around.)
The first combination was a technical piece designed to sort out those who have the goods from those who don’t. Battement, battement, tilt, double piroutte, another double, a couple of leaps, and we’re done. The music was Pharrell’s “Come Get It Bae.”
Dancers had just about 35 minutes to learn the combination.
It seemed like just a hot minute later, it was time to line up for the first round of auditions.
These were the judges.
They seem like nice people, don’t they? Not like they hold your fate in their hands or anything. But after the first round, they sent more than half of the dancers packing. Hey, somebody has to do it.
While the judges were off deliberating, I snuck off and found the helper elves going over the jazz combination in the schools fitness facility. Did your high school have one of these. Mine sure didn’t. But this one had elliptical machines as far as the eye could see.
The other thing that happened at that point was last year’s veterans arrived. Most of them haven’t seen each other in a few months, so it was a big love fest.
So here they are. Come on newbies, they don’t look that intimidating, do they? A few of them were in your shoes last year. And a year from now a couple of you reading this right now will be the ones making kissy faces in the photo.
Standing: Natalie, Kelsey, Brianna, Brittany, Brooke, Tatum
Seated: Karissa, Kellie, and Candace.
And check it out – another pair of sisters. Gosh, I love when this happens.
On the left, we have Tatum, a Spirit veteran. And on the right, lil sis Tyra.
This was Tyra in 2009, repping the Clippers Jr. Jam squad in the back row
Tyra is quite a little dancer. I sure hope they both make it.
Every year Audrea pulls the veterans aside for a little talk. I’m not rude enough to bust up in there, but I imagine it’s something along the lines of “go out there and show the judges why they picked you for this team last year.” I call this the “please don’t embarrass me” speech.
Kelsey is wearing flirty briefs from The Line Up! How cool is that?
The first cut was announced around 11:45, and when the dust settled, it was time to learn the jazz combination. The music was “Problem” by Ariana Grande. If you’ve never heard it, you must not listen to the radio, like ever.
I have a love/hate relationship with this song. I do like it a lot, but Miss Ariana tends to get a little screechy. Amiright?
“Head in the clouds, got no weight on my shoulders. I should be wiser and And realize that I’ve got…” by the time she gets to the end of that line, she is absolutely shrieking, and I swear I can hear every chihuahua in the neighborhood barking.
Kristin gets to work teaching the combination.
I think they only had about 40 minutes to learn this combination, then they had a few minutes to put the glam on.
And off we go with the second cut.
An hour later, the second cut was announced. THe 51 dancers left put on their big girl pants and prepred for the final combination of the day: hip hop. (insert ominous sounding music.)
Hip hop is always so interesting to watch. You can tell some of the girls have been dreading it. Hip hop doesn’t just require getting the moves right, you have to have the right attitude. Both a required. And if you aren’t solid on both, hip hop can make you look like a jackass in a way that jazz can’t.
On the other hand, you can tell there are other girls who have been waiting for this alllll day. This is their element. They turn it on, turn it up, and throw themselves into the choreography.
With only 50 something ladies left, round 3 went fast. This time, the song was Jason Derulo’s “Bubblegum.”
While the judges were off deliberating, the helper elves found ways to amuse themselves…
This is also when The Wobble happened. Because The Wobble is now A Thing. A Thing People Do At Dance Auditions. I can’t help but wonder if this is what happened in the 80s when the Electric Slide came out.
When the judges returned, they announced 34 finalists.
But that wasn’t all of the news. Things will be different this year. Finals are in a different location, solos will be longer, music will be provided ahead of time, and ah yes…the fan vote.
This is how the veterans reacted to the news that the fan vote would delay announcement of the team. Instead of finding out if they make the team two days after finals, it would be at least a week. Maybe longer. That went over like a lead balloon. Waiting with one finger on the refresh button, hoping everyone you know votes for you like 50 times. Stress!!!
Well, it’s been a few days and the dancers have been through interviews and lots of rehearsals at home in front of the mirror. Finals are tomorrow night, and we shall see who brings her “A” game to the show.
After a loooong day of auditions yesterday, the field of candidates was narrowed down to these 34 lovely finalists. Congratulations, ladies!
Nine members of last year’s team auditioned to keep their spots on the team, and all are still in the running. WOOT!
Last year’s returners with Director Audrea Harris. From left: Kelsey, Kellie, Tatum, Brianna, Audrea, Brittany, Natalie, Brooke, Karissa, and Candace.
These dancers will now go through interviews, reference checks, and a final dance audition on Wednesday evening. Usually finals are at the team’s dance studio, the team is announced the following Friday, and the next two days are the team’s annual “work weekend” where they get to know each other, start to bond as a team, and learn a lot of new dances. But not this time around! This year, a fan vote will be a contributing factor to who makes the team. After finals, the finalists’ photos and bios will be posted on the Clippers website, and fans will have about a week to vote for their favorites. In the meantime, all of the finalists will participate in the work weekend. So there’s still a lot to do before the 2014-15 Clippers Spirit Dancers are chosen. Stay tuned, Spirit fans! Tons of photos and info coming soon.
Clippers Spirit Director Audrea Harris (center) with veterans (from left) Tatum, Brittany, Karissa, and Candace.
Auditions for the Los Angeles Clippers Spirit dance team are scheduled for July 19! [Audition details]. Last weekend, the team offered two pre-audition workshops for ladies aspiring to join the Clippers Spirit. The sessions took place at Boogiezone Utopia, which is also where the team rehearses during the season.
For the hopeful candidates, it was an opportunity to meet a few members of the team, gain exposure to their performance style, and learn some of their choreography. They were also able to ask questions about the audition process itself, learn how to prepare themselves for tryouts, and how to maximize their chances to make the team.
It’s fun to watch prep class and see who turns up. These workshops aren’t only for women trying to make a pro team for the first time. This year’s group included veterans from a few other pro teams, as well as a couple alumni of other Clippers entertainment teams. (The dancers aren’t the only group that performs at the games. The Clippers also have the Fan Patrol, Junior Jam, Crowd Crew, Dunk Team, Drumline and one or two others I can’t recall off the top of my head. There’s a lot going on at these games!)
I think experienced dancers who attend a team’s pre-audition workshop are being really smart about it. I used to think these classes were just for total rookies with no experience whatsoever. But the women with pro experience on their resumes know you can’t underestimate the value of meeting the team’s director ahead of time, so she knows your face and has an idea of what you can do. When you think about the fact that you will be competing against 200-300 women at the audition, a little face time beforehand can only help your cause. Even if you’ve been on twelve other teams. Every little bit helps.
It’s also interesting to see who leaves. A couple of women ducked out of the first session before it really got going. It just reminds me that this whole process – workshops, dance audition, interview, etc, is a two-way street. The dancers have to impress the judges to get chosen. But this exercise is also for the dancers to determine if this is something they really want to do and are able to do. I’m not surprised when one or two women realize at the beginning of the session that they don’t have the dance ability for this kind of thing. The dance team makes it look so easy and fun. When you’re sitting in the stands, it’s easy to imagine yourself down there on the court. But then you get to the workshop and reality sets in.
But I think for those who make it through the class and have a good time doing it, the experience just makes them want it even more. I’m always interested to see which members of the class actually show up at the audition. There are a few I definitely hope to see there!
Class began with Karissa demonstrating the first move. Start with your left foot in passé and then raise it up…and up…and up…
Juuuuust kidding. You should’ve seen their faces. That little trick really freaked everyone out in the morning session. They did it again in the afternoon session and when the class realized it was just a joke, the relief was palpable.
After scaring the hell out of everyone, they jumped right into the choreography. The first piece they learned was a portion of last season’s dance to “Let’s Get Loud.”
After learning the dance, the ladies watched each other perform in small groups (With the veterans marking it alongside).
Then Audrea spoke a little bit about the difference between dancing and really performing and selling it. She put her veterans on the spot and had them perform for the group to illustrate her point.
Afterward, the dancers performed in small groups again, and this time they were encouraged to really put some “wow” into it. This time the veterans got to watch, and the second time around, made a real difference!
Then the group moved on to hip hop. Everyone put on their baggies, changed their shoes, and learned part of the combination for “Bubble Butt.” (Gotta love that. Booty so smooth, can’t believe it’s not butta!) They followed the same format, first learning the routine…
…and performing it in small groups…
…then watching the veterans do it…
…and then performing it again. The ladies in the afternoon session in particular were really feeling the hip hop. It was obvious they were having a lot of fun. This year’s prep class was full of talent. I don’t think it was entirely my imagination, but the women this year seemed to pick up choreography incredibly fast.
After all the dancing was over, everyone gathered around for Q&A.
Questions ranged from the rehearsal schedule (Sunday afternoons and Monday evenings), to how many veterans are retiring this year (7 or 8 out of 17), to what to expect during the interview (questions to get to know you and how you expect to fit the busy schedule into your life), to what to wear for auditions (trunks are better than boy shorts unless your legs are 9 feet long, swimsuit tops are only a good idea if you are smaller on top, wear pantyhose, not shiny dance tights), to how to do your makeup (eyelashes and red lipstick. LipSTICK. Not gloss.) Audrea also gave her annual “save your money” speech. She is a firm believer in spending wisely when it comes to audition prep. If you have the money to spend, go hog wild. But if you don’t – and most people don’t – put your money where it matters most. Dance classes. A great color and cut. More dance classes. You don’t need a pricey outfit or expensive makeup. Your shine comes from your talent and ability.
When all was said and done, the dancers walked away with a fun experience and a lot to think about. One of the functions of prep class is to debunk the myth that any of this is “easy” and impress upon everyone that this is fun, but it is still a J.O.B. And a major time commitment. So now these women have a few weeks to think about whether they have the ambition, time, and talent to devote to the team.
I can’t wait to see see who decides to really go for it at auditions next month!
A behind the scenes look at game day with the Clippers Spirit dance team! Click here to watch the video.
Miss these ladies ;-)