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.
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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.