Field Trip: Tokyo Apache Auditions

(Note: As always, those who prefer to cut to the chase can click here and go right to the photos)

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from Terra, one of the head honchos here at UC. Terra said her company Dallaswear is designing new uniforms for the Tokyo Apache Dancers and found out they were having auditions in Los Angeles. She wanted to know if I would be interested in covering the tryouts for this website.

Have I ever mentioned how much I LOVE auditions?
Because I do.
I really really love them.
(Except for the part where people’s hopes and dreams are completely destroyed. But the rest of it is fantastic.)

So I was all “Heck yeah!” Send me the details.

Meanwhile, I was a little puzzled. Tokyo Apache? Never heard of it. (And I’ve heard of almost every team in the English-speaking world.)

unicycle-hockeyWas this a Japanese team? Or a Native American team? What sport was this, anyway? Was this going to be something weird, like Gaga Ball or Unicycle Hockey?

Soon after that, I heard from Terra again. The auditions would take place the very next day, and they would be headed by a woman named Kristin Egusa.

That seals it. Count me in.

Kristin is on my list of beloved former Clippers Spirit Dancers. If she’s involved, this project will not suck. (And probably would not be unicycle hockey.) Kristin can dance, she can choreograph, and she can bring the fierce. She’s not going to be in charge of some ragtag knock-kneed group of dancers who can’t tell the difference between left and right.

(Admittedly, there are times when I myself can’t tell the difference between left and right, but that’s totally different)

Like a good little nerd, I hopped right online to do some background research. Here’s the scoop:

Tokyo Apache is one of 16 teams in the Basketball Japan League. (I gather that’s their equivalent of the NBA.) The team was one of the initial members of the league, which began operations in 2005. I dug around in my hard drive and darn if I didn’t find a couple photos of the Apache Dancers from previous seasons. I guess I had heard of them after all.
I’m not gonna lie. This photo made me a little nervous.

But they also showed promise. Roowrrrr!

I did a bit more digging and found out that Evolution Capital Management, an investment management company based here in Los Angeles, purchased the team back in June. They brought in new coaching, new players, and now they’re bringing in new NBA-style entertainment. This is where Kristin comes in as the new Director/Choreographer, and where Terra came in to design the new costumes in Apache purple and gold.

kristinegusa_nThe next morning, I headed over to the audition. Most NBA auditions have a turnout in the hundreds, but since this team performs in Japan, I didn’t expect nearly as many people to show up. I thought probably 10 or 12 dancers at most. After all, how many people are in a position to drop everything and go to Japan for basketball season?

That was the first of many wrong assumptions.

Once I got in the door and got over the shock of recognizing more than half of the people in the room, I cornered Kristin and got the scoop. She’d been on board for about a month. She is putting together a team of dancers that includes herself, plus 8 women from the LA auditions, and 4 more from auditions in Japan the following week. Rehearsals will start in November, and the team will go to Japan in December.

This was a bigger deal than I expected. For one thing, it was a closed audition. (Translation: a small number of high quality candidates.) There were about 30 dancers, all recommended by directors, choreographers, etc. in the industry. All of the women had been invited, so it was a given that they were all great dancers.

Given all that, there was no need for the basic across-the-floor round to these auditions. The plan was to have the girls learn a jazz/hip hop combination, perform it for the judges in groups of two, followed by a cut, then followed by a freestyle round where each finalist would do a short solo. Interviews were scheduled for the following week, and the team would be announced at the end of the week.

Let’s discuss who was in the room. First of all, the judges:

The Judges: Traci, Kristin, Lisa, Aimee, Marianne, Audrea

Basically what we have here is every important person in the local LA pro sports dance industry.

Traci Buchholz is a producer for E! Entertainment. She is also one of in-arena hosts for the Los Angeles. Clippers. Traci was on the Clippers Spirit Dance Team for four years.

Kristin Egusa is the Tokyo Apache Dance Team Director. She’s a dancer/choreographer and was a four year member of the Clippers Spirit

Lisa Estrada is the Director of Game Operations & Entertainment for the Los Angeles Lakers. (aka Chief Chick-in-Charge of the Laker Girls.)

Aimee Edmundson is the Director of the ChivaGirls (Chivas USA)

Marianne Bogoyevac
is the Game Entertainment Manager for the Los Angeles Clippers

Audrea Harris is the Entertainment Teams Director for the Los Angeles Clippers (aka Boss Lady for the Clippers Spirit and Clippers Fan Patrol, and a few other teams)

Now, over in this corner, we have Teresa, Katrina, and Nicole, current members of the Los Angeles Clippers Spirit.

It’s kind of annoying that they look like this with no makeup, but whatever. I’m over it.

Nicole choreographed the combination for the audition and Katrina and Teresa were there to assist.

Behind their backs, I refer to these three (plus Brittany) as the Spirit “Go-To Girls” because they show up for everything. Whenever I go to any Clippers-related anything, guar-ron-teed at least three of the four will be there. I’m thinking the next time I have to move, I’ll arrange to have a Clippers “event” at my house. Then Katrina, Teresa, Brittany, and Nicole can help me move my furniture and stuff.

So then I start eyeballing the dancers. Hey, I know her! And her! And her! And her too!

There was one girl I wasn’t sure about. She was wearing a familiar orange and purple outfit. She looked an awful lot like this girl Jacy I know from some other auditions. But Jacy is a blonde, so who is this chick? Does Jacy have a sister? I went over and took a picture of her, but didn’t say anything.


    Sidebar: I should explain that I have a policy about this sort of situation. When I was about 13, I really liked this boy named Anthony. He was in a couple of my classes at school. One Friday night, I went to a teen club with some girlfriends and was surprised to see Anthony there. I proceeded to spend the evening doing laps around the place so I could “casually” pass by his table. I’d say hello, then run away and giggle with my little friends. The first couple of times I passed by, Anthony said “hey” back to me. The third time, he gave me a strange look. The fourth time, he looked at me and said “who are you?” I just giggled. That Anthony is such a joker! Around the sixth or seventh time, he “I don’t think I know you.” By the 8th or 9th time, he was scowling at me. Eventually I got annoyed with his act and decided to ignore him. He was making me look bad in front of my crew.

    Long story short: a couple days later I found out Anthony had brother, who went to a different school. It wasn’t Anthony at the club. It was his brother. His Identical. Twin. Brother.

    I’ll pause for a moment and let you place yourself in that scenario…

    So, to recap, I’d spent the whole night giggling and flirting clumsily with a total stranger. The whole time I thought I was being cute, he was thinking “who is this stalker?”

    I wanted to die.

    O.M.G. who does that? Who has twins and sends them to two different schools? What is this, the freaking Parent Trap?

    More importantly, why hadn’t the jerk said “hey, you probably think I’m my brother.” I mean, I’m sure they’d been mistaken for each other all their lives. Needless to say, that was the end of my crush on Anthony, (and Anthony’s brother, whose name I have deliberately blocked from recollection.)

    So anyway, like I said, I have a policy. If I see you somewhere, and I’m not 1000% sure you’re you, I’m not coming over with a big “hey girl!” smile on my face. I don’t mean to offend you, honestly. It’s just that I’m emotionally scarred.
    These days, you can’t be sure
    who is Anthony, and who isn’t.

    A lot of time has passed, and I’ve developed more sophisticated ways of identifying my targets. So when i saw this girl in Jacy’s outfit, I moseyed on over to the registration area to get a peek at the dancers’ head shots. Katrina was standing there, so I couldn’t just snatch the pile and rifle through it. Instead, I asked her all casual like if there was a girl named Jacy in the room. Wouldn’t you know it, Katrina and Jacy are roommates. Aw crap. Because now I couldn’t even go back and play it off like I totally recognized her the whole time.

Let’s see…who else was there?

Ok, right – the dancers. Like I said, tons of familiar faces…

Ari danced for the Boston Celtics and Sacramento Kings

Ashley was a Boston Celtics Dancer

Deanna was a Laker Girl last year

My goodness, Destiney has been busy! She was a Chicago Luvabull, an Atlanta Falcons Cheerleader, and danced for the Atlanta Hawks.

Emi and Tiffany are ChivaGirls. Tiffany was also a member of the Clippers Spirit.

Erica was also a Celtics girl.

Heidi is a former Seattle Sea Gal

Jacy was on the Anaheim Arsenal dance team

Kimberly was captain of the Spokane Shock dance team

Krista was on the Spokane Shock dance team too. She also danced for the Settle Sonics

Michelle was a ChivaGirl for a couple of years before moving on to the Lakers

Suzy is freaking adorable, ok?
Originally from Ohio, she was a Cleveland Cavalier Girl before moving West and joining the Laker Girls.
I have never actually spoken to her, but I’ve decided I like her a lot.

Tyler was a member of the “White Mischief Gals,” the dance team for the Bangalore Royal Challengers.
(From the Indian Premier League. That’s cricket, y’all)

Vanessa used to dance for the Clippers
This just a sample of the talent in the room. I also saw girls from some of the outstanding college dance teams in Southern California. For example, there was a girl named Julie, who was on the USC Trojan Dance Force. Another girl, Katie was on the San Diego State dance team.

Pretty soon, it was time to get started, so the dancers gathered around.

Kristin introduced the panel of judges, which also included a representative from the Apache management, but I didn’t catch his name. He talked a little about the excitement around the basketball team and said he was looking forward to having a great dance team. They’re really going to do it up, American-style.

Then Kristin introduced The Go-To Girls and Nicole started teaching the combination. It was around eight 8-counts, which doesn’t sound like much, but is a heck of a lot to remember. The song was one I hadn’t heard before. I couldn’t catch any of the lyrics except something that sounded like “cheese sticks.”

Literally, it was “na na na na na na (something something) cheese sticks”

Listen for yourself, and tell me you don’t hear it. Go on. Lie to me.

Back in the day, this song would have been my nightmare. I tended to get stage fright and blank out. I always relied heavily on the lyrics to help me remember the moves. Without recognizable lyrics, I would’ve been toast. But this isn’t about me.

The choreography was cool. The song was cool. Cheese sticks are cool.

It seemed like five minutes after they started, it was time to try it with music. I whipped out my nifty little flip video camera and captured one of the first run-throughs with the music. It always amazes me how quickly dancers are able to pick up a combination.

The dancers ran through the combination in smaller groups, and then there was a break for them to rehearse on their own.

I took the opportunity to trot over to Nicole to get some info.
Me: Nicole, are these people singing about cheese sticks?
Nicole (looking at me strangely): No, no, it’s not cheese sticks, it’s G6.
Me: Gee Six?
Nicole: Uh, huh. G6.
Me: Are you sure? Because it really sounds like “cheese sticks”. Katrina, don’t you think it sounds like cheese sticks?
Katrina (also looking at me strangely): No. It’s G6.
Me: I don’t know about this… To me, it’s definitely cheese sticks. “Something something cheese sticks”
Katrina: Are you hungry? Did you eat breakfast?

(Conversations like this I think are one of the reasons why I don’t get invited more places.)

Meanwhile, what the frack is a Gee Six? It sounds like a military assault weapon.
Which, when you think about it, isn’t that much better than singing about a cheese stick.

    Sidebar: Unwilling to embarrass myself further, I waited until I got home to investigate this gee six business. The first thing I did was check the lyrics, hoping for enlightenment.
    Poppin bottles in the ice, like a blizzard
    When we drink we do it right gettin slizzard
    Sippin sizzurp in my ride, in my ride, like Three 6
    Now I’m feelin so fly like a G6
    Like a G6, Like a G6
    Now now now now now now I’m feelin so fly like a G6
    Like a G6, Like a G6
    Now now now now now now I’m feelin so fly like a G6

Ok. I still do not know what a G6 is.

Meanwhile, slizzard? Sizzurp?


I consulted the online reference guide for the tragically unhip:

    gulfstreamg650 G6
    (1) G6 / G650. Slang for the Gulfstream G650, a twin-engine jet airplane manufactured by Gulfstream Aerospace. The estimated pricetag exceeds $58 million USD, and will be assembled in Gulfstream’s new manufacturing facility in Savannah, Georgia. Gulfstream begins taking orders for the aircraft in April, 2010, with delivery beginning in 2012.
    (2) A pimp azz private jet made by Gulfstream (Gulfstream 650). Only Ballers, Rappers, Uber Celebrities, and successful executives are fly enough to get slizzard on a G6.

    (1) A state of high intoxication from alcohol.
    (2) A very slutty lizard.

    (1) An alcoholic drink consisting of any codeine based medication, cough surup, Vodka, rum, Big Red soda, and Jolly Ranchers.
    (2) In terms of NYC rappers Cam’ron, the Diplomats and more, An exotic blend of premium imported cognac, vodka, and natural fruits. The combination of these high quality ingredients results in a drink unsurpassed by any other in its category.

Well then. I guess that answers that.

Meanwhile, back at the audition, it was showtime! The ladies lined up and performed in pairs for the judges.

Tyler and Jacy

Ari and Heidi

Suzy and Emi

Everyone did a great job.
Now I am going to tell a story about a certain dancer, who would probably rather I keep my mouth shut. However, there is a lesson to be learned here and I feel obligated to share.

So this dancer, I’ll call her…um…”Mary.” Mary went out there for her turn in front of the judges, and experienced every dancer’s nightmare. She fell. Whap! Right on the ground.

Total wipeout.
Her (previously) injured leg briefly went on hiatus and took the rest of her body down with it. I think she landed on her stomach. And what’s even worse is she was dancing alongside someone who was very very good. It’s enough to make a girl cry.

I’m telling you this, not to make fun of Mary, but hold her up as an example. Home girl hopped up and jumped right back into the dance as if nothing happened. She not only finished it, she killed it. With a BIG smile on her face. I wanted to cheer. Honestly, I really did.

It was like a scene from the movie Showgirls. (Except, you know, not in gold lamé.) Picture it: the heroine stages a fall, thereby grabbing 100% of the spotlight for herself. Everyone’s eyes are glued to her from that moment on, and she performs like a champ. When the number is over everyone applauds, throws flowers, offers her the lead role, etc.

What Mary did was genius. (Well, except for the fact that it was a total accident.) And now that I think about it, in Showgirls, didn’t one girl make another girl fall so she could take her role in the show? So I guess it really isn’t the same thing after all. But you know what I mean. It’s not about the fall. It’s about the recovery.

Go Mary!

And when the judges made the first cut, guess whose number was called? Mary’s. You go, girl.

The choreographed portion of the audition was over. Kristin gave the dancers a few minutes to think about their solos. Then, one by one, they came out and introduced themselves before busting out the freestyle moves. Some girls mentioned their education and dance experience. Others talked about their favorite color, favorite food, etc. Emi revealed her ace in the hole – she speaks Japanese.

(I’m talking actual conversation, not that “Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto” business.)

The solos were fun. There was a lot of technique on display (pirouettes, leaps, etc.) as well as tumbling, breaking, and even a little moonwalking:

And then – it was over. Just like that. Kristin thanked everyone for coming, the dancers pulled on their sweats, and the judges went off to deliberate.

Fast-forward a week.
Here’s who they chose:

Deanna (#4) and Erica (#3)

Destiney (#18)

Julie (#11) and Katie (#10)

Kimberley (#8)

Suzy (#25) and Emi (#26)

Psssst! Remember Mary?
She made the team.

Which one is she?
Sorry. My lips are sealed.

Those are dancers from The States.

The auditions in Japan also went very well. They chose four more dancers: Akemi, Noriko, Sachiko, and Mai.
(More on the Japanese auditions here)

Congratulations to all!
See you on the hardwood.

(Please God, not in those stripey pants)

Bonus: Here’s a highlight video I found on youtube.

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