Culver City Observer -

Laker Girls Tryouts Attracts 236 Dancers

 

Alanna - CSU Fullerton dance major

By Steven Lieberman

Observer Reporter

Every July, there is summer excitement brewing at the Toyota Sports Center, the Lakers headquarters and practice facility in El Segundo. No, it wasn't the news that stand-out players Brandon Bass and Roy Hibbert have recently been added to the Lakers roster.

On Saturday, the excitement involved the 236 capable young women from all over the country trying-out to become a dancer for next season's Laker Girls dance squad.

It was an open audition, a cattle call. The only requirements - be 18 years of age, have eight years of dance experience (recommended, but not necessary), wear a leotard and flesh colored tights, and bring a headshot with resume. That's all it takes to try out.

Current Laker Girls have to audition every year. Being a Laker Girl one season doesn't guarantee a spot on next season's team. It's like the yearly company performance review. If a dancer hasn't been training during the off-season, it will show in the audition.

Eleven of the 22 dancers from last season showed up for the tryouts. Alanna, attempting to become a Laker Girl for the second time gave her thoughts about having to tryout again.

"They want to make sure we have stayed in good shape and have been in good practice during the offseason," she said. Alanna, a native of Whittier, CA and a dance major at CSU-Fullerton, understands that this is important.

She also mentioned that it was a dream of hers to become a Laker Girl ever since she attended her first Lakers game at the age of six.

There are multiple reasons why a current Laker Girl doesn't audition for the next season. They get different jobs, have other future goals, graduate from college, get married or move away, among others.

First, the entire group was taught the short dance combination that they would eventually perform in groups of three in the second round while Laker Girls director and choreographer Lisa Estrada watched and judged, along with the other panel of judges.

Then Estrada, former Laker Girl from 1987 to 1992, had the difficult task of deciding who to keep for the second round and who to cut. There are typically four rounds.

By late morning, the group had been narrowed down to move on to the second round. After further auditions and a personal interview the following week, Estrada hopes to have her team of 22 and said that each dancer should have three important qualities.

Be a good dancer, entertainer, and be a good brand ambassador because not only do they dance at Lakers home games, but also attend other special events.

The process is a bit similar to a beauty pageant in that the dancers who make it to the personal interview will then be judged on personality and life interests.

This is a shot at a life-long dream for many of the dancers to become a Laker Girl. Some come with high expectations, while others are just happy to get the chance to audition.

One hopeful is Northridge, CA native, Megan. This is the second time trying out for this 20 year old classically-trained ballet dancer who made it to the second round last year.

She's been dancing since the age of two and when not trying out for the Laker Girls, she is a dancer at the Houston Ballet Academy and a kinesiology major (with a minor in dance) at Moorpark College.

She has also trained with the LA Ballet Academy and American Ballet Theatre where she is a principal dancer.

Megan - American Ballet Theatre principal dancer

Megan, a lifetime devoted Lakers fan, said her mom inspired her to want to dance.

"I started dancing in the Nutcracker production when I was seven," she said. "I've been training since I was 2 years old, so that helped me make it into the second round today. 'I got that going for me, which is nice'."

She cites famous ballet dancer and Los Angeles native, Misty Copeland, as one of her role models.

Good luck to the 22 dancers who will eventually make the team and be seen at the Staples Center doing their twirls, high kicks and ballet-style leaps at Lakers games.

 

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