LOS ANGELES-Having an NFL football team back in the Los Angeles market is a big deal. Getting the Rams to come back to their home base in Southern California is an even bigger deal. After a 21-year absence, the Los Angeles Rams have officially arrived, thanks to the franchise’s first legit activity since it was announced the team would be leaving the city of St. Louis.
No, it wasn’t OTA’s (that will come later). No, it wasn’t highlighting the team’s 2016 draft picks (another late arrival) or mini-camp. On Saturday, April 2 and on Sunday, April 3, it was tryout time for those wanting to be a Los Angeles Rams cheerleader.
Wracked nerves and the buildup of excitement are just part of the experience when dancing in front of strangers who have the final say on whether or not you’re good enough to make the cut to be part of an NFL cheer and dance squad. Concentration of the dance routine is critical. Focusing on not messing up and getting the required dance routine down pat is essential to advancing past the first several rounds of elimination.
With that being asked, carrying a bright smile to accompany a welcoming personality fits the bill on the checklist as well. So that’s what an estimated 400 talented and beautiful women had to gear themselves up for in trying to make a big impression in order to be considered for a spot as a Los Angeles Rams cheerleader.
Ari has been around this block before. Before coming out to the Rams cheerleader audition at USC’s Galen Center in Los Angeles, Ari danced for the Boston Celtics, the Sacramento Kings, and even for the San Francisco 49ers. She’s pretty much a pro at this kind of stuff.
“It is not my first time trying out for a professional team,” Ari said. “I’ve had the actually had the experience, the opportunity and the privilege to dance in the NBA. I also did have the opportunity to dance for an NFL team as well for two years. I danced for the Boston Celtics, the Sacramento Kings, and also for the (San Francisco) 49ers.”
With that kind of experience under her belt, a person would easily assume that this would be old hat for Ari, an event coordinator in live entertainment sports. That’s just not the case, she said.
We’re all nervous,” Ari said. “You meet new people. There is a different amount of girls that come out. You don’t know anybody, the experiences they come from. You don’t know what the judges are looking for. You can be as well-prepared as you want to be, but you’re not the judge. You don’t know what they’re looking for. That keeps it kind of exciting and challenging. I love it. I love the challenge, and I love meeting new people.”
Like every other participant who showed up for the open audition, Ari brought a joyous enthusiasm with her to the tryouts. The fact that the Rams are here in her backyard makes it even more exciting for her.
“I love it,” said Ari. “I have a passion for dance and for performing and entertaining, also I love being a role model, doing community work. Doing community work is one of my favorite things. I know we can go and do community work as individuals, just by ourselves. But these organizations…it’s like they like to see for someone to come out in the community to feed the kids, be able to go to the hospitals. Whatever it is, I really enjoy that. It’s like a little piece of the pie of what I do at my normal job. Then I go secondary and do what I love and that’s dancing and performing.”
Ari made the first cut that brought the number of participants down to 80. By the time the finals take place on April 17 at the Inglewood Forum, that number will be significantly reduced down 31 or 32 spots. Shardia, a pediatric occupational therapist, is hoping to be among those last called standing when it’s all said and done.
Shardia, who danced for the Charlotte Bobcats for two years, thought she had put her dancing career in the rearview mirror. After living in the South and the East Coast all of her life, Shardia said she wanted a different change of scenery. Lo and behold, Shardia got wind of the Rams coming into town after moving to Southern California.
That rejuvenated those dance juices she thought she had put away.
“I’ve been a cheerleader since I could walk, since I can remember,” Shardia said. “It is something I enjoy doing. I just do it for my passion, for my performing. I have no interest in acting or modeling or anything like that. Modeling comes along with what you’re doing. I absolutely love my career as a therapist. I’m nervous right now. I’m nervous with every step I take.
“I mean you have so many beautiful girls around you who are talented. They’re all involved in the community. You can’t help but be nervous. I just reminded myself that you’re beautiful; you’re smart, you’re confident. You can do this. And if you don’t get it, hey, at least you had the opportunity to surround yourself with so many dynamic women.”
The difference in performing for an NBA team in comparison to dancing for a NFL squad is like comparing apples to oranges. However, both entities present their own individual and unique challenges, Shardia said.
“It’s all pretty tough,” said Shardia. “It’s all beautiful women. In the NBA, you kind of have your own little flair, your own little style doing a routine. What they emphasize here is that we’re one team so we do everything together. It’s like cheer, step and clap, step and clap. In the NBA, we’re like breaking it down, grown and sexy and that kind of stuff.”
For Danielle, being a Los Angeles Rams cheerleader is like living a dream. During the 2015 NFL season, Danielle lived out that dream as she made the cut to be part of the Rams cheer and dance team. A operations specialist for a brokerage firm back in Missouri, Danielle did not want her dream to come to an end. So she booked a flight and flew out to Los Angeles, just so she could get another opportunity to earn a spot on the cheer team, even if that means relocating.
“My family is there (Missouri), but I think that because I’m young and so passionate about the Rams, why not make my dreams come true out here and try giving it a shot as a LA Rams cheerleader,” Danielle said.
Being a talented performer and looking pretty on Game Day is only one phase of being a cheerleader for the Rams franchise. Community involvement is where the real work gets done for those representing the organization, she said.
“Just going through the whole process you learn so much about yourself,” Danielle said. “I’ve learned so much. It is a huge time for self-discovery, what you really want, what you want to stand for, what you represent; just learning so much about yourself, and what the Rams represent and how you can mold yourself to be a Rams cheerleader.”
That’s exactly what the Rams cheerleaders are all about, said Keely Fimbres-Bledsoe, the Rams director of special events and cheerleaders.
“We will do just about every charitable event that we’re asked to do,” Fimbres-Bledsoe said. “How it works with us is that we want to be engaged in the community in every aspect, whether it’s Long Beach, California, or all the way up to Oxnard. We will do our best to be ambassadors to our organization.