EL SEGUNDO-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 Brandon Ingram, the second overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft, was practicing at the Lakers facility.
On Saturday, the excitement involved about 216 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 at least 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 the next seasons 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. Sixteen of the 22 dancers from last season showed up for tryouts.
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 other reasons.
First, the entire group were taught the short dance combination that they would eventually perform in groups of three in the second round while Laker Girls director and choreogprapher Lisa Estrada watched and judged, along with the other panel of judges. Then, Estrada, a former Laker Girl from 1987 go 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 auditioning 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 Jennifer, a 19-year-old Yorba Linda, CA native and CSU-Fullerton student. This is her first time trying out and attended the Lakers dance workshop two weeks before the tryouts to prepare for the big audition.
She learned technique and danced in small groups.
She’s been dancing since the age of 11 and got experience as a cheerleader at Yorba Linda High School, where she also competed on the Song Team. She said that she loved dancing in front of the football crowds in high school.
“My brothers friend inspired me to pursue dancing when I was in elementary school,” said Jennifer, a lifetime devoted Lakers fan. She made it to the second round and hopefully will continue to advance in the audition process.
Good luck to the 22 dancers who will eventually make the team and be seen at Staples Center doing their twirls, high kicks and ballet-style leaps at Laker games.
Steven LIeberman is a veteran sports/arts/entertainment journalist. Lieberman has covered entertainment and professional sports, Including the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball, for the past 14 years. Among his entertainment work, Lieberman covers concerts, theatre and events.