DCC Hannah On How Prep Classes Paved Her Way

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Well dancers, with auditions just a few weeks away, we are well into audition season.

Several NFL dance and cheer teams have held auditions and selected their 2019 squads. Dancers across the country are preparing freestyles, perfecting tricks, memorizing solos, choosing audition outfits and studying for interviews or written tests. Preparation is certainly key but can seem daunting. Even dancers who have experienced audition season year after year are gripped by that butterfly feeling when they step in front of the judging panel.

So, how do you walk into auditions knowing that you’re prepared for anything? How do you show up certain you did everything in your power to achieve your goal?

If there were a clear cut answer, believe me, I would share it with you. Just how students have their own study methods, performers prepare differently for auditions. It is an individual process requiring heavy self-reflection. Every woman on this team paved distinct paths on their journeys to becoming Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. Some made lifelong goals come to fruition. Others acted on desires to continue their dance careers.

Views from DCC Hannah's road to becoming a member of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

I was a last-minute entry into the 2015 Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders audition. I remember frantically emailing in all my paperwork the Wednesday before auditions, taking a major psychology test Thursday, catching a flight to Dallas Friday night, and going to prelims Saturday morning. If you told 19-year-old Hannah that a spur-of-the-moment decision would start a three-year preparation period to finally achieving my goal, I am not sure if I would have walked into AT&T Stadium that Saturday. Hannah circa 2015 walked into audition day with bright red lipstick, a study guide for her biology final, and dreams of becoming a DCC: ignorance was bliss.

Bliss lasted until semifinals. Being cut that year was inevitable; I was woefully unprepared. But after catching a glimpse of the DCC world, my focus was fixed. There was no turning back. I promised myself I would re-audition having done everything in my power to come back prepared and ready to make the team. I had no clue how much hard work, dedication, and time it would take. I only knew it would be worth it.

On I went, four auditions until I was fully equipped to achieve my goal. I am often asked, “How did you prepare?” or “What did you do differently year to year?” My response is always the same: dedication, practice, and prep class. Some of you are probably giving me the side eye thinking, “Of course the DCC is promoting prep class – that’s her job.” To which I would say, I have been taking DCC prep classes since 2016. I would hop a flight or drive 14 hours from Chicago to Dallas to specifically take the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders’ prep classes. I did this for years before I actually made the team. Why? Because those classes were what paved my way. I will advocate for them until I am blue in the face! I was willing to drive from Chicago to Dallas to take prep classes because I knew nothing about this world. Doing the 14-hour drive was also a good reality check. I mean, would you be excited drive across the country alone for dance classes if you questioned their ability to aid in achieving your goal?

I still remember my first prep class. It was taught by DCC alumna Audrey Cowen and assisted by Jacie and Victoria. I walked into Valley Ranch a ball of anxiety and excitement. My mom and I came straight from the airport. She dropped me off and waited in the car while I took class. (Side note: shout out to my mom. She was my support system through all my years of preparation. She would listen to me talk for hours about the DCC, Cowboys, NFL, literally anything and everything. Mom, you always support me, are my biggest cheerleader and my person. I love you.) Security escorted me from the Valley Ranch lobby to the DCC hall where I was greeted by a welcoming face. Before I could say a word, a sweet lady from behind the desk greeted me with the biggest smile. In that moment, my nerves melted, and I made my first friend in the DCC organization. That friend was Michele Sharp. Michele is a DCC alumna and the first line of defense in welcoming new and returning faces to DCC prep classes. She greets everyone with her infectious smile and radiant positivity. She helped ease my nerves. Whenever I had a question about paperwork, headshots, or absolutely anything, she was ready to give a helping hand. Audrey, Jacie, Michele, and Victoria were my first encounters with the type of women the DCC exemplify.

Each year I auditioned, the reason I kept coming back evolved because of the women I encountered in prep class. In 2015 my reason was simple, I wanted to become a top-tier professional dancer. Then in 2016, after being taught by such diverse, strong, and empowering women, why I wanted to become a DCC changed. I wanted be a part of the legacy so many incredible women had built before me, grow into my fullest potential, and represent an organization much larger than myself — all while surrounded by women who understand exactly what that means. Every prep class I took reinforced that motivation. Michelle Keyes, Jennifer Amburn, Shelly Bramhall, and Kelli Finglass herself each inspired me to fight harder for my dreams.

Could I have taken any dance class and still apply what I learned to my goal? Yes, but those will not provide the environment a DCC prep class does. You feel the drive and passion of every hopeful in the room. You hear the songs you will dance to. You begin to see the power of the Dallas Cowboys Star in action. That is something you cannot replicate.

I look back at those years and confidently say I did everything in my power to prepare for auditions. What helped me make sure nothing was missed and I was well rounded in my training, were the prep classes I attended. The DCC staff have classes for everything: Field of Dreams, Director’s Chair, Football 101, kick, jazz, power pom, hip hop, and even a dress rehearsal version of auditions the night before prelims! It took me a few years to soak it all in, but I used that time to become the best version of myself.

If you had told me at 19 that it would take three years of training to achieve my goal, but those years would be filled with knowledge, understanding, and preparation I now consider invaluable. They would be critical not only to the preparation process, but also to my time on the team. Then I would walk into that audition knowing someday I would be ready for what I was about to go through and never look back.

That was my path. Am I saying everyone who hopes to become a DCC should drop everything, run to The Star, and wait to check in for Friday’s prep class? No, that would be unreasonable. I _am_ saying if DCC is your dream, and you want the most amount of information and preparation in one spot, I recommend DCC prep classes.

Ultimately, it comes down to this: no matter how many dance classes you take, tricks you perfect, or slates you recite, you will still experience that butterfly feeling. What will give you a slight sense of comfort AT&T Stadium come May 18th is submerging yourself into the DCC environment. Every class prep class you take exposes you to more people from the organization, the sights and sounds of audition day, and the meanings of phrases such as Fluff ‘n Puff or slate. You will go into your audition with the ability to block out distractions, show the room how incredible you are, and enjoy the process. You will be able to put on “audition cruise control.” Who doesn’t want that?!

Here is my final piece of advice for anyone out there who desires to become a DCC: It is hard to convince anyone else that you can achieve your goal if you do not fully believe it yourself. So buy in, believe it, do the work, and be confident when you say, “I will become a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader.” Best of luck to all of you this auditioning season. You’ve got this!

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