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The Star Of A Dream

Written by Jay Betsill

While the NFL Draft was in full swing for the Dallas Cowboys in New York City and Valley Ranch, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders 2014 auditions got underway on Saturday at the home of America's Team, AT&T Stadium.

As the sun began to rise behind the stadium, over 500 ladies from around the world – as far away as Japan and Australia and as close as Dallas and Fort Worth – were on hand to pursue their dream of wearing the iconic uniform on the sidelines of the Cowboys home games and becoming an ambassador for the organization. With the CMT cameras rolling for the ninth season of Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team, the legendary Phil Whitfield opened the stadium doors and officially kicked off the quest to become one of America's Sweethearts.

The ladies received their numbers upon registration and while some immediately headed to the back area to get ready, known as "Fluff & Puff," others appeared to be in awe of the amazing structure that is the home of the Cowboys and began to envision themselves on the huge video board in front of 80,000 fans. Due to the filming of the show, the day is on a tight schedule that begins with all of the hopefuls in their seats on the west platform of the main concourse prior to venturing down into the stands for the welcoming address by DCC director Kelli Finglass.

"We are looking for performers to perform on the largest stage in the world," Finglass said. The ladies listened intently as Finglass spoke about the 11 judges, including Dallas Cowboys executive vice president and chief brand officer Charlotte Jones Anderson, DCC choreographer Judy Trammell, DCC official fitness trainer Jay Johnson and former DCC and Dancing with the Stars winner Melissa Rycroft. Finglass also spoke of standing out to the judges in their freestyle routines using "purpose, power, projection and personality."

Saturday's preliminary round ended with the judges deliberating before Whitfield emerged from the stadium with the board full of the numbers of the ladies who had advanced to Sunday's semifinal round. There were 110 numbers on the board, meaning that several hundred ladies had to make the long walk to their awaiting family and friends contemplating what would be next for them as their journey had come to an end. As for those who were moving forward, they would be back at the stadium in a matter of hours to learn DCC choreography and take the DCC written exam.

Sunday's semifinal round began with the ladies down on the field to learn a routine and the signature DCC kick-line from Trammell and retiring DCCs Mia Greenhouse, Jackie Bob and Lauren Williams. After spending over an hour practicing on the field with the three veterans on hand to help them and answer any questions, it was time to go back up to the main concourse and show the judges panel that they had picked up the choreography and could perform it on short notice.

The intensity was raised to a new level from the previous day as the Instagram and Twitter postings were replaced by the constant practicing of the routine they had just learned. The ladies would come out in groups of five for the judges panel, which had several additions this year, including country music singer Neal McCoy and columnist Mickey Spagnola. All of the work put in to chasing this dream had come down to this moment for the ladies who would perform the routine twice, do the DCC kick-line twice and likely do their fair share of second-guessing while they headed back to their seats.

After the last group performed, the judges were faced with the task of selecting who would advance while the ladies took the DCC written exam that included questions on the Dallas Cowboys football team, DCC history, the NFL and current events. They would have 30 minutes to complete the test and then came the excruciatingly painful waiting game as their fate was officially out of their hands.

Finglass and Trammell arrived shortly after 5:30 p.m. to announce who would be advancing to next weekend's final auditions. With each name and number that was called, the anxiety level continued to rise. When the final name was called, there were several who are familiar to fans of the TV show that remained seated, fighting back tears as the reality sank in that their dream was over for this year and in some cases, forever. It was the quintessential example of agony and ecstasy in the same setting as friends said goodbye to one another with some looking forward to finals and others left to wonder what might have been.

The final auditions will include the 55 participants joining 30 returning veterans from last year's squad and will take place on Saturday, May 17, at AT&T Stadium. Fans will be able to cast their vote for their favorite rookie candidate and the winner will receive an automatic invitation to DCC training camp. Training camp candidates will be announced at the conclusion of the final auditions.

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