While the defending NFC East champion Dallas Cowboys are in the midst of training camp in Oxnard, Calif., another annual summer tradition for fans of America’s Team arrives with the 10th anniversary season premiere of Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team at 10 p.m. Thursday on CMT.
Longtime Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders director Kelli Finglass and choreographer Judy Trammell welcomed several hundred candidates to AT&T Stadium to compete for one of the coveted spots on the iconic team.
The longest-running nonmusic show on CMT chronicles the journey of the entrants who are on hand for the intense process as they chase the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream.
“Our judges are looking for entertainers,” Finglass announces to the candidates early on. “An entertainer is defined as someone who can ignite, excite, amuse and hold the attention of your audience.”
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Loyal fans of the show will instantly recognize familiar faces who have tried out in previous years. They will also notice there are 13 cheerleaders from last year’s team that are not returning.
The candidates from 32 states and four countries include a former member of the U.S. gymnastics team, a national dance champion, a biomedical engineer and others who have danced on other professional sports teams but have hopes of being a Cowboys cheerleader. Many of them are college students, while several of the hopefuls have to balance auditioning with the stress of full-time jobs.
From glad to sad
There are multiple cuts and plenty of tears shed during the preliminaries, leading into the semifinal round where the women have the chance to show the judges their ability to learn choreography and show power and projection as they vie for a chance to return for the second weekend.
“The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders are the very best team in the NFL and this has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl and I have always looked up to them since I began dancing at the age of 3,” said Megan, who was the captain of the University of Arizona Pom Line for two years.
“Now that I am moving on to the next chapter in my life, graduating college, I am looking forward to my next challenge, and making this team is definitely a challenge both mentally and physically.”
After the first weekend of auditions, 59 candidates survived to join the 23 returning veterans from last year’s team in the finals in hopes of being one of the 45 women selected to the training camp roster.
“I feel like I am more nervous auditioning as a veteran than I was in my first year,” said Jacie, who is trying out for what would be her fourth year on the team. “We turned in our uniforms, so it was a close to a great Dallas Cowboys season and it is always so hard because there is no guarantee that you are going to get it back.”
Down to the finals
The finals round features panel interviews, with questions ranging from Dallas Cowboys knowledge to current events, and individual talent presentations — better known as “the solo.” Those auditioning also make their way down on the field in groups of five to perform the finals routine and the iconic DCC kickline.
While the returning veteran and rookie candidates are on the field, the judges sit in section C-210 with a 50-yard-line view of the huge HD video board that more than 80,000 fans will see on Cowboys game days.
“For the veterans, being in the empty stadium to rehearse is totally normal,” said Paige, auditioning for what will be her third season. “That’s what I told myself, that it was a normal practice for a game, so what’s different about it?
“Earlier during the kickline I was shouting at the other girls, pumping them up like we do during games because that is who I am ... I really appreciate this whole process and it’s honestly because it’s really about making this the best team.”
After the emotional announcement of which women were selected for the 2-month-long training camp, the intensity is raised to a new level.
On the first night of camp at team headquarters at Valley Ranch, the candidates are given a rule book and a list of expectations, and it is officially “go time.”
During training camp, they are essentially auditioning every night. They learn new dances and are expected to return the next evening with that combination perfected.
Against that backdrop, the candidates must take things day by day, knowing every night could be their last and their dreams could come to an end.
Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team
▪ 10 p.m. Thursdays