Over the past two weeks, more than 500 hopefuls from around the globe were on hand for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders auditions, seeking to begin a journey to represent the most valuable sports franchise in the world.
The audition process is unique in pro sports. Those trying out not only have to go through the arduous test in front of an intimidating panel of judges -- led by DCC Director Kelli Finglass, Dallas Cowboys executive vice president and chief brand officer Charlotte Jones Anderson and DCC choreographer Judy Trammell -- they also have to be cognizant of the cameras on hand filming for season 13 of CMT's "Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team."
Roughly 60 women survived the first weekend, which included the preliminary round of freestyle dancing and the semi-final round, which included learning DCC choreography and the team's iconic kick line.
The women who made it through were joined for the final round by 23 returning veterans who have to re-audition for their spots on the team.
"I feel like going into my fifth year, I definitely have a routine that works best for me," said returning veteran Lacey (the Dallas Cowboys do not release the cheerleaders’ last names). "Being a group leader this year, I feel like there were more responsibilities on my plate and I had to find the balance in my schedule between studying to get ready for the interview and choreographing my own solo with a song that comes from the heart."
The final round took place inside the AT&T Star Club on the stadium's south concourse and got underway with the individual talent presentation, better known as the "solos." The solos afford the hopefuls the opportunity to showcase their personalities and talents that may be outside of the realm of the traditional DCC style.
Following a short break to change into DCC audition attire, the contestants reconvened on the field to perform the dance routine they learned during the semis, as well as the kickline. The judges were seated in the stands directly under the owner’s suite for a fan’s perspective, with the perfect view of the 160-ft wide and 72-ft high HD video board that hangs above the playing field.
After the final group's last kick, the judges retreated for deliberation and the long, anxiety-ridden wait began for the contestants, who were well aware that by night's end, some in the room would be one step closer to their dream coming true while others would be leaving while shedding tears .
The 2017 Cowboys season was an epic adventure for third-year veteran KaShara. She began the season with the honor of being on the point ( being in front when the team is in triangle formation on the field) and followed that up with being a group leader, being featured on the cover of one of the DCC's five calendars, and topping it off by being selected to represent the team at the Pro Bowl in Orlando.
KaShara was also among four of the cheerleaders who were selected to travel to Washington, D.C., when the DCC had items including game-day uniforms and a 1977 poster put on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
"The way I look at this past season was that it wasn't just me getting those things, it was the team because it could have been any of those girls and I was just the representative," KaShara said. "I was really trying to be in the moment, much like coming to auditions today when your spot is not safe. Every time you put on the uniform or are on the field, you need to take it like it's your one time to prove that you can be trusted to be there and I hope I have the chance to do it again this year."
The overwhelming joy for those who left the stadium after hearing their name called is tempered by the harsh reality that the strenuous two-month long DCC training camp will begin the first week of June. The final team traditionally features 36 ladies and will be officially announced at the end of training camp.
Due to the premiere of "Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team" on CMT in August, the names of the DCC training-camp candidates are not available for release.