Life with the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders
When Brooke Sorenson was a young girl dancing in Sunrise, FL, she got the opportunity to attend a Tremaine Dance Convention. After taking class with a teacher who had done choreography for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, she knew she wanted to someday dance with the famous group. Then, at 17, Brooke saw the team on a talk show. “At that moment, I knew this was something I had to do,” she says. “They have such high energy, amazing poise and personality. I wanted those same qualities, so I headed to Dallas for tryouts.”
When she arrived, she made it through auditions and earned a spot as one of the 36 girls on the team. Three years later, she performs at every Dallas Cowboys home game, in their signature uniforms—blue blouse, white shorts and cowboy boots.
Brooke started dancing at the age of 2. She started cheerleading in middle school and later went on to become captain of her high school squad. But dance has always been her first love. “I find dancers to be the most confident people,” she says. “All my dancer friends exude positive energy, and I like being around that.” Here, Brooke shares her advice and behind-the-scenes stories with DS.
It was raining when Brooke arrived in Dallas for the preliminary audition in the spring of 2006. She was one of 1,000 hopeful women trying out, and even though she was intimidated by how beautiful and fit the other dancers were, she felt up to the challenge. “I was confident in my dancing skills and my ability to pick up choreography quickly,” she says.
But the audition process was long and grueling. The preliminaries and semifinals happen in one weekend and consist of freestyle and choreography. Approximately 300 to 500 dancers make it through the first audition, and only 40 to 50 dancers make it through to finals. The dancers then go home and return to Dallas with a costume, solo and a memory of the choreography taught at semifinals.
It was at this point that Brooke had a moment of self-realization. “I was proud of the fact that I made it this far. I realized that if I got cut, I would be all right with that decision,” she says. But instead, she earned herself a spot in DCC Training Camp, a 90-day intense practice period after which dancers could still be cut. She remembers shedding tears of joy every time she heard her name called to move on. “I cried after each round, which is funny because I am not a crier,” she says.
One portion of the tryouts Brooke wishes she had been more prepared for was the kickline. She recommends dancers practice their kicks before auditions because a dance team kick is not like doing a battement in dance class. “In the studio we are trained to kick straight to our shoulder and control the leg on the way down,” she says. “But the DCC kick is straight to our noses and then we snap the leg down.”
There is a special place in Brooke’s heart for the DCC pregame routine. “All of our dances are power dances, but we use a lot of hip hop in the pregame routine, which is very exciting for the fans,” she says. And the team always finishes it with its signature kickline into the jump splits. “The crowd goes wild when they see the kickline is coming up!”
To be able to make it through the pregame and other dances, the team runs two miles before going into the studio where they do cardio, rehearse choreography and practice kickline for about three hours. But depending on what the team is working on, rehearsals can run as late as 2 a.m. Plus, Brooke and her other teammates usually show up an hour early for rehearsal to either work with the trainer or go over choreography. Given this rigorous training schedule, she says stretching is important. “Our bodies are constantly going from a contracted state to a neutral state and back to a contracted state. It’s important for us to stretch after running and rehearsals to help prevent injuries.”
Brooke also advises dancers to build up their stamina before auditions. Many dancers, including herself, are under the false impression that because they dance, it automatically means they have good endurance. This is not the case. As a competition dancer, she was used to rehearsing and performing routines that were one or two minutes long. “The DCC’s pregame routine alone is four to five minutes, with the kickline at the end,” Brooke says. “I thought I was going to die at my first game!”
While some may think the DCC is strictly a cheerleading team, the main job is dancing. “We’re really dancers who use pom pons,” Brooke says. While some cheer experience is needed, team members are expected to have extensive dance backgrounds. It takes lots of technique to be able to perform these dances, and Brooke says having a studio background gives dancers an advantage in the audition process. “It’s easier for a technically trained dancer to learn how to cheer than it is for a cheer-trained dancer to learn technique,” she says. She hopes her outlook will give more studio dancers the confidence to try out.
“Being a veteran is a whole new experience,” she says. For one thing, DCC dancers have to re-audition every year. Brooke has a positive outlook on the re-audition rule. “It’s easy for girls to get comfortable in their spots. This way, we have to raise the bar and show the judges something new at each audition,” she says. Judges include the team director, choreographer, trainer and team sponsors, like hair and makeup representatives.
Being a veteran does have its advantage, though—Brooke has already been through the audition process and knows what is expected of her. She still feels the stress, but now she knows how to handle it. Her favorite part of being a veteran is being a role model to the rookies. They don’t know how to cope with the stress, especially during dance camp, she says. When they start to really feel the pressure, Brooke tells them to “go out there and dance with their hearts and forget about being judged.”
As a veteran, Brooke has also learned the hardest lesson about being a dancer. The team was rehearsing before a show in L.A. when she tore her ACL during kickline. “It was hard to watch the girls performing my favorite routines,” she says. Looking back on her road to recovery, she feels she learned a lot. “I feel it happened to make me appreciate everything more,” Brooke says. “I don’t take anything for granted anymore, so whenever I get the chance to dance, I make sure I do it full out every time.” For any dancers recovering from an injury, “having a positive attitude is good medicine,” she says.
Brooke can’t believe how much dancing with the DCC has changed her life. “This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.” She is getting to make life-long friends, travel to places she never thought she would go and train harder than she ever has before. “This is the best performance level I have ever been a part of.”
Brooke has come to view the DCC as more than just a dance team. They’re family. “To think, a couple of years ago I was standing in my living room watching the DCC on television wishing I could be one of them,” she says. “And today I am! It’s truly a dream come true.”
Katie Morris is a freelance writer and dance teacher in Strongsville, OH.
Congratulations to Dance Spirit's 2019 Cover Model Search finalists: Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit's Fall 2019 cover. Learn more about the dancers by clicking on their names here:
And then vote for your favorite below. You can vote once a day now through July 15.
We also want you to
get social! We'll be factoring social media likes and shares into our final tallies. Be sure to show your favorite finalist some love on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, sharing their profile pages and using the hashtag #DanceSpiritCMS.
It's usually right around the third or fourth week of "So You Think You Can Dance" audition rounds that we start itching for the live shows. Sure, the auditions are fun, inspiring, and entertaining, but at a certain point, we reach audition saturation. (And the live shows are just so good and feature so much more Cat Deeley.)
All that said, Nigel and co. kept things spicy this week, so our attention remained firmly glued to the screen. (It's been 16 seasons—who are we to doubt Nigel Lythgoe, sir?) Here's how it all went down.
When it comes to injury-prone body parts, knees reign supreme for dancers. But a little strengthening can go a long way in preventing painful outcomes. We turned to Dirk Hartog, a physical therapist with Westside Dance Physical Therapy in NYC, for three exercises that'll support and stabilize your knees.