As the COVID-19 pandemic puts the majority of dance performances and auditions on pause, some professional dance teams associated with the NFL have opted to hold the initial rounds of their auditions online. Rather than gathering in a studio to learn choreography, dancers have been submitting videos of themselves performing in their living rooms and backyards. Here's what the experience has been like for three auditionees.
As a two-year veteran of the Raiderettes (dancers must re-audition each year), Monica Galvez has been through a more traditional dance-team audition, and described the online experience as, unsurprisingly, completely different. But there are definitely silver linings.
"This time, they taught us a dance and gave us three days to learn it and record and send it in, versus learning it on the spot and having maybe an hour to learn and perform it," Galvez says. Jamie Carpio, a finalist for the Las Vegas Raiderettes, says that she filmed herself performing the choreography, reviewed it, and re-filmed it several times before submitting—definitely not an option during a live audition, when dancers may be able to perform only once for the judges.
Finding an appropriate at-home dance space for a high-level dance team combo, on the other hand, can be tricky. "It was challenging to rehearse at home without a mirror," says Carpio, who ended up filming her audition in front of her backyard pool. "I definitely had to rewatch the video several times to dive into details that they may be looking for, and sometimes it's hard to figure out mistakes when you can't watch yourself!"
It's also harder to get noticed on video. "I think the most challenging and interesting part is just trying to make yourself stand out without the personal face to face experience," Galvez says.
And there's something to be said for the unique energy of a big in-person audition. Holly Durham, a finalist for the Dever Broncos Cheerleaders, attended an in-person prep class for the team before the audition was moved online. Though she's grateful to be able to audition virtually, "I really enjoyed the connection I had when I attended the prep class," she says. "The most challenging part of this experience was the isolation part of it. I love being in a room with the other dancers and vibing off of all the positive energy we create." (The Raiderettes made up for the lack of in-person interaction with an interview-based semifinal round, in order to get to know the dancers better.)
Despite the unusual circumstances, all three dancers saw the experience as positive and a chance for growth. "Once the final round of dancers were announced, Raiderette veterans were very sweet and welcoming as they reached out to offer any advice and answer any questions I had," Carpio says. "I've had nothing but great encounters with veterans through Instagram, which is very comforting to experience right now."
Both the Raiderettes and the Dever Broncos Cheerleaders plan to host their final round in-person before announcing their teams for the upcoming season. That promises to be the most familiar step in an otherwise very unfamiliar audition process.