DALLAS -- The long weekend of Dallas Mavericks Dancers auditions began with over 200 ladies arriving to chase their dream dancing in the NBA. When Sunday's finals auditions concluded, there were 34 ladies who advanced to the four-day training camp that would decide the roughly 20 ladies who will represent the 2011 NBA Champions on court during home games at American Airlines Center.
Training camp is where fourth-year Mavs Dancers director Mallory Mills gets an up close view of the 20 prospective dancers alongside the 14 veterans who have returned from last year's squad but are not guaranteed a spot on this year's team. Monday night consisted of a practice where they learned a new 60-second routine choreographed by four-year veteran dancer Emily Morales. The learning curve in training camp is almost non-existent as the ladies must be able to show they can pick routines up instantly and perform them flawlessly in front of Mills.
"I wanted something that was Mavs-style, fast and fun and I think the girls did a really good job learning it," Morales said. "I had choreographed a pom (routine) last year and I'm also a JV drill team director, so this is something I love to do."
Tuesday night's agenda gave the ladies an idea of what they will face during the season should they make the team as they went through a boot-camp workout by the Mavs Dancers trainer Sharif Abboud. The intense workout was followed by another practice session. Wednesday evening was a short practice as they switched up groups and mixed in the dance they learned at the auditions, the routine they learned on Monday and a 'Tag' -- the shorter dances they perform on court during the 4th quarter of the Mavs home games. In addition to the time at Elevation Fitness, the ladies each had interviews with franchise personnel including Mills on topics such as how they would balance their schedule to accommodate a total commitment to the Mavs Dancers.
Among the 34 ladies trying out, Jenna Gillund is both a returning veteran and a prospective dancer. She previously danced for the Mavericks from 2009-11, capping her career with the epic NBA Finals that saw Dallas defeat Miami. After moving back to Dallas in January, she opted for another chance to follow her passion of performing for the Mavs.
"Training camp this go-around is intense. I am more prepared as to what is coming, but it is still just as hard," Gillund said. "And I left on good terms, so now that I'm settled, this is the perfect time to come back and do what I love and I wouldn't do any team except the Mavericks."
Following Thursday night's session, the veterans and the prospective rookies will be given a sealed envelope with the news of whether they will make the team. They are instructed to leave the building before opening the envelope so that there is no celebrating in front of the ladies who would have to fight back tears knowing they fell agonizingly short of their dream.
"This year's talent was the best I have seen in my four years," Mills said. Mills was a seven-year Mavs Dancer prior to taking the helm, so she has been on both sides of this nerve-racking experience. "Thursday of training camp is the hardest day of my job."
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