Countdown to Auditions: DCC Roundtable on Performing the World-Famous DCC Kick Line
The five returning veterans that comprise our DCC Roundtable (aka “The Circle of the Boot”) conclude their “Countdown to 2017 DCC Auditions” by discussing the iconic finale of their mid-field routine on Cowboys Game Day: their world-famous Kick Line.
Erica, Jenna, Robin, Heather O. and Maggie also share words of inspiration which helped them make it through their first DCC auditions.
Q: During each of the last two rounds of DCC auditions, each hopeful performs the choreographed jazz combo, then goes straight into the kick line. The combo/kicks are done twice, back-to-back, which requires a lot of stamina. There are many contestants who may have extensive dance training, but they don’t have a background in drill team. For those unfamiliar with high kicks and splits, how can they quickly overcome a steep learning curve?
MAGGIE: Kick Line was the most intimidating part for me because I had never done a kick line before. Seriously, never! Not even during my background at University of Oregon. So when I was preparing for auditions, I trained a lot. I practiced so I felt more comfortable, but I was still really nervous. I learned the form and followed with a lot of practice. I went on YouTube and watched the DCC Kick Line and practiced it in my room in front of the mirror. I would video myself to see what I was doing wrong so I could try to fix it.
ERICA: Thankfully for me, my high school director was a Kilgore Rangerette, so we did a kick line and jump split every high school football game. We actually competed in the kick category at dance competitions, so I felt very comfortable doing kicks. I went to LSU and we do some during our pregame; not like what we do here at DCC, but a little kick line.
ROBIN: I was fortunate to be a Kilgore College Rangerette so I was very used to kicking by the time I got to DCC. We live in this great world of social media where you have access to things online. So my advice to future DCC is this: I would look up our DCC Kick Line and watch it over and over and over. And the only way to make yourself better at kicking is to actually kick. So practice doing the Kick Line on your own. Practice with your hands on your hips. Practice two or three times in a row to build your stamina. And by building your stamina, your kicks will get higher.
JENNA: I was more like Maggie because I had never done a kick line in my life until I auditioned for the DCC! I had never done a jump split either. Honestly, I watched the CMT show (“Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team) and that’s how I learned. I saw how Kelli and Judy would give instruction to girls who were struggling with kicking. I didn’t even know if my kicks were good or bad. Luckily, my legs are like spider legs; they’re really long. So my kicks tend to look higher. I pretty much got lucky. I had no idea what I was doing. Fake it ‘til to you make it, right? (laughing)
HEATHER: I grew up with a strong technical background having grown up taking a ton of ballet and jazz classes. One rule that I carried with me was that height does not make up for technique. If your kicks aren’t high, maybe compensate for that by rolling your shoulders back and keeping your chin held high and keeping your abdomen engaged. Some of those things will look pretty and take away the focus from your kicks being a little lower. Extend all the way through your leg and keep your foot pointed to give you a long, lean look. Work on your height. Technique is something that takes longer than flexibility. So come in with strong technique.
Q: For contestants who are less technically inclined, how do they learn technique a little more quickly in order to help for future auditions? Is there anything in addition to the CMT show that they can watch or study?
HEATHER: You can Google ‘kick technique’. You also learn it in ballet and basic dance foundation classes. So taking a technique class at a local recreation center or dance studio is a way to learn the rules of being a technical dancer. You learn how to keep your shoulders back, your core tucked in, your chin held high, your legs extended straight, and your toes pointed. Again, it’s very basic dance technique, but it translates directly into the DCC Kick Line. It’s the very same technique you’ll carry with you throughout your entire dance career.
ERICA: And if I can add to that, I think flexibility is also really important to show at auditions. Heather’s right about technique, but if you don’t have the exact technique of the kicks, you need to show the judges your potential. If you have the flexibility, they can work on the technique of the kicks in training camp. But if you don’t show the flexibility, that’s where they have to draw that hard line. It’s not something that can increase quickly in two or three months of our summer Training Camp. Girls can sometimes pull a hamstring trying to force flexibility. We can teach technique, but we can’t force flexibility. We can teach how to link your arms and how to jump with your feet together. We can teach the structure of the kicks. But flexibility is the kicker there, pun intended!
Q: Each performance of the Kick Line ends with splits, so how does that pertain to what you’re saying about flexibility?
ERICA: It’s important for contestants to know that you have to do a right split and a left split, so stretching is important. You do a passé and you slide down into a split to show you have the flexibility to do splits.
You don’t have to do the jump split at auditions. In our Kick Line, we only jump and land in our right split. But you don’t have to worry about that for auditions. Auditions do include a right split and a left split. A girl that doesn’t have good left splits is not going to have good left kicks. We need both legs to kick. Stretching is crucially important. You need to be doing that for a long time to prepare.
JENNA: Like yesterday. Actually, like months ago. You can never start too early.
ERICA: Yes, you have to prepare way in advance for stretching.
Q: During auditions, the jazz combo and Kick Line is performed in groups of 5. Contestants have no control over who will be the other four people in their group. So that seems like it could be difficult. What if the people next to me are not accustomed to Kick Line?
JENNA: It’s true, that can make it more difficult. And every year is different. Two years ago I was standing in the middle of my group and I had two new girls on each side of me. It was tough because they were kind of pulling a little bit. You can get injured if one person messes up. You also could end up on the end of the line. It’s extremely important to practice on your own. You don’t know if you will be in the middle of the group, or you might be on the end with one hand on one hip. Have your flexibility and your technique. You don’t want to injury anyone.
Q: The Kick Line is the last thing the judges see in the Final Round of auditions, so it’s the last chance to make a positive impression. Through the entire audition process – from the first time you introduce yourself to the judges in Round 1, all the way through the final kick in Round 3 – are there times where you doubt yourself? If so, how do get through those moments when you might be thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, what did I get myself into?’
ROBIN: To get through the hard times or the doubt, I prayed a lot. When other people are performing, you’re off-to-the-side watching them. I would say ‘God, please be with me’ or ‘I am going to have the best possible time when it’s my turn to dance’. You have to tell yourself to just have fun. You can’t put so much emphasis on what other people think or if they like you. Because the judges can see that; they can see you thinking and being aware.
MAGGIE: The first day, when I walked in and saw everyone who was well-rounded and had the same dream, I was wide-eyed and thinking, ‘Can I still leave? Will my mom come back and pick me up?’ But my mom told me as I was getting out of the car, ‘If you never try, you’ll never know’. Even during Semifinals, I messed up in front of the judges. That was scary for me. I had to keep going and do my best. I didn’t want to ever look back and question, ‘What if?’
HEATHER: I took preparing for DCC Auditions very seriously because it was my dream for a long while beforehand. My goal in the preparation process was to walk in and never have to say, ‘I wish I would have done this’. Instead, I was able to walk in knowing I put my best foot forward. If the judges liked it, that was great. If not, maybe next year. But I was confident in the work I put in to prepare before auditions every began.
ROBIN: It’s all about our list of “PROMISES” which is on the wall of our DCC Dance Studio. Kelli (Finglass, DCC Director) put up that list and it’s something she says all the time. Here’s the promise: ‘Promise yourself that the whole world is on your side as long as you stay true to the best that is in you’. That’s my favorite of all the promises.
ERICA: For me, the ‘Oh, my gosh!’ moment came during panel interviews. I felt confident in competing in solos because that’s what I’ve done my whole life. I knew if I could get to the dancing and the kicks, I knew that’s what I was born to do. But the panel interview, that was difficult. I just had to remember to be myself and be authentic. You have to be real, be genuine. Nobody else is you, so to calm my nerves, I just reminded myself to show them I’m a sweet, kind person. That helped calm me down. Plus a said a little prayer! Those “Oh, my gosh!’ moments become calmer, like ‘Oh, please help me, God!’ sweet moments.
JENNA: My first year of auditions, I had just finished high school and was living in Korea. So my first day of auditions was my first day back in the States. I had been overseas for two years, so just that adjustment was hard. And then my mom and I had rented a car and driving up to the stadium, you don’t realize how big it is! It’s intimidating. And then you see all these beautiful girls. I was a little 18 year old who didn’t know how to do her makeup. I was thinking, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’ But after making it through the first round, and then meeting other girls who feel the same way as you, that’s what got me through. That was my inspiration.
HEATHER: DOUBT KILLS MORE DREAMS THAN FAILURE EVER WILL! I heard it years ago and it stuck with me. It’s the all-inclusive summary of what chasing this dream was like; don’t doubt yourself and just do it. So that was the mantra on the front of my DCC binder that I studied in preparation for auditions.
ROBIN: “It’s better to do something and fail trying to succeed, than it is to do nothing and have failure guaranteed.” My best friend, Breanna, shared that quote with me and it’s true of everything in life, not just auditions.
Writer’s Note: 5 Points Blue would like to thank our Roundtable members for taking us behind-the-scenes at DCC Auditions. Erica, Jenna, Robin, Heather O. and Maggie are excellent representatives of the Cowboys’ organization and our community, and we’re lucky to have them as friends. Thanks also to Katy Aldrich, Cheryl Dorris, Kelli Finglass, and everyone in the DCC administration for setting up the DCC Roundtable. All of us at 5PB hope that fans of the Cowboys and the DCC have enjoyed this five-part series of Roundtable discussions.