The basketball court is already crowded when I arrive 5 minutes before 9 am. As I exchange my resume and full body shot for number 223 and a few safety pins, I inquire politely as to the correct positioning of the number. Do you prefer if I pin it to my top or bottom? The Drew Carrey look alike stationed at the S-Z table laughs and informs me that it depends on what I have on underneath my pants. Underneath my pants? I walk away from the table and wonder what on earth I am doing here at the auditions for the 2006-2007 Warrior Girl professional cheerleading team. The room is filled with over 220 girls sitting, chatting, and warming up, and more girls keep pouring in. Everyone sits against the walls no one daring to occupy the space in the center of the court. I plop my bag down, nerves building up inside me, not for the upcoming dance audition, but because there are so many females in one place.
As in any situation when more than 10 girls gather, the tension is incredibly thick and everyone checks out everyone else creating a ridiculous, uncomfortable, and competitive atmosphere. Every type of girl is represented: skinny, short, chubby, Latina, young, scared, full of themselves, snobby. I lace up my black Capezio dance sneakers and tune into the conversations that swarm around me: ‘That girl used to be a Gold Rush Girl;’ ‘I hope this isn’t like the Raiderette try-outs where all we did was say our names and do a 2-step pivot turn;’ ‘she was the captain of last year’s squad.’ The last comment catches my attention — lucky me, I happen to be seated extremely close to the Warrior Girls, the girls who judging by their heavy makeup, stiff hair-sprayed hair, and excessive amount of Warrior Girl clothing, were previously on the team. They exude a popular girl’s fake confidence and the attention in the room gravitates naturally towards them.
The butterflies in my stomach flutter faster as we are called onto the adjoining basketball court to face the judges, coach, and choreographer. I’m not nervous about picking up the routine, I have 100 percent confidence in my dance abilities, but I’m freaking out because it seems all 300 girls have stripped down to barely-there skimpy outfits. The flyer I printed out from the Warriors website had said to come in professional dance attire, but since when did professional dance attire mean trashy, shiny, panty and push-up bra outfits? I didn’t get the memo; I hadn’t hit up the professional cheerleader surplus store that’s filled with bikini tops and bottoms in every fabric imaginable including neon velvet, metallic gold, and bedazzled rhinestone. The Warrior Girls filter past me in a single file line and I can’t stop myself from staring at their outfits. One girl is in lame purple with gold lace detailing and side-tie hot pants, another trots in pleather teal with a push-up halter top and barely butt-covering bottoms, and a third waltzes by in candy colored stripes with tiny fake diamonds. Their caked on make-up reminds me of a group of transvestites from a Pedro Almodovar movie.
Like animals hungry for water, the scantily clad girls push their way to the front when the choreographer gets on the microphone. From the back where I stand, it’s hard to see and hear. Where are the mirrors? Where are the dance demonstrators positioned throughout the audtioners to aid in learning the correct sequence and movements? Where is the panel of esteemed judges? Where is the room to dance? Where is the professionalism? I swallow hard and with the rest of the mass learn the dance to the new Beyonce/Jay-Z song. The movements are hip-hop based with a huge dose of sexuality, lots of hip rolls, hair flying, and booty shaking. Some girls learn quickly, others stumble along struggling, others sit down on the side lines to catch their breath.
While rodeo-ing (right arm held above the head, stimulating the movement a cowboy would use to lasso a horse, left hand on the hip, feet together, legs open and closing at the knees, hips grinding — think Christina Aguilera’s Dirty video) for eight counts, my nervousness is suddenly replaced by embarrassment and a sick realization. What all these girls are looking for, myself included, is the same thing: recognition, acceptance, and a sense of belonging. What else could possibly motivate a girl to subjectify herself, put herself on sexual, almost porn-like display as all the girls in the room where simultaneously doing?
I want to be recognized by members of the opposite sex, I want to be accepted by members of my own sex, and I want to belong to an elite, prestigious, glamorous, chic group of girls. Only this isn’t the type of normal and healthy recognition and acceptance I was looking for. The Warrior Girls, while elite and selective, are more tacky than glamorous, more vulgar than chic, more striper than professional dancer. At some point in a young woman’s life there comes a need to feel sexually empowered, but does wearing skimpy clothes and shaking one’s ass provide a sense of true sexual empowerment? Perhaps to some girls, but not to me. I waited until we finished learning the dance to grab my bag, un-pin my number, and slip out the back. I didn’t try out and I hadn’t made the squad, but I walked away from the Warrior Girls auditions feeling more confident, more intelligent, and more beautiful than the other 299 girls who stayed behind.