(Juan Ocampo/Getty Images)
Closer Look: Laker Girls Tryouts
As the Lakers prepare to shrink their preseason roster down from 19 to the regular-season limit of 15, their dance team counterparts are already set after more than 90 percent of their applicants did not make the final team.
The Laker Girls are set for the 2015-16 season, but not before the team took 236 applicants and whittled them down to just 22 members of this year’s squad.
Tryouts, which took place early August, spanned four rounds, beginning with a test of dancing ability. Members of the previous year’s team — who were required to audition again — were allowed to bypass this step since judges are already familiar with their dancing ability, but that was the only privilege they received.
“We do an across-the-floor dance combination, which is like asking ball players to do the fundamental drills,” Laker Girls director Lisa Estrada said. “Then we make a cut there immediately right off the bat. Then we go into dance combinations.
“So we end up teaching them a short routine, which this year was more of a jazz, novelty kind of style. Then we make a cut, teach them another dance combination, make another cut, and then the last cut of the day consists of the dancers introducing themselves to the judges. Their first impression to the judges can speak volumes – the dancers tell the judges why they want to be a Laker Girl and then perform their own dance choreography/solo.”
This process all takes place in one day, which starts around 9:30 a.m. and doesn’t end until more than nine hours later. But the work still isn’t done.
At this point there are 36 potential Laker Girls left, leaving 14 more cuts to be made. These finalists are then subjected to a job interview over the next few days.
The Laker Girls serve as the bridge between the franchise and its fans when players and coaches are unavailable, making the ability to connect with people just as important as the ability to dance, according to Estrada.
“We’re looking for ‘people people,’ meaning someone who’d be a good brand ambassador, who has definitely done their research with the Lakers,” she said. “We do ask them some questions about the Lakers. We ask them, obviously, why they want to be a Laker Girl, and what they know about the organization.
“We all know they can dance at this point, so I don’t need to hear: ‘I love, love, love dancing.’ I want to hear about the core person and if they’ve done any charitable functions before or have volunteered for fundraisers and things like that, because that’s what the Laker Girls do.”
This year’s tryouts featured applicants from several states, plus Australia and Japan. Having battled their way through the 224 competitors that didn’t make the squad, the 2015-16 Laker Girls have Estrada’s approval moving forward.
“I really do like all the ladies and appreciate that they uphold themselves professionally," Estrada said. “They are not only good dancers - they are smart, intelligent young ladies and they take pride in this position.”