Auditions Begin for New Orlando Magic Entertainment Teams

by Josh Cohen

ORLANDO - When she learned the Orlando Magic were going to have a co-ed hip-hop dance team, O’Livia Foster relayed the news to her close friend, Daante Bowman, and suggested they both audition for the team.

While deeply passionate about dancing on their own, the idea of trying out together enthused them both.

What makes their story unique, though, is that neither of them are from Orlando, or Florida for that matter. Kentucky natives, although Foster currently lives in Washington D.C., the two journeyed down to Orlando for the chance to join the brand new squad, called ‘The 407.’

“She texted me that the auditions are in Orlando and you have to come,” recalled the 22-year-old Bowman, who flew in ahead of Saturday’s first-round tryout and, like Foster, was named one of the 48 finalists. “I was like let me come over here because I always wanted to (make a professional dance team). I danced in high school. The last year of high school I made the team. Then it was over and in college it’s not co-ed. So, that was it for me. When I get the opportunity to do that again, I was like I have to come.”

Being on a pro dance team is something Foster is already very familiar with. The 27-year-old was a member of the Wizards Dance Team from 2016-18, and the notion of taking her talents to Central Florida to be a part of the Magic’s first ever co-ed dance crew is exhilarating for her.

“I’m super excited about this,” she said. “I chose (to try out for) the Magic because of the location and their style. I really love their style. It’s a lot of fun. And then Disney World is here. I’m obsessed with Disney World. And just being on the court again. I’m super excited. I want it so bad.”

Another pair of great friends trying out are Erica Velez and Desiree Salgado. Both are avid Magic fans and already know plenty about what it’s like to work for the organization, as Velez previously was in the guest services department and Salgado was a Magic Dancer the last three seasons.

Velez would often attend Magic games in her free time to watch her buddy perform, which she now hopes she herself will be able to do this upcoming season.

“Everyone’s amazing, so friendly. It’s just a positive energy all throughout (the Magic) and that’s just so important,” she said. “For me, I only do hip-hop style. This is definitely something that’s great for hip-hop. This is a huge change. It’s a great change. I am really excited.”

Salgado sees ‘The 407’ as a great opportunity to continue dancing for her favorite team while also helping make a positive impact in the community, which, like performing, she is extremely passionate about.

“To be a part of this new generation of dancers and the growth is just something that’s amazing to me,” she said. “Working for the Magic, it’s the No. 1 organization, ever. It’s just so magical, pun intended. You get so many opportunities. You are surrounded by amazing people, an amazing environment and it’s so exciting. Never a dull moment.”

Another finalist, 18-year-old Marcus Medina, was eager to showcase his skills in front of the judges on the first day of auditions. Even though he started dancing just three years ago, it’s been a dream of his over that time to join a professional sports dance squad.

“I’m extremely excited because I would love to see what they are doing here, especially how they are changing things up and making it new by including both boys and girls,” the Orlando native said. “It would definitely be an awesome experience. It would really be the pace-setter for how the rest of my dance career works. But if the Magic entertainment is anything like what I’ve seen today, I’m sure it’s going to be a good one.”

For each of the finalists, the next few days will be very important as they compete for a spot on ‘The 407,’ one of the Magic’s five entertainment teams for the 2019-20 season. The others are a senior 55 and up hip-hop team, a stunt team, a rebranded drumline, and an interactive hype squad.

The senior hip-hop squad, who will be known as 'The Classic 407,' also had their first day of auditions on Saturday. Among those trying out are three original Magic Dancers, including Lisa Baldwin Lewis, who was with the team during the franchise’s first two years.

“It’s awesome,” she said. “I was a part of the first Magic Dancer reunion at 20 years, then at 25, then 30. To have the opportunity to come back and dance with the Magic is incredible. There are three of us that have returned and all of us have still kept in touch. We also have dance backgrounds, so it’s just incredible.”

The turnout on the first day of auditions exceeded Magic Entertainment Teams Manager Jeanine Klem-Thomas’ expectations. Amazed by the talent that showed up on Saturday, Klem-Thomas is thrilled about this new era in entertainment.

“I think one of the biggest pieces of the excitement is seeing how excited our community is about the evolution in the entertainment and that was evident just based on the turnout for the auditions and for the classes. Not just the turnout, but also the talent level,” she said. “When you go through transitions like this, you have an opportunity to create a piece of history and lay the foundation. We’re going to be able to build something really, really special.”

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