Denver Nuggets Dancers’ 2019-20 roster is set after competitive audition process
102 applicants. Nearly 19 hours of rehearsal. 18 roster spots.
That is what made up the tryout process for the Denver Nuggets Dancers’ (DND) 2019-20 roster, which took place throughout the past two weeks. The roster was ultimately decided after the grueling process concluded over the weekend.
To begin the tryouts, the women had to show up and learn choreography to a dance they hadn’t seen or performed before, after which they must practice it until it is second nature. Following that, four women would perform the dance at a time in front of a panel of judges.
The judges then deliberated and announced the 33 ladies that advanced to the final round, which took place on Saturday. During this final round, group performances were once again included, but each woman had an opportunity to showcase their own style of dance in solo performances.
"This week was very challenging,” said Amy Jo Wagner, the manager of DND. “It always is when you get this much talent (trying out). In the end, after getting to know them through interviews and getting to evaluate them in three different dance styles, I think we picked the best 18 candidates. I'm really excited about this team."
The tryout process included the women that made up the 2018-19 Nuggets Dancers roster. Each year, every hopeful is required to audition, regardless of one’s past history with DND. The process has no exceptions and given the number of applicants that hope to make the 18-woman team each year, each woman must strive for perfection.
Erin, who has danced with the Nuggets Dancers for the past three seasons, continues to be appreciative of the opportunity. “Far and away this is the best experience I’ve had dancing,” she said. “The group of women, the Nuggets Dance team that I have had the pleasure of dancing with, have been down to earth, grounded women. Very professional and highly talented and I feel honored to dance with this group of women.”
The longest-tenured member of DND is Ariel, who just completed her seventh audition process and will set a record as the longest-tenured member in DND history. The adrenaline rush she receives from performing on the Pepsi Center floor is what continues to drive her work ethic.
“There's really nothing that mimics what it feels like to be in front of thousands of fans. Our job is to feed off their energy,” Ariel said. “For us, it's a one-time shot. We have 60 seconds to go on the floor and perform— that's all we get. We don't get second chances so we live for those 60 seconds.”
Being a Nuggets dancer allows these women to have the opportunity to not only perform in front of a large audience, but also travel the world and connect with Nuggets fans. Ariel revealed that she has been able to travel to Mexico, England and China, which has allowed her to connect with other dancers around the NBA, all while showcasing her dancing. One of the main benefits of being a Denver Nuggets Dancer is the opportunity to reach passionate Nuggets fans and create relationships off-the-court.
“It feels like home. I have so many season ticket holders and fans who know me by name,” Ariel said. “I know them by name. We'll joke around,” she said. “Every time I go to [work] I feel like [I'm visiting] family.”
While several women are returning to DND as veterans, there are plenty of rookies that made the roster for the 2019-20 season. For Sam and Meghan, joining DND marks the culmination of a long process that included a lot of hard work and effort.
After dancing for Wild Bunch (the dance team for the Colorado Mammoth), Sam decided to audition another time for DND. For someone who grew up following the Nuggets, seeing her hard work pay off in the form of this DND opportunity was a life-changing moment. "I've been going to Nuggets games since I was very young, so being able to be on the court and represent the organization and brand while doing my passion is incredible."
Sam is also joined by Meghan, who made the roster in her first audition for DND. The audition process took a lot out of Meghan, who revealed that she had spent time throughout the week practicing in her hotel room, which required shifting the furniture around to create enough space for her sequences.
"I'm overwhelmed. It's been a super hard week,” Meghan said. “It was stressful and super exciting. I'm so grateful and humbled that I was chosen as one of the girls to make the team. I'm so excited to dance at a professional level and to be able to mix my passion for sports and my passion for dance."
The mix of rookies and DND veterans will certainly make for an exciting 2019-20 season for the team. While there is glitz and glamour to the in-game performances and off-the-court appearances, the women work extremely hard throughout the year to maintain their peak performances.
"It really did take a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get where we are,” Wagner said. “Not only in the training camp and the audition process, but throughout the year. I think it would surprise people to learn just how hard these ladies work and how much they bleed, sweat and cry. But it's all hard work and it pays off in the end."
The 2019-20 Denver Nuggets Dancers roster is set. Now the preparation begins to create a cohesive atmosphere between the members while practicing new dance sequences. The work put in behind-the-scenes to decide the roster is just the first step in a long season for DND.