DENVER -- If you drove past snow-covered INVESCO Field at Mile High on Sunday, April 2nd, it might have looked quiet -- the stands empty, the big-screen dark, lights off.
However, inside the stadium, United Club Level East was anything but quiet. Here, almost 150 women came dressed in dance attire and Broncos apparel to give it their all at the 2011 Denver Broncos Cheerleader (DBC) auditions.
These annual auditions, for the 26 coveted spots on one of the NFL's most accomplished cheerleading teams, are always a fierce battle. Not only are the cheerleaders on the sidelines during game day, they spend countless hours serving the Denver community through charity appearances and philanthropic events. In fact, in 2010, the Broncos Cheerleaders spent over 1,000 hours serving the Denver community. These women know it is an honor to represent the Denver Broncos and they want a spot on the team!
"Oh, just walking in here I get that feeling [the butterflies] all over again," said alumni cheerleader Sarah Silva, who retired from the team in 2005.
If the nervous energy in the room could be sold to Xcel, the lights of the city would still seem dim compared to the brightness and enthusiasm of each contestant.
The feeling was indeed palpable as a panel of judges, including former Bronco Nate Jackson and Staci Studesville, wife of former interim head coach and current Running Backs Coach Eric Studesville, watched successive groups of three perform a short dance sequence across the floor for round one. After countless kicks, turns and leaps, the judges narrowed the field to 90 women. Round-two contestants then immediately started learning a new dance combination, this one more difficult and fast-paced, with only a few minutes to practice before they performed again in groups of three.
"I was really impressed and amazed at what the dancers had to learn and practice so quickly," Staci said. "They looked like really well-trained dancers who came ready to perform."
The second round proved more nerve-wracking for most. As the ladies performed, cameras captured the action while the 12 judges watched intently, taking notes. After dancing, some women, like returning cheerleader Tara Battiato, looked straight at the judges, smiling and radiating confidence; others, less experienced and less confident, looked at the floor, afraid to make eye contact with the decision makers.
"I was trying to judge, but not be too critical," Staci said. "I was trying to watch and listen ... to look for women who had the total package."
Finally, the dancing and deliberations were over. Director of Cheerleaders and Gameday Entertainment Teresa Shear gathered the women to announce the 60 finalists. After each number was called and those not selected had exited the floor, a small cheer erupted from the exuberant group of finalists.
Shear congratulated the women, then immediately split them into groups and handed out folders filled with information. The women will now prepare for two evening workshops where they will learn several more dances for the final audition. They also have to prepare for a formal business interview and a test of their football knowledge. Though preliminary auditions seemed tough, the real work was about to begin.
"I am really looking forward to the finals," said Staci, who will also judge finals on Sunday night, April 10th. "I'm looking for the girls who are ready to bring it, who will bring their 'A' game.
"I'm looking for someone who is not only a great performer, but connects with the crowd. They must also be confident. If you're not confident with 200 people watching, it'll be hard in front of 70,000. I'm looking for someone who will be a great representative for the Denver Broncos."