For the nearly 400 young women who turned out on Sunday, March 29 for the annual San Francisco 49ers Gold Rush cheerleader auditions, the day brought the dream of joining one of the NFL's premiere performance groups a few steps closer. The Gold Rush hopefuls gathered at Stanford University's Maples Pavilion for a day-long tryout process. Despite the grueling schedule, the day was filled with hope, excitement and fun for the young women.
"It's such a great experience and it's so much fun," said Sarah, who is a member of her college dance team. "I love performing in front of crowds. It's something I love to do. So I always just go out there and do my best."
For the first round of the audition process, professional choreographer Jeannine Sabo taught the young women a rigorous dance combination to Flo Rida's 'Right Round,' which they performed in groups of three in front of a panel of judges. The routine, which emphasized technical dance, cheer movements and performance technique, also left room for personal style. The applicants were able to add their own flair to the routine with a freestyle dance opening to the combination.
"I'm glad that it was kind of funky and I loved the song," said Antonia, who took part in the Gold Rush audition workshops held over the last month. "And they put a little hip-hop in the end, which I'm totally comfortable with and I rocked it out. I feel like I killed it, so I'm really excited."
After the first round, the judging panel went through extensive deliberations to narrow the field down to 150 prospects. After adding to the dance routine, the remaining Gold Rush hopefuls were able to introduce themselves to the judges and perform the extended dance combination.
"We're so excited to have these young women out here today," said Gold Rush Director Erin Olmstead. "The dance routine is a fun challenge and they have to show the judges that they are able to engage the crowd. It's important as a Director that I see their personalities shine through. They will be an important part of the 49ers community, and I want to see their genuine excitement for that."
After the second round, the judges whittled the group down once again. The final group of 73 young women will move on to the last round of auditions, which consist of a professional interview and another dance combination, on Wednesday and Thursday.
For one revered Gold Rush member, Sunday's practice marked the closing of her time with the squad. Jackie, a four-year veteran with the squad, has represented the Gold Rush at countless 49ers events including the 2009 Pro Bowl. Always invested in the squad, she had a few words of wisdom for the Gold Rush hopefuls as they move into their final auditions.
"Being a member of the Gold Rush is such an incredible opportunity," Jackie described. "I hope they appreciate the gravity of what they will do. The squad represents the 49ers not just on Sunday afternoons but in the community as role models every day. I wouldn't trade my experience here for anything."