At the 2009 Houston Texans Cheerleader tryouts on Saturday at the Methodist Training Center, hundreds of beautiful and talented dancers came to fulfill their dreams of performing on the sidelines at Reliant Stadium.
More than 600 women registered to try out, then had to go through three rounds of cuts to make it to the final group of 42. Those girls will go through two more auditions, including a performance next Saturday at the Houston Texans Draft Party that will give fans the chance to judge the girls on their dances moves and charisma.
The additional round of tryouts was added by Texans cheerleader services manager Alto Gary to evaluate how the girls interact with fans and conduct themselves in public appearances.
One of the most accomplished choreographers in the NFL, Gary made it harder than ever this year to become a Texans Cheerleader. For the first time, returning veterans could not skip the initial rounds and had to try out from the beginning with the rest of the participants. One of the rounds required the girls to learn a dance routine that was more complicated and fast-paced than in years past, which quickly set apart the more accomplished dancers.
Gary began the day by getting the girls pumped up with tunes from DJ Ram and broadcasting a video with good-luck messages from celebrities like Lady Gaga.
After learning the first-round routine, the girls performed in waves across the football field. They earned marks from Gary, her crew and hundreds of guest judges, among them Texans players, suite holders and VIP sponsors.
Left tackle Duane Brown, guard Kasey Studdard and safeties Dominique Barber and Brandon Harrison represented the team. While each admitted to having little dance experience, they said they had refined their judging criteria.
"There is a wide range of talent," Harrison said. "We have seen some of the girls we recognize from last year, and they are really on it and know what they're doing. There's a little bit of a drop-off from some of them; it looks like they're a little lost out there. But we appreciate them for coming out.
"I like to see a lot of energy, some passion and excitement. We are not too worried about them messing up the dance moves right now. We're just seeing who's got that spirit and who is going to be able to cheer us well from the sidelines."
A large group of participants were cut after the first round, and Gary and her crew got down to business in rounds two and three. With several popular veterans like Betsy, Ashley and 2009 swimsuit calendar cover girl Erica not returning, Gary wanted to find girls who exceeded the highest standards she holds for the squad. It wasn't easy, but by the end of the day, she felt like she had gotten there.
Despite the sweat and tears that had been shed, most of the girls said the tryouts were an amazing experience they wouldn't trade for the world.