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Spirited field narrows at Lions cheerleader tryouts

Besides dance skills, judges look for well-spoken women who perform under pressure

Kyla Smith
The Detroit News

Detroit— The Gate G entrance at Ford Field overflowed over the weekend as more than 300 women auditioned for the first Detroit Lions cheerleading team.

Hair flips, high kicks and sequins were in abundance as the stadium was transformed Saturday and Sunday into a dance party audition.

With only 45 women advancing to the finals, some dreams were cut short.

Long-time friends Kristen Beyer, 25, and Dianne Clouse, 25, made it to the semifinals; Clouse advanced to the next round.

"We have been dancing together since we were toddlers. She is my audition buddy and when I say let's go, Dianne is always with me," Beyer said. “I’m glad Dianne made it.”

During the preliminary round, contestants danced a one-minute freestyle in front of six judges. The semifinals were Sunday morning; finals and an interview process are Monday.

In late July, the finalists will attend a five-day training camp, but the official team won’t be announced until August.

One of the judges was Kelly Stafford, former University of Georgia cheerleader and wife of Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Rebecca Smoker, Lions director of cheerleading, said while dancing and coordination are important, judges are looking for other qualities, too.

“We want girls that are well-spoken, have a great attitude, can perform well under pressure, but also are confident,” said Smoker, who was dance team director with the Pistons and their team, “Automotion” for 10 years. “The vision for the team is that we want to bring an exciting new element for the fans to see and to be able to interact with.”

Tammy O’Sullivan of Port Huron, danced on the Arizona Cardinals cheerleading team for the 2002-03 season but didn’t advance to the Lions cheerleader semifinals.

“I’m not upset because I tried out as a challenge to myself and to have fun. I met a lot girls from all over the United States who wanted to audition since this is a new cheer team,” said O’Sullivan, 40. “I won’t be trying out next year, but I’m glad I was able to a part of this experience.”

Many of the women became instant BFF’s while waiting in line to audition.

Talia Lewis, 23, and Annaneisha Burks, 21, stood against a wall while going over each move during their one-minute freestyle audition.

“I was so nervous,” said Burks. “I have not been to sleep in over 72 hours because I was so excited and pumped. This is an opportunity that just doesn’t come every so often.”

Dressed in a Honolulu blue crop top, shorts and black knee-high socks, Reyna Disalvo, 30, of South Lyon, was waiting for the opportunity to audition.

“I’m a huge Lions fan,” Disalvo said. “I’m so glad we are getting cheerleaders now so we can bring more spirit and excitement to the games.”

Cheerleader tryouts listen to Rebecca Smoker, Detroit Lions director of cheerleaders, during the auditions and selection process.

Many women auditioning were full-time students or have careers, like Tiara Felder, 26, who is studying to be a dentist.

Wearing a silver sequin bra top and black spandex shorts, the Detroit native kicked, followed by a 360-degree spin. Felder made it to the semifinals, but didn’t advance to the finals.

“Despite the fact that I didn’t make the final cuts, I’m extremely grateful for the experience and the opportunity,” Felder said. “I can only improve for my next audition and hopefully I can get feedback from the judges to find out where things went wrong.”

ksmith3@detnews.com

Twitter: @kylasmith525