Getting to know the Nets Dancers
A visit to the New Jersey Nets dancer auditions.
by Kyle Stack / @NYsportswriter
There might not be a better way to spend a Saturday morning than with hundreds of beautiful, athletic women — all of whom are wearing form-fitting clothes. That was exactly what I did last Saturday as the New Jersey Nets held auditions for the 2010-11 Nets Dancers.
Kimberlee Garris, Entertainment Manager for the Nets, fielded more than 300 women at a dance studio on the Upper West Side. They competed in a series of dance exercises that day in order to earn a second audition last Monday. The final team is comprised of 16 dancers who do more than just perform during Nets games. They make public appearances around the Tri-State area, appear on TV and print advertisements and even travel around the world to visit the NBA and Nets fans.
I had a wild idea to quiz many of the auditioning dancers on a series of Nets trivia questions, from who the team’s two first overall draft picks have been (Derrick Coleman, Kenyon Martin) to owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s net worth according to Forbes (13.4 billion) to head coach Avery Johnson’s nickname when he played in the NBA (Little General). While the ladies did answer some of the questions correctly, it was a project better suited for cameras rather than a tape recorder.
What I was able to capture was an interview with Garris, who does a lot more for Nets entertainment than hand-picking the future Nets Dancers:
SLAM: What technical skills are you looking for from the dancers?
Kimberlee Garris: The first thing we do is put them through a technique audition. We look for pirouettes, bahtmas, leaps…kicks, leaps and turns in layman’s terms. We have to see if they have some ballet and jazz training. Once we get through that cut, we take them into hip-hop, where they have a little more fun and hit a little harder. The basis is definitely dance technique because everybody on the team is a technically-trained dancer. They’re not cheerleaders; they’re not using poms. They’re dancing, doing jazz, hip-hop, Broadway, Latin, salsa, the whole works.
SLAM: They just need an all-around knowledge of dance.
KG: They do. They need to be versatile because we like to do something new.
SLAM: You do a lot of choreographed dances, right? So they have to memorize moves?
KG: Definitely. The first round, we’re looking at technique. The second round, we’re teaching them a real piece of choreography that the dancers did this season. And then they’ll perform it in groups of three. So we’re looking to see how quickly they get the style, their performance quality. Obviously, they need to perform for 20,000 fans so they need to have a great look and great energy and showmanship.
SLAM: Since the dance team veterans are also competing for spots on next season’s team, are they willing to help some of the new dancers trying out?
KG: We did a boot camp at our practice facility in preparation for this week and three of our veterans did some of the teaching. It’s important to them to have the best team possible so they’re willing to teach. When it comes to competing against each other, they’re going to bring their ‘A’ game.
SLAM: Should these auditions be on TV?
KG: You know, it is pretty exciting. It’s definitely dramatic. There are definitely tears. The first round happens so quickly so they dance for me for 20 seconds and they either get asked to stay or get cut. So that can be dramatic.
SLAM: What are their other responsibilities off the court?
KG: They do a ton of appearances throughout the Tri-State area. They’re really ambassadors of the Nets and the NBA. They’ve recently been to the Phillippines, [South] Korea, China, Singapore, so they need to be able to go out and teach dance clinics to kids all over the world, perform and give a taste of the NBA. Their role is important. They need to be well-spoken. We do an interview process to make sure they can represent us properly.
SLAM: What other entertainment teams will there be for the Nets next season?
KG: We have about 70 performers that we will bring back — Nets kids, Nets Sensational Seniors, who are 60-and-over hip-hop dancers, Team Hype (co-ed cheerleading and stunts), Sly, Mini-Sly, a drumline. You’ll see all of that over at Prudential Center. But we’re spending a summer learning new skills. We have Dunking Divas, they’re working all summer long. So there’ll be some surprises but we’ll continue to have about 70 people out there.
SLAM: It seems like a lot to manage.
KG: It is. It’s a hustle but everyone loves what they do so we’re happy to do it.
And after auditions were completed, here are the 2010-11 Nets Dancers…