With May approaching, Knowles has been holding open auditions for back-up dancers in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and most recently Chicago. Although she is not present at these auditions, her choreographer, Frank Gatson, who has worked with Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake, is searching for the hottest new dancers. Gatson has been picking a handful of talented ladies and gentlemen from each city. He has them state their name and audition number for the camera. Then he will bring home the tapes to show Knowles, who will make the final decisions.
Ohio State dance majors, Katie Perry, Sydnie Liggett and Sarah Lulenski all attended the Chicago audition.
To prepare for the audition, Perry said she tried to work out and eat healthy the week before.
“I also kept playing Beyonce’s music on my iPod to get familiar with her songs,” Perry said.
The three packed into a Jeep Liberty Friday night and headed out on a six-hour drive to the Windy City in hopes of making their big dreams come true. Arriving at 10 p.m., they grabbed a bite to eat at the House of Blues.
“We then walked back, tried on outfits for the next day and crashed,” Lulenski said.
10 a.m.The girls woke-up, showered, got dressed, put on a full-face of makeup, styled their hair and packed their bags full of shoes, extra outfits and snacks for the long day ahead.
“We were so busy getting ready that we skipped breakfast,” Liggett said.
Putting together the right outfit was key, they said.
All three went with high heels as the audition notice called for them. Lulenski went with camouflage shorts, a cropped jean vest and high-heel boots. Liggett chose little black shorts and a cropped vest. Perry made her final decision after arriving at the studio.
“I chose a red dress, because it stood out and was easy to dance in,” she said.
1:30 p.m.The three arrived at Lou Conte Dance Studios and took their places in the long line.
“We parked on the street about three blocks away, and when we walked up there were already 250 to 300 people in line,” Lulenski said.
The three also noticed fellow OSU dance major, Ashley McGill, just ahead of them in line.
2:30 p.m.The girls sent Lulenski to buy hot chocolate for the group.
3:30 p.m.Liggett ran to the car to get her Ugg boots – her other shoes were soaking wet from standing in the slushy snow.
“We moved maybe 10 feet around four, and it was then that I realized we would be in this line a lot longer than we thought,” Perry said.
4:45 p.m.The line made a drastic change and the girls moved up an entire block.
5:00 p.m.The cold became unbearable.
“We tried to dance around to stay warm, but I literally could not even feel my toes,” Liggett said.
5:30 p.m.The doors opened.
After finally being let into the building, the girls were told they had an hour to change and warm up. That hour turned into five minutes as Gatson’s assistant came in to teach the combination.
“We learned the African-style section from the Deja Vu video, but there were about 100 girls in the room so there wasn’t a lot of room to dance full-out while learning it,” Lulenski said.
The crowded group of women auditioning kept pushing to the front, Liggett said. Instead of joining in, the three stayed toward the back to figure it out.
“It seemed to work better that way than by getting pushed around by catty females,” Liggett said.
They learned the routine in 30 minutes and were then led into the room where Gatson himself would make the cuts. He gave a 10-minute speech on audition tips and the importance of taking dance class and then split them into groups based on their Zodiac signs.
“After each group went, Gatson played the music and went up to each girl individually to tell them in their ear if he wanted them to come back at 9 p.m. or ‘thank you,’ which meant you were cut; I was asked to come back,” Lulenski said.
“He said it was important to make the cuts like this so that no one would be embarrassed and so that people could keep their business to themselves,” Perry said.
Along with Lulenski, Perry and McGill were also asked to come back. Liggett was not.
8:00 p.m.The three girls ran to Subway to eat before their 9 p.m. callback.
9:00 p.m.The girls filled out personal information paperwork and waited for the second and final round of cuts.
10:00 p.m.Gatson brought the girls in, 60 at a time, and had them make a single-file line. One by one they had to strut toward him to Jay-Z’s “Hollywood,” a track which Beyonce is featured in. The women were instructed to hold their papers in hand as they strutted. Those whose papers he took would be slated for the camera and eligible for the job.
With the loud music of Jay-Z and Beyonce blaring in the background, the girls said it was an exhilarating high.
“There was just so much energy in that place. It was fun and exciting,” McGill said.
“When it came to my turn, I attempted my best strut. When I finished, he was holding his hand out for my paper, and I proudly strutted the rest of the way to hand it to him,” Lulenski said.
Of the OSU dancers, Lulenski was the only one to advance.
“So now I guess I just wait. We will either get a phone call or not,” she said.
Although the rest did not make it, they say it was a great experience.
“My goal for the audition was to make it to the first callback, which I did, so I was happy with the overall result of my performance,” Perry said.
“I now know what to expect at these types of auditions and feel that next time I will be better prepared,” Liggett said.
For now, Lulenski will have to wait and see if she will be leaving OSU behind to join Knowles on tour.
“I never imagined that I would advance as far as I did in the audition. I was very excited to make it to the final round in Chicago,” she said.
Erika Gee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.