Laker Girls Final Auditions by Photo

On Thursday evening at the Lakers practice facility, 33 talented dancers gathered in pursuit of the same dream: to make the final cut and become a Laker Girl for the 2012-13 season.

There’s no hard number upon which Director Lisa Estrada settles in advance, but the squad has featured 22 members in the past few seasons and won’t be far off.

You’ll be able to watch how it all goes down thanks to Time Warner Cable SportsNet and Deportes, which documented the entire five-day audition process for a series that will air following production. Stay tuned for that, but for now we put together some photos from final auditions, with comments from Estrada to help define the process:

“Each one of you that’s here could definitely fit the Laker Girls mold and be in this position, because you’re all very talented and I could work with any one of you,” Estrada told the dancers before things got going.

The girls do the two routines that were taught at auditions — one novelty, one jazz/funk — in front of a smaller panel of judges than were at Saturday’s auditions. “Luckily there were no mess ups,” said Estrada. “The talent level was high, and the candidates proved to us why they made the finals.”

The girls have a few minutes to gather themselves, touch up some make up, grab or snack or what have you in between the jazz/funk and novelty routines. Meanwhile, the judges (and reporter) eat a variety of snacks (M&M’s, trail mix, licorice) provided by Estrada.

One girl, unfortunately, didn’t strut her stuff like the pictured dancers, since she showed up 45 minutes late without calling. Estrada, though sad to lose someone, explained:

First off, we didn’t know why she wasn’t on time, and my worry was something happened – so I made sure I called my voicemail and checked my email. I didn’t see any messages after 5 p.m., so, we ultimately went forward and started the call back. When she came almost 45 minutes late, at that point there was no need to go through the rest of the process. I explained during the interviews that time management, scheduling at games and appearances and so on must be diligent, so obviously she would not be a candidate in this sense. She also happened to be 30 minutes late for her interview.

Small groups of dancers (usually five, sometimes four) performed the next routine before returning to the line. Estrada said her judges are looking at height, weight, body sizes and style in addition to, of course, dancing ability. “We try to figure out who is appealing out on the court,” she said. “That’s what the fans will be looking for, so that’s what we’re looking for.”

Next comes the “Mood music” section, in which each dancer comes in front of the judges to introduce herself and then dance briefly as a Laker Girl might during a time out or break in action. “That’s where they free style and cheer to get the crowd going,” said Estrada. “Most of these ladies have cheerleading and dancing backgrounds, and they understand what to do at a game. They’ve been on college or other professional teams before. This not a make or break thing, but it gives us another chance to see them individually.”

Estrada has already learned a lot about the dancers during 1-on-1 interview at the office on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, but the judges will ask certain ladies questions ranging from “Why do you want to be a Laker Girl?” to “What’s your favorite movie” and “What’s your celebrity look alike?” Here, veteran LG Dara fields some questions.

This potential newcomer, Elizabeth, studied molecular biophysics at Yale, while another studied dance at the Julliard School. As Estrada mentioned, she was very impressed with more than the dancing ability at auditions.

After Thursday’s final audition concluded, Estrada thanked everyone for coming and returned to her office for the most difficult part of the process: selecting the actual team.

“I’m going through all the candidates’ references in the next few days, and will check up on everybody to see what kind of employee or staff member they were at their previous place of employment,” she concluded. “The idea is to get a better understanding of what they’re made of. But I’m very, very excited about the group from which we have to choose.”

View more photos from the final day of auditions.