Rec Center Hosts Tryouts for Suns Dance Team

July 18, 2011 / by / 0 Comment

By Jennifer Willis
Communications Staff

GCU was thrown into the NBA spotlight over the weekend as more than 150 dancers descended on the Student Recreation Center, each of them hoping to become a Phoenix Suns Dancer for the 2011-12 season.

Because of its partnership with the Suns, GCU was approached about hosting the auditions in the new Arena, but the facility is more than a month from completion.

The Rec Center was offered instead, and Kip Helt, the Suns’ vice president of game entertainment, couldn’t have been happier with the outcome.

Jonnis leads Suns Dance Team audition choreography.

“We are very fortunate to be able to use this beautiful facility to hold our auditions,” Helt told the group of dancers before auditions began Saturday morning. “This is one of my favorite days of the year — this and Christmas.”

GCU’s mascot, Thunder, showed up to greet the dancers and give them hugs of encouragement. Celebrity choreographer Jonathon Tannis, who goes by the name of Jonnis, was brought in to teach the dancers the choreography they would use for their audition. He also was one of the judges.

Jonnis was one of the finalists in the first season of “So You Think You Can Dance,” which airs on the Fox television network.  

“You could almost say he was one of the founding members,” said Teresa McAuliffe, director of the Suns Dancers. “He’s got a very unique style of dancing and has worked with performers such as Lindsay Lohan and Lady Gaga.”

The dancers, including one male, spent the morning learning the choreography. Then they were called up in groups of five, performing for the judges twice.

Thunder poses with Vice President of Game Entertainment Kip Helt.

“You can’t be afraid to move the way I need you to,” Jonnis advised the dancers before judging began. “Take the benefits of all your years of training and just have fun. Let it all happen naturally.”

Tryout Terah Lake knows all about the commitment required to be an NBA dancer. She spent six seasons as a dancer for the Memphis Grizzlies. She moved to Phoenix last year with her husband and two children and had been looking forward to trying out for the Suns’ dance team.

“I think the Suns Dancers are some of the best in the NBA,” Lake said. “These ladies and this organization are top-notch.”

Lake also was impressed with the GCU campus.

“I’m surprised at how big it is. I wasn’t expecting this,” she said. “And this facility is so nice, probably one of the best places I’ve auditioned in.”

Two rounds of cuts were made Saturday, and those who made the second cut were invited back to campus Sunday, when they participated in a photo shoot and interview and performed an original piece of their own to music they were given the night before.

A third cut was made Sunday afternoon, and the survivors were invited to a training camp this week. The final audition and cut will take place at US Airways Center next Saturday.

The team of 18 members will perform at games and events throughout the season. That’s assuming the NBA’s labor dispute is resolved and there is a season.  

“We’re looking for dancers who can pick up choreography quickly and really sell it when they perform,” Helt said. “Suns Dancers make hundreds of appearances throughout the year and we need people with engaging personalities who love to dance, love to perform and, above all else, love the Phoenix Suns.”

Reach Jennifer Willis at 639.7383 or

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