The Observer lankered out to Brooklyn Bowl last night still trying to square the circle of a professional sports team moving to unkempt Brooklyn, but the team is doing its best job to erase that dissonance by inviting us to some killer parties before the losing starts. This particular party? Cheerleader tryouts. If you insist.
We were there to watch 27 dancers compete in an “American Idol”-like competition to determine the final spots on the dance squad, whose name at the event was revealed to be the cheeky “Brooklynettes.”
While we waited, heaping cuts of Jay-Z and Biggie boomed over the loudspeakers from DJ Eleven, and we couldn’t help bopping our heads with everyone else, mouthing the words when we knew them.
We took a spot near the action, perched above the stage. Just below it mingled photographers straining their practiced bored looks and excited reporters for small-time media outlets. In just the right lighting, they looked as pretty and well-dressed as everyone else. The dancers were a blur, all flesh and movement. David Diamante, who is also the Nets’ public address announcer, emceed the contest, announcing the women by their first names. It was all very gentleman’s clubby, except for the dreadlocks down to his waist.
A screeching in our left ear led us to strike up a conversation with Long Islander Kimberly Bodden, a stylist for Brooklyn Heights’ City Chemist. She did the makeup for the auditions, and had her favorites, specifically Melissa Timothy-Tozer, the only Brooklyn-bred one of the bunch. She said Melissa’s “Brooklyn comes out” on stage when she “gets into it.” “You can tell the way they pop their bodies if their heart is into it.” We watched the bodies popping for signs, as instructed.
Ms. Bodden’s hunch was correct. Melissa, like most of the girls there, made the team. As coach Adar Wellington—a sophisticated stunner in her own right—told us, this was mostly for picking out the final few spots, and, it was implied by the TV trucks outside and presence of heavyweight Bronx-born choreographer Rhapsody Jones as one of the judges, public relations. Ms. Wellington has been working hard to mold the team and its routine into something that screams “Kings County,” forgoing her typical offseason. “You’ll know we’re in Brooklyn when we walk in,” she promised.
As designer of the team’s uniforms, David Dalrymple also tried to create something distinctly BK. He said he was “really excited about the color statement, color story,” the “sophisticated” black and white compared to the team’s bleedy old red, white and blue. As he spoke, a blur of skateboarders bloomed past in an amazing color statement, color story, totally ignoring the media circus, which included famed designer and ginger Patricia Field lamenting the 1957 move of the Dodgers before reaching for a cigarette.
A few dancers got our attention during the auditions. Jordan, from Charlotte, was a contortionist who basically separated her gummy shoulder on stage just for the whip. She was, like Ms. Field, a coppertop. Most of the dancers were blondes or brunettes. She was making it. Same with Melissa and India, who had loaded the crowd with supporters, sending them into Bieber-like hysterics when she popped her body. Her heart was into it, we think.
For Melissa, it was a commencement and coronation all at once. The LaGuardia High School graduate and Flatbush native said she immediately thought, “There’s gotta be a dance team!” when she first heard about the team’s move. She had tried out for other teams in Philadelphia, but this was serendipity, and in some ways, last night was her show, and everyone knew it. Pomp aside, 50+ gigs for a working dancer is nothing to sneeze at.
Before we left, Ms. Bodden, the stylist, sought us out. She was proud of herself for picking Melissa earlier in the night. “I told you she was good. She’s just got that energy,” she said in her Long Island brogue, then disappeared back into the colorful crowd, heading through the local hipsters for the bar, all sophistication in her black-and-white T-shirt.