A week of preparation and evaluation culminates with the Colts Cheer showcase and ultimately narrowing the 45 finalists to a squad of 26.
“This is one of my favorite parts just getting out in front of a crowd again just seeing all the alumni here it’s amazing,” Mariah H. said, who is auditioning for a sixth season on the squad. “And we just want to make everyone proud and show everyone all the hard work we’ve been doing.”
“I keep tearing up I’m so emotional today but in a good way,” Mariah H. added. “It’s just it’s exciting and I just love seeing that the next generation is going to be just as passionate as I have been and my teammates have been.”
All 45 finalists take the stage together for a full-scale performance at Hilbert Circle Theatre. The seats filled with family members, friends, and plenty of Colts Cheer alumni eager to welcome more ladies to their sisterhood within the horseshoe.
“Once you’re a cheerleader you are bonded for life,” Julie North said, who cheered 1988 – 1990. “And I think that when the girls make it, the new girls will really realize how exciting it is to be a cheerleader and how it stays with you and opens doors for you throughout your life.”
“Every time you watch them it just makes you so proud,” Regina Jones added, who cheered for the Colts 1993 – 1996. “It makes me so proud as an alumni how athletic and how just wonderful they look as a group.”
While a large portion of points are accumulated throughout the week, their time on stage is the final chance to shine and secure a spot on the squad.
The performance is an opportunity for women to showcase their in a self-choreographed solo.
The finalists also have to excel performing in small groups, as they would on the sidelines. They’re given one of three choreographed routines to perform alongside their potential teammates, which demonstrate not only their dance ability, but also how they connect with an audience.
The finalists’ time on stage is an opportunity to shine for the judges, among them Colts wide receiver Chester Rogers who knows firsthand how grueling an audition experience can be after spending several years in Hollywood as a child actor.
“Auditions back in the day man you get told ‘yes’ you get told ‘no,’ and one thing about it, it’s 45 girls and you have to find out what makes you different from everybody else and why you should be here,” Rogers said ahead of the showcase. “So like I said to be on the other side and be able to judge is pretty fun. I don’t have the pressure on me today I get to watch them so I’m excited.”
Rogers teamed up with showcase emcee Drew Powell, star of Fox hit show “Gotham,” to bring some additional star power to the stage, entertaining the crowd with a light-hearted skit while the final scores are tallied. However, even with his acting pedigree, the Indiana native was happy to turn the stage back to the ladies.
“I have a great appreciation not only for the process but for the way that the Colts handle the cheerleaders I think there is a lot of respect given to them” Powell explained. “They are great ambassadors for the city, for the organization.”
As Drew and Chester’s “Dirty Dancing” rendition drew laughs from the audience, the anticipation grew backstage waiting to know which ladies would return to the stage as Colts cheerleaders.
“Your heart is pounding in your chest it’s almost like you are back on stage getting ready to perform in front of the audience,” Carissa K. explained. “You don’t know if you’re going to hear your number or not it’s really a whirlwind of feelings.”
With 19 veterans returning from last year’s squad, seven rookies would be added to this season’s roster. Although Lauren wasn’t among those numbers called, her journey certainly won’t end here.
“I am proud of myself for having the courage to do this and making it to the finals because that was my goal this year,” Lauren said. “This week has definitely taught me a lot. I am going to try and find the positives right now, it’s a little easier to find the negative but Coach Kelly is awesome and she said she would have a conversation with all of us about what we can do better and why we didn’t make the team this year but obviously disappointed but this week was a really good experience.”
Lauren adds that she carried the memory of her late finance, Bryan Clason, with her throughout the experience.
“He is definitely always on my mind the last thing I think about before the music starts. I really wish he was here right now because he is my rock. I tend to be the peaks and valleys and he had a way of keeping me calm and always staying calm, when he would win or he would lose I was always up and down and he was always nice and steady so I hope one of my friends or family or my boyfriend can fill in for that right now.”
With tears of sadness met with those of celebration backstage as the women both console and congratulate one another.
“It’s definitely a unique experience, you’re able to bond with these women because we are experiencing the best with each other, we are experiencing worst,” Carissa K. explained. “It’s a really tough week so it’s just a unique situation to bond with them and grow.”
On stage, the squad that will represent the Colts 35th season in Indianapolis, prepares to be announced.
In just seconds, the rookies go from hopefuls to Sweethearts of the Horseshoe, slipping on the boots for a debut dance.
“It was a frantic hot mess but it was so exciting everyone is so happy people are crying, they’re smiling it’s amazing,” Carissa K. said, moments after being introduced as a member of the 2018 squad.
“It means the world, there’s no words really that adequately describe it I honestly can’t even describe it for you it’s one of those things where it leaves you speechless,” Carissa added.
“We were just so excited,” Christy Beeler-Rose, Carissa’s mom and a Colts Cheer alumnus said after the showcase. “I was like oh my gosh they’re not going to call her name because there are only six spots left, and then they call her name and we were like oh my gosh thank god so we are very excited and proud.”
Their celebratory moment won’t be the last time Carissa and Christy share the stage. The mother-daughter duo will take the field this season for the reunion game, a familiar place for the two together, but this time mom dancing as an alumni and daughter on the squad.
“It will be amazing,” Carissa said of the opportunity to dance with her mom on the field this fall. “It’s been one of those things that i grew up with her coaching me so it’s another thing that we can share into my adulthood, it’s just very exciting and very special and I can’t wait for that.”