By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
But there are those who persevere. "I remember this girl who didn't make it," says Brooke. "She came up to me afterwards and asked why. I said, 'Truthfully, it's because you didn't smile.' When you dance in front of 20,000 people, you gotta smile."
Later, at another audition, she'd turned her frown upside-down; she made the squad. "I asked her what happened," Brooke recalls. "She said she went home and practiced and worked on it in front of a mirror, dancing and smiling at the same time."
Says Phillips, who auditioned twice before making the squad, "Tryouts are a great experience--nerve-wracking, but great. You learn so much about the squad and yourself."
A former dancer for the Cincinnati Bengals, Phillips finds the KCDs more of a challenge than high-kicking it at football games.
"The level of dance between the two is different. [The NFL] is more like cheerleading because we actually had pom-poms and did chants on the sidelines. They're two different styles, neither one better than the other. It's definitely warmer in the NBA--there's no snow or rain."
Full-Mettle Dance Shoes
"For the second straight summer, local hot-steppers had the opportunity to sign up for Knicks City Dancer Boot Camp, a two-day event held in the Bronx, Long Island, and the Meadowlands, taught by actual KCDs. Attendees' résumés ranged from high school kick squads to longtime professionals looking for a way to break in with the KCDs. All it takes is $175 and a dream ($225 for overnighters).
"Decked in fatigue-style Spandex, the KCDs race through registration, hand out the requisite free crap, and get to work. After just 20 minutes of a warm-up session the feeble trickle toward the back of the dance line while the defeated drop like flies.
"The camp is divided into three "companies" (K, C, and D), according to ability. For the next 36 hours campers attempt to master such KCD numbers as "Raise the Roof," "Ghetto Superstar," and "Run, Forrest, Run." (KCD numbers are frequently named for the accompanying tune, director Petra Pope explains. "Like, if the song is 'Get Jiggy With It,' we'll just call it 'Jiggy.' 'All That Jazz' was 'All That Jazz.'"
"In between ball-changes and jiggy steps, the KCDs fill their time meeting campers and discussing everything from how they got started with the KCDs to what makes a good high-carb lunch. "One of the great things is that we're able to meet our fans one-on-one," says KCD captain Jaclyn Brooke.
"Only one camper has ever gone on to become a KCD, and she ultimately had to leave the squad when she couldn't learn all the numbers. "The level of the camp is not as high," says Pope. "Being a professional dancer is not everything in the world," says Brooke. "It's being very well rounded in several areas. I try to get that across. The most important thing is to stay real, to try to be real." --H.Z.U.