PHILADELPHIA — An hour before the Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleaders Final Audition Show Monday night, the 60 finalists were scattered backstage at the Merriam Theater, nervously preparing for an announcement that was still hours away.
Some put the finishing touches on their hair and make-up while others practiced their dance routines in a small room below the stage.
Small conversations were made as contestants stood in the hallways, escaping from the heat of the crowded dressing rooms. A few groups of women took pictures with one another or asked for opinions on dance moves.
But through all the friendly gestures, they were there to compete against each another for one goal — to be among the 35 standing on stage at the end of the night as members of the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleading squad.
Dana Pasqualone, a 28-year-old councilwoman from Washington Township, has been auditioning to be an Eagles Cheerleader, on and off, since she was 18.
Pasqualone, who also works in human resource operations for a technology company, has made it to the finals on more than one occasion but always fell short of her goal.
“I’m a little bit nervous, but I know that I have given it my all so I really can’t do much more than I have done,” she said just before the show.
Auditions started March 18 with more than 300 woman attending open call at Lincoln Financial Field. The six-week process to get to the Merriam stage included semi-final elimination and interview rounds.
The final cut: A look back at the 2016 final audition show
“Most talented group of dancers I had in a very long time,” said choreographer Suzy Zucker, as she stood in the empty theater minutes before the energetic crowd started to fill the seats.
The finalists were judged in three categories: physical fitness, beauty and dance, and an on-stage interview.
“America’s Got Talent” finalist and current Eagles long snapper Jon Dorenbos entertained the crowd with his magic performance after the final category, the on-stage interview.
Dorenbos’ magic brought smiles to the faces of the nervous women watching him perform as they waited for the results to be tabulated.
But those smiles soon turned serious as the 2017 squad was about to be announced.
Waiting stage left was Pasqualone, head down, holding hands with another contestant as name after name was called. Then…
“Contestant number 18 Dana,” called out host Jessica Boyington of NBC10, validating Pasqualone’s 10 years of dedication, commitment and hard work.
“I’m shocked. Honestly I didn’t think it would happen,” said Pasqualone.
“This has been one of my life-long dreams,” she added. “I am just so happy I finally accomplished it.”
Maurisa DeLuca, of Sicklerville, will be returning to the squad for her second year after beating out an accomplished group of women.
“Such a rewarding feeling,” said DeLuca. “The Eagles organization is wonderful and I absolutely love working for them.”