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September 29, 2023

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Vying for prime time

It’s a rags-to-riches dream scheme. Plucked from Wherever, Ohio or Whocares, Mont., a girl with a great voice or a guy that is the best dancer he knows could be rocketed to fame and fortune in a matter of hours. Waking up in their beds one day and being interviewed by “Rolling Stone” the next.

Shows like “American Idol,” “So You Think You Can Dance” (or SYTYCD to those in the know), “America’s Got Talent,” “America’s Best Dance Crew” and an army of others insist that it’s that easy.

But not taking them up on their offer could lead to major regret.

2003 was Toledo’s Stacy Rankin’s shot at instant stardom.

At 24, she knew that this could be her last shot to prove herself to familiar judges Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell and she would have to drive eight hours to try and see them.

The closest auditions were in New York where 11,000 eager applicants for the show stood side by side with Rankin for almost two days on the Jacob Javits Center’s sidewalks. Constant rumors swarmed throughout the crowd that not everyone would be able to try out, and the August heat baked the corner of 11th and 34th, where Rankin would sleep that night to hold her spot in line.

Rankin woke at dawn the next morning with the rest of the contestants as the “American Idol” staff told them that auditions would start at 10 a.m. What happened next must have been some kind of noise explosion. 11,000 people revving up their vocal cords to sing classic ballads, or maybe it was “At Last” which Rankin admitted was banned by the producers of the show early on.

“The audition was nothing like what you see on T.V.,” Rankin said. “[The audition] with Randy, Simon and Paula is the third round and they obviously push some people through to make a better show.”

After being given 30 seconds to perform she was told she didn’t make the cut.

“They said, Thank you for coming out, we’re not taking anyone from this group,” Rankin said.

And that was that. Another long drive back to Ohio.

Though Stacy Rankin didn’t get to see the judges in the flesh, Michelle Glazer, University graduate student and former president of the University Dance Alliance, stepped up to one of the final rounds in “So You Think You Can Dance?” audition process.

Glazer made the trek to Chicago in May of 2005 to wait in line for hours until her chance.

“I’ve been a dancer since I was 5 years old,” she said.

Put in a group with 10 other hopefuls, Glazer was asked to freestyle: no routine, no choreography, no rules.With a specialty in jazz, Glazer worked it to the next round – the main stage in front of the television judges Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy.

The same formula for the tryout applied here; first a group dance, then solo.

Glazer didn’t make it to the solo section this time.

“As I was dancing I looked over to see Mary look at me, she whispered to Nigel, then I was out,” she said.

Three other girls from her group did make it that day and proved to be the only ones good enough to make it from the entire Chicago audition.

Both Stacy Rankin and Michelle Glazer agree that they had to find out if they had what it takes before it was too late.

“At least I can tell my grandkids that I was part of it,” Rankin said.

Now she sings locally when she can and finished her degree in communications from Ohio Northern. Glazer graduated with her master’s and is still trying to hone her skills.

“I keep thinking ‘how can I get to Denver this year to try out,'” she said.

Well, she can start driving.

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