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September 2, 2014

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Photos: What does it take to be a Chippendales dancer? Behind the scenes at auditions in The Rio

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Leila Navidi

Men practice a dance routine during auditions for the Chippendales World Tour at the Chippendales Theater inside The Rio in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013.

Chippendales World Tour Auditions

Men practice a dance routine during auditions for the Chippendales World Tour at the Chippendales Theater inside The Rio in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Kiss for a Cure Benefit at the Act

Chippendales headliners Nathan Minor, Bryan Chan and James Davis attend the Launch slideshow »

It’s difficult to imagine someone like James Scott, tall with broad shoulders and a Herculean torso, getting intimidated by anyone. But when he stepped onstage with 25 other men to audition for the Chippendales World Tour on Wednesday evening, the former Marine admits that he broke a sweat.

“It was very intimidating at first; I’ve never done any professional choreography before...My feet were everywhere they needed to be, but my hands were all over,” he says. “It really comes down to confidence more than anything up there with those guys.”

For two hours, men of all sizes and statures flexed and gyrated across the stage of The Rio’s Chippendales Theater in hopes of impressing the judges for one of two coveted spots open on the 12-man Chippendales World Tour.

It’s not difficult to see why the open call drew everyone from professional dancers to athletes to security guards, many with no previous performing experience: The yearlong tour takes the male revue across the United States, Australia, Asia and Europe, where the troupe performs in theaters for as many as 4,000 screaming fans nightly.

“Chippendales is a very recognizable brand. I thought it would be fun. It would be a great experience to travel around with these guys, to learn some professional choreography and just extend my youth a little bit,” says the 29-year-old Scott, who is currently an understudy in “Stripped.”

Though Chippendales is known for dashing good looks and hard bodies, it takes a lot more than chiseled features to make the cut. In addition to the height requirement of 6 feet, judges kept their eyes out for charisma, an aptitude for choreography and additional skills like dancing, singing and tumbling. Above all, however, they looked for what they call the “it” factor:

“You can’t quite put your finger on it, it’s not like you have to be the best dancer, but you just have to have something inside you that no one else has, that spark, and it has to translate onstage,” says Chippendale James Davis, who sat behind the judges table with fellow performer Jaymes Vaughan.

“It’s not 1985 anymore. Just because somebody’s a meat head doesn’t mean they’re attractive, or they’re the ultimate gentleman,” Vaughan explains. “That’s not gonna make you watch him for 90 minutes. You gotta like the guy. To come here and be unique is the best thing you can do.”

Jeff Timmons in Chippendales at the Rio

Musical guest star and MC Jeff Timmons in Chippendales at the Rio on May 12, 2011. Launch slideshow »

Jesse Jane at Chippendales in The Rio

Porn star Jesse Jane with Chippendales dancers Sami Eskelin, John Rivera, Nathan Minor and Jon Howes in The Rio on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013. Launch slideshow »

It was only six years ago that the two of them stood before the same judges table auditioning for the World Tour themselves. The job led to their current positions on the 12-man cast of the Las Vegas-based show (there are 24 Chippendales worldwide); the good friends recently toured the world again as competitors on CBS’ “The Amazing Race,” finishing as runners-up.

“To see people now coming in, it’s interesting to see the ones who have the fear in their eyes, or the excitement in their eyes, or the ones who have the hunger in their eyes,” Vaughan says. “Everyone’s a little different, so we can identify, we can see ourselves up there with different people.”

Standing in staggered rows onstage, each auditioner’s performance was telling: Some distracted from their model features by fumbling self-consciously through the choreography; others with less exceptional physiques turned heads with their rhythm and swagger; still others left drenched in sweat, a mix of nerves and enthusiasm fueling their frenetic performances.

Davis and Vaughan took the time to get to know the hopefuls individually, with rigorous one-on-one interviews after the stage work. Due to the touring lifestyle -- and the inevitable ego boost that comes with it -- the pair says humility and being grounded are as important for the job as talent and charm.

“It’s a fun job, but it’s still a job. You have to represent yourself well and the company well,” Davis says. “Attitude will kill you. You have to mesh with the guys well -- it really is a brotherhood. And once you’re in, we don’t let you go.”

Follow Andrea Domanick on Twitter at @AndreaDomanick and fan her on Facebook at Facebook.com/AndreaDomanick.

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