It’s late afternoon and the temperature is in the mid-90s.
“Let’s see it again,” shouts Caris Dunn, Bailadoras Drill Team instructor at McKinney Boyd High School. “Grab a drink of water and let’s take it from the top. And watch your lines there, back row.”
The Bailadoras are in the second of a four-week summer camp, preparing for the upcoming football season and school year. The young women feel pressure to live up to their two-time National Championship-winning reputation, but they say they’re definitely up to the task.
“Being a Bailadora has been an amazing experience. It is not only about learning to kick, turn, and dance in unison as a team, but so much more,” says Bailadoras Captain Ashlyn Hancock.
The Bailadoras Drill Team began in August 2006 under the direction of Margaret Pearce. In 2009, Kilgore Rangerette alumni Caris Dunn took on the role. Dunn brought to McKinney Boyd the time-honored traditions of beauty, precision and discipline in dance that are synonymous with the Rangerettes.
Dunn began her dance training in ballet at age 3. She eventually expanded her repertoire to include jazz, contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, drill technique, gymnastics and tap. She has trained across Texas, in Los Angeles and New York City, performing in numerous ballets and musicals and receiving many accolades.
Since Dunn’s arrival, the Bailadoras can boast two National Championships, a State Championship and the coveted opportunity to perform at Walt Disney World.
This list of accolades didn’t happen by accident. Being a Bailadora is a year-round commitment of long hours (at least two hours after school each day, in addition to a Bailadora class period and up to eight hours on weekends when preparing for contest and spring show), complex routines and exacting standards.
“As a parent of a McKinney Boyd student, it has been a blessing to have my daughter involved in the Bailadoras,” says Deann Hancock. “Our high school is so large, and to have the opportunity to be a part of such an amazing organization led by Mrs. Dunn, who encourages each girl to be her very best as a person and dancer, is wonderful. Ashlyn’s experience on this remarkable team will be invaluable in college and the years ahead.”
Tryouts begin with a week-long camp in April of the prior school year. An independent panel of judges selects each year’s team. The judges – area dance teachers, instructors at local studios and dance directors at other schools – choose team members for their ability to perform precision moves. This year, a record 50 young women were selected.
Once on the team, students discover that being a Bailadora is a family affair. Parents are invited to take the “Two- Hour Power Pledge.”
“The research is so clear,” Dunn says. “Kids at schools with a broad base of involved parents perform markedly better on all kinds of key school measures, and we certainly see that in the performance and results of the team.”
Cindy Spizziri, President of the Bailadoras Parent Organization, says she’s never seen a group of parents as involved as the Bailadoras’ parents.
“They attend performances whether they are here in McKinney or Garland or even Orlando, Florida,” Spizziri says. “They are always willing to step up and help with whatever is needed. We are all very supportive of Mrs. Dunn and what she is doing with our girls.”
Another innovation Dunn brought to the drill team is the choreography. Routines were choreographed in advance so the team could begin learning new dances in June. While Dunn choreographs at least 50 percent of the music, she also brings in dance professionals from Texas and beyond.
“This summer the girls [had] two days of choreography from the Rangerettes, one of whom was also a Mavericks Dancer,” Dunn says. “They will learn their contest pom dance from another former Dallas Mavericks dancer. Last year, I had a choreographer come to teach a master class who had been in the Top 20 on Season 3 of ‘So You think You Can Dance.’”
But being a Bailadora isn’t just about dancing. Dunn takes her role to another level by providing life lessons.
The Bailadoras themselves appreciate Dunn’s holistic approach.
“This organization has showed me what true sisterhood means and it has taught me life lessons, from time management, respect for authority, and following rules, that will prepare me for the future,” says Hancock, Captain of the Bailadoras.
The McKinney Boyd Bailadoras perform year-round at a variety of events, including all varsity football games, numerous boys’ and girls’ basketball games, soccer games, McKinney community events, local, state and national dance contests and their spring dance show.
For more information, visit boydbailadoras.com.
About the author: Wendy Shelley is the proud parent of a daughter on the Bailadoras Drill Team.