//PICTURED ABOVE: Drill team members Celese Gierhart and Ellie Estes practice from 7:15 to 8:00 every Tuesday and Thursday in the morning at the Beth Wortley Dance Studio. In this routine, Gierhart and Estes perform a tilt jump in unison.
It’s 11:43 a.m. on Nov. 12, and nearly 40 Upper Schoolers are spread out across the floor of the Beth Wortley Dance Studio stretching and practicing kicks. They are preparing for the first-ever auditions for the Hockaday Drill Team, a new group formed by sophomores Elise Little and Anne Rubi and junior Elizabeth Roosevelt.
A week earlier, Upper School students had received an email advertising the team, offering a Google form to sign up for auditions and information about the before-school practice schedule. But planning for the team had begun months before, at the beginning of the school year in August.
To take on the task of creating the team, Little, Roosevelt and Rubi met with members of the Hockaday community including Assistant Head of Upper School Joni Palmer and Athletic Director Deb Surgi.
“We spoke with Mrs. Palmer to figure everything out in the beginning and talked to Coach Surgi about pep rallies,” Rubi said. “We also met with Mrs. (Emily) Gray and Mrs. Wortley about the audition process and any recommendations they may have.”
Drill, the type of dance the team will perform, is a style of jazz dance with an emphasis on kicks, jumps and turns. The dance style focuses on precision and sharp movements. The founders said they created the drill team to boost school spirit and to offer new dance opportunities to girls who may not be involved in other drill-based programs.
“Drill team is something that is offered at almost any school,” Roosevelt said. “It is a great way to raise school spirit and also give girls an opportunity to explore a new style of dance.”
All three founders have backgrounds in dance or drill and felt motivated by other drill teams in the Dallas area — such as the Highland Belles and Jesuit Rangerettes — to bring the program to Hockaday.
“I did drill in middle school at Highland Park,” Little said. “I really like it because there’s a lot of upbeat music and you get to experience a different type of dance you wouldn’t always be able to try.”
At the audition, the girls began floor work, waltzing across the studio in groups of four to perform kicks, turns and leaps. Preston Center Dance teacher and either former or current dance teacher of all three founders Brittany Tynan-Sisk watched from the side, taking notes to look back over later when formulating scores and deciding the final team.
“We wanted to see that people were really determined and excited about the team,” Rubi said. “We know it’s going to be a lot of commitment, and we want people to be able to honor that.”
The finalized team was announced on Nov. 15, ultimately filled by 21 girls from all four grades in Upper School. Although the team was not able to fit everyone who tried out due to the small number of founders, Little, Roosevelt and Rubi hope that next year they will be able to add more dancers.
“We definitely want everyone who did not make it to try again next year, because we had a great turnout and are hoping to make the team even bigger and better next year,” Rubi said.
Practices began on Dec. 3, and the members of the team started planning routines for the rest of the year from 7:15-8:15 a.m. To ensure everyone had enough time for sports and outside-of-school commitments, the founders scheduled practices before school.
As the year progresses, the team hopes to perform at Hockaday spirit rallies and One Hockaday events, as well as Upper School sporting events.
“We are so excited to start the team and perform at school events,” Rubi said. “We can’t wait to see what the year has in store for us.”
Story by Maddie Stout
Photo by Emma Roseman