Members of the Cleburne High School Showstoppers Dance Team pose with all the awards they received in their first performance competition of the season. The squad will be back in contest mode on Saturday.

The Cleburne High School Showstoppers Dance Team is hoping to take it to an even higher level this Saturday, after coming away with top honors in their first contest of the season.

The Showstoppers are among the competitors at Saturday’s American Dance and Drill Team Metroplex Dance Spectacular taking place at Mansfield High School. Their performance bar has been upped after receiving the Super Sweepstakes Award, Grand Champion performance honors, first in every dance routine they presented and placing second overall at the Crowd Pleasers Dance Competition Fort Worth Showcase.

“I think we knew it was time to leave everything out there on that dance floor—with no regrets,” Showstoppers Lieutenant Jazmine Martin said. “It’s a great feeling when you know you did that—and we did, last Saturday.”

“We want to be even better this week,” Martin said. “We’ve worked hard to give even more in our performance. We believe as a team there is always room to grow.”

The Showstoppers squad also includes Captain Rhadja Silva, Leslie Armendariz-lieutenant, Chrysta Hames-lieutenant, Chloe Bias, Lexis Brown, Savanna Cheek, Paige Cook, Emma Dudley, Alexes Falkingham, Jessie May Faulk, Hallie Fiola, Alyssa Garcia, Tara Gathings, Izamar Gomez, Christi Hames, Journey Harris, Nova Hess, Lynetta House, Hailey Iannone, Kenya Johnson, Ja’Kirea Kelly, Leslie Martinez and Kaitlyn Tucker, under the direction of Coach Kayla Bruner.

Bruner describes that most recent contest performance by this team as the best any has done in her five years leading the program.

“They were amazing and did the best any teams have done and scored in all my years here,” Bruner said. “Their performances were incredible, and they looked like they were having a blast. Competition isn’t always fun, but they walked away having fun—and walked away with pride.”

Bruner and the Showstoppers are grateful for the opportunity to have a competition season, after wondering if they would even have the chance to dance before a crowd, due to the impact of COVID. Preparations for the 2020-21 dance year began with virtual tryouts, which was a first--not only for the students, but also the coach.

“From creating a video as their audition to having to do a lot from home over the summer, before the year even started, says a lot about this team,” Bruner said. “Their perseverance and desire to grow has been evident. They have made this a good year, and a memorable one.”

Silva, who is a senior with three years on the team, says being in Showstoppers provides her with a school family.

“I have loved being in Showstoppers from the start,” she said. “Being on the team and dancing with them has given me a family, and a new and better way to look at the world. We’re different ages—I’m the oldest—and we come from different backgrounds, yet we’ve come to know each other as teammates and individuals. I love each of them for who they are.”

“I could have graduated early this this year, but I stayed in school because of dance—I love it that much,” Silva said. “I have been on the team since I was a sophomore and every year I have seen more greatness brought into the program. A big part about our team, in improving and growing together, is that it moves everybody forward. The future is going to be good for this group.”

Martin was inspired to become a member of Showstoppers after the officer line came to Smith Middle School when she was in the eighth grade.

“I was the kid who was never good a sports, who never found a space to fit,” Martin said. “When they performed, I thought it was so cool. Dance was never on my radar, but I wanted to know how to join. I found the Showstoppers Instagram page to find out how to audition. They had tryout preparation classes and I went to all of them.”

After making the team, Martin describes her freshman year as a learning process. That spring, she decided she would take all she had learned to the next level and try out for an officer position.

“Not being a dancer, and only a first-year member, I didn’t think I was good enough to be an officer,” Martin said. “But I decided to go for it. I worked and worked and worked on my dance routine video, as auditions were virtual last year. The night of auditions, I checked my phone very five minutes to see if the 2020-21 team had been posted. When I saw my name at the top of the officer line, I was so excited. Making officer was something I really aspired to.”

“What I have learned from that experience, and being in Showstoppers, is now I know that if I want to do something, I can,” she said. “Being a part of this has given me so much confidence—and cracked my shell open. If you had told me three years ago I would be ‘this person’ I would have laughed.”

Watching her dance team members grow in their skills and confidence is very meaningful to Bruner, who came to CHS as a match teacher. Serving as a dance team coach was never on her radar, although she had years of formal training.

“I began dancing at age three,” she said. “I am studio-trained and went on to become a member of a competition dance team. Because we traveled so much, I didn’t do drill team in high school. After I graduated, I closed the chapter on dancing. But God works in mysterious ways. In my first year teaching algebra in Cleburne, the opportunity to coach the dance team presented itself—it fell in my lap.”

“I hesitated at first,” Bruner said. “Competitive dance is very different from drill team. But I took the job and my first dance team taught me so much. They accepted my blend of studio versus traditional drill team. Really, I learned alongside them.”

“With my algebra students, I experience the structure of the classroom, versus the creativity of the dance room,” Bruner said. “I thrive in both. I develop the skills of students in both settings. But as a coach watching my dancers grow in their personal lives is so special. I hope they look back and say, ‘drill team taught me this . . .’ “

“I also want to make it clear I have the most respectful kids on this campus in my Showstoppers,” Bruner said. “I really try and emphasize that it’s character first in our program, and dance second. In a performance-based activity like this, you are putting yourself in front of an audience. I want them to have that same poise, class and representation of our program — and Cleburne — on and off the floor.”

As Bruner and the Showstoppers represent their school and community on Saturday, the mindset is to add to their achievements of one week ago.

“This will be our last contest of the year, before we begin to prepare for tryouts for 2021-22,” Bruner said. “I think that will serve as a motivator. We plan to leave it out there — with no regrets.”

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