Emerald Belles Through the Decades

By guruscotty September 14, 2023 September 15th, 2023 No Comments

Emerald Belles Through the Decades

As the award-winning Emerald Belles dance team celebrates 60 years representing the Carroll Independent School District, some of its leaders through the decades recall how it shaped their lives.

Billie Ebersole, founding co-director, 1963

When some high school girls wanted to start a drill team, Ebersole, a first grade teacher who had never danced, and Patsy Crawford, a high school business teacher who danced in middle school, agreed to sponsor a team and choreograph the dances. A record player in the press box provided the music the first year. In her last year as a sponsor, Ebersole found out that many team members had never attended a tea, so she hosted one in her home and required the girls to wear hats and gloves.

Favorite memory: Ebersole refused to allow the team to be called the Dragonettes. She claims the honor of naming the team the Emerald Belles. “I just loved my girls. I spent more time at the school than I did at home.”

Kathy Hargadine Srokosz, captain, 1970-71

Nursing director

As captain, she led a “small and mighty team” of 22. At the time, most Carroll High School classes numbered 50 and fans watched the games from bleachers that people could walk under. The emerald green uniforms featured a green top hat and a flared skirt with silver accents.

Attending summer camp at Southern Methodist University, the team, under director Vicki Lowrey, turned heads when they entered in lines, wearing black leotards, black tights and sashes tied at the waist. They looked ready to dance, and it started a trend.

Favorite memory: “I just loved working with the entire group every year. I learned a lot about leadership. I was proud to be an Emerald Belle and represent the school. It gave you purpose.”

She added, “I think I really appreciated the small-town focus. It was a great community, and everyone was all-in. It was a great opportunity. It gave you a chance to work with people in conflict resolution, how to meet a goal and how to inspire others. Those things are truly valuable in a leadership role.”

Kathy Hargadine Srokosz’ favorite memories as a Belle were lessons in leadership. Photo courtesy of Tiffany Clerc

Christy Light Berg was a Belle the first time the Carroll Dragons went deep in the playoffs. Photo courtesy of Tiffany Clerc

Christy Light Berg, captain 1987, 1988

Graduation co-ordinator at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor

Berg was the only junior to be captain.

The team danced to such popular songs as Lionel Richie’s “Hello” and the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann,” all played by the school’s marching band. She remembers her junior year as the first time the football team made it deep into state playoffs approaching the holidays. The band played “A Holly Jolly Christmas” while the drill team danced in red tights and green uniforms with red sleeves. The Belles held each other accountable for their decisions, she said. She later became a drill team director, initiating the Grapevine Belles junior varsity team at Grapevine High School and launching the Panteras dance team at Colleyville Heritage High School when it opened.

Favorite memory: The Christmas dance during a playoff game at Pennington Field, a field larger than the Dragons were playing on at the time. “We were star-struck. It was magical, and we got our name on the big screen. It was amazing. Being part of something bigger than yourself kept us from just thinking about self.”

Christy Capps Stacy, senior lieutenant, 1998-99

Carroll Independent School District trustee

During Stacy’s junior year, the new director, Melissa Page, brought in different, more contemporary dance styles. The team, she said, transitioned from a drill team to a dance team. Instead of a dance list that had only kick, jazz, pom and military numbers, the Emerald Belles began performing modern and lyrical dances, too. Setting the stage for the routines was music such as Will Smith’s “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” and “From This Moment On” by Shania Twain. Practice uniforms were spandex “which was terrible,” and competition costumes often were crushed velvet unitards. Each day of the week, team members were assigned a specific uniform, including a scrunchie. Not wearing the right scrunchie could result in demerits, with 100 high kicks per demerit. All that paid off when an infamous “skirt routine” dedicated to a late classmate received a standing ovation.

Favorite memory: One year, the team competed in a contest where they previously hadn’t placed very well. The team placed second. “Obviously, we wanted to win, but to see Melissa so excited got us excited. What it showed me is that we really wanted to get first for her, but it was so cool to see she wanted first, too, but wasn’t disappointed. That was exciting to us. It grows you up and prepares you for life.”

Christy Capps Stacy, with Melissa Page, was a Belle when the team made the transition from drill team to dance team. Photo courtesy of Tiffany Clerc

Belen Mahan Garren was a Belle during Melissa Page’s first year, when new ideas were ushered in. Photo courtesy of Tiffany Clerc

Belen Mahan Garren, captain, 2000-01

North Texas middle market manager for JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Garren was an Emerald Belle during longtime director Melissa Page’s first year, when new ideas were launched and scrunchies pulled hair back during practice. The field uniform was still very traditional, with a skirt atop a petticoat, and a sequined cowgirl hat. The 75-member team learned to compete in dance styles new to them and in costumes very different from the traditional ones. For a very modern kick routine, the dancers were outfitted in black head to toe, with only their faces showing. It was wildly successful, and the girls learned it was OK to take risks. The Emerald Belles by then had become a year-round sport. Early morning practices, after-school planning and summer camps were part of the commitment.

Favorite memory: Summer camp, for learning new dances and making new friends. “It was taking a group of individuals who didn’t know each other and, by the end of it, we had come in as individuals and left as a team. We developed lifelong friendships.”

Karis Warren Van, captain, 2007-2008

Colleyville Heritage High School Panteras director

Uniformity in the attire was perfected for what she calls an “iconic uniform.” Besides a black sequined and fringed skirt overlay pinned to a black leotard, the Emerald Belles — except for Van, who as captain wore silver — all wore tan tights, white boots, smoky green eye shadow and red lipstick. When they performed jazz routines, the girls all wore long, fake ponytails for added drama.

The music included a Black Eyed Peas mix for a hip-hop dance during contest season and a kick routine that took on a cowgirl twist.

Favorite memory: Walking out on the football field as the band tapped the tempo. “That was always so special, because in our community, from elementary school to high school, you’re a Dragon. The little girls look up to you. It’s such a legacy that’s extremely special.”

Karis Warren Van and Melissa Page. Photo courtesy of Tiffany Clerc

Hannah Ganiear, with Melissa Page. Photo courtesy of Tiffany Clerc

Hannah Ganiear, captain, 2023-24

High school senior

Ganiear serves as captain to 76 Emerald Belles, most of whom had many years of dance training before they made the team. Long gone are the days of moms sewing uniforms; the team now wears multiple uniforms, with black now a major color combined with green and white.

In addition to director Melissa Page, the team brings in outside choreographers to stage its numbers.

Favorite memory: Winning the first competition her freshman year during the COVID pandemic. Ganiear also is looking forward to a team trip in the spring to New York to see Broadway shows and take classes from the legendary Radio City Rockettes. “I have learned about how important it is to be kind to others, and it’s important to lead with kindness. It is important to work to find a common ground, but the most important thing is to be kind to each other.”