Sound the Belles

By guruscotty September 14, 2023 No Comments

Sound the Belles

By Joy Donovan
Above photo of the The Emerald Belles, 1987 courtesy of Tiffany Clerc

Carroll’s national award-winning Emerald Belles dance team celebrates its 60th birthday in high style

In 1963, John Connally was Texas governor, Carroll Independent School District was Class 1A, Title IX requiring equal funding for genders in school activities was nearly a decade away and the Emerald Belles drill team made its debut.

Sixty years later, the green carpet has been rolled out for the now nationally known and award-winning Belles, who are kicking up a hat-high celebration in Southlake. The team danced into its 60th anniversary at the home football game Sept. 1 at Southlake’s Dragon Stadium.

Alumnae from New York, California, Hawaii and points in between returned for the anniversary reunion and halftime show. Nearly 500 Emerald Belle alumnae participated in the march-in at the game’s beginning, and the halftime show featured 175 alumnae and 75 current varsity and 20 junior varsity Belles, organizers said.

“These women are so excited to remember just what a huge part Emerald Belles played in their high school experience,” Tiffany Clerc, event chair, said.

The Belles, 1963. Photo courtesy of Tiffany Clerc

The Belles, 2014. Photo courtesy of Tiffany Clerc

The football game was dedicated to the Emerald Belles and included a pregame tailgate party. The alumnae participated in the team’s traditional “victory lines,” were recognized on the field and sat with current Belles in the stands during the game. Most anticipated: the halftime performance with current and former Emerald Belles dancing together on the field. The dance was choreographed by longtime team director Melissa Page, whose reputation for excellence earned her the honor of being named director of the year in 2022 by the Texas Dance Educators Association.

“I’m terrified,” said Christy Capps Stacy, who served as a drill team officer from 1998 to 1999 and is now on the district’s school board, in an interview during the summer. “I’m absolutely terrified, because it’s long. She’s definitely going to want people in the front to look good.”

Looking good during a difficult performance — all with a red-lipsticked smile — is a long Emerald Belle tradition.

National dance competitions with high achievement have become an expectation, and the team has trophies worthy of front hall placement to back it up. Appearing on national TV, the Emerald Belles were watched by millions in 2019 when they competed on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.”

The team spun, leapt and kicked all the way to the quarterfinals. During their multiple appearances, they dazzled even the notoriously cranky judge Simon Cowell. Judge Julianne Hough, a dancer, told them, “You were cohesive and collectively beautiful.”

“When you think about the Emerald Belles, you think excellence and tradition,” Dragons head coach Riley Dodge, the team’s quarterback in the early 2000s, said. “We are so grateful for their unwavering support every Friday night. They are one of the reasons that Friday nights in Southlake, Texas, are so special.”

In addition to the Sept. 1 celebration, the Emerald Belles’ booster club completed  a big project on the wish list: a full remodeling of the team’s locker room, with new flooring, coffee machine and water station.

Melissa Page in the newly remodeled Emerald Belles locker room. In addition to the Sept. 1 celebration at Dragon Stadium, the long-anticipated remodeling project undertaken by the booster club was completed over the summer. Each Emerald Belle has her own white locker, complete with mirror, electrical outlet and a pink vanity stool. Photo by Mike Lewis

Melissa Page, Emerald Belles drill team director, offstage during the Belles’ performance on “America’s Got Talent” in 2019. Photo courtesy of Tiffany Clerc

Each Emerald Belle has her own white locker, complete with mirror, electrical outlet and a pink vanity stool. The project, designed by Jana Schleif, an interior designer and Emerald Belle parent, and constructed by Tri Best Specialties, whose managing partner, Chad Ray, is an Emerald Belle uncle, was revealed in August. It all should make arriving at school for 6:45 a.m. practices five days a week a lot easier.

Early mornings, hard work, bus rides and hat-high kicks are all part of Emerald Belles life. No one who hasn’t witnessed it would realize how hard the dancers work or the hours they spend, said Scott Hall, who has been a parent of both an Emerald Belle and a football player.

“We were immensely proud to be Belle parents,” he said. “You always want your child to be a part of something special, and it’s a very special organization.”

Page also is proud of the group she’s been coaching for 27 of the Emerald Belles’ 60 years.

“I love these kids, and I love the program that’s been built,” she said. “It stands for so much, and it means so much to me.”