About The Belles
What makes a Highland Belle so special? Thirty years of tradition and a legacy of excellence have shaped our Highland Belles into a one-of-a-kind, award-winning drill team – year over year.
A former director for Irving’s drill team for more than 10 years and a former Kilgore Rangerette, Mrs. Cathy Wheat became the team’s first director. The Belles were founded in 1983 by a group of proactive Highland Park High School girls who petitioned the school board for the opportunity to form HP’s first drill team. Mrs. Wheat was a long-time instructor for American Dance/Drill Team School.
The Belles’ rigorous tryout process is an important foundation to the success of the team. Third-party judges have always been used to make the decisions during tryouts in order to ensure that the most qualified girls will be on the team. During the Belles’ first year, 33 girls made the team out of a group of 75. Today, the Belles still follow the same tryout protocols – for example, there is no set number of girls, meaning the size of the team varies from year to year, based on the talent exhibited by the candidate pool.
The “Fringe” is yet another important part of the Belles’ legacy. Indeed, Belles wouldn’t really be Belles without their fringe. Originally, the administration had a uniform designed that was a gold lame’ bodysuit with sequined collar, a blue satin cape, and solid sequined hats. Mrs. Wheat designed the renowned blue and gold fringed uniforms instead and presented one to the superintendent. They have been worn ever since.
Football season was already over by the time the first team was chosen, so the Belles’ first appearance was at the spring scrimmage. The team was immediately accepted and received a standing ovation for their performance. Today, the Belles perform at every football halftime, as well as at several pep rallies and basketball games each year.
Belles are well known throughout Highland Park and the dance/drill community for their work ethic, technique and precision routines. Belle performances include military, jazz, pom, high kick, prop, and novelty selections. The Highland Belles represent the commitment to excellence that is shared by the students of Highland Park High School and the community.
Belles did not have lieutenants until their second year – but the leadership of the lieutenants has remained a vital component to the Belles’ success in subsequent years. These five officers lead the team in every practice and performance. Each lieutenant is in charge of their own group of girls and is responsible for teaching and critiquing all dances. After an intense try out process, each lieutenant receives her white “Fringe” and Belles’ baton. The Lieutenant Strut is an adaptation of the officer entrance performed by the Kilgore College Rangerettes. In addition to the lieutenants, five Social Officers are selected to share the student leadership responsibilities of the team.
The Highland Belles have always achieved a great deal of success in dance/drill team competitions both at the local and national level. In the early years, the team traveled to New Orleans to compete in the American Dance/Drill Team Mardi Gras contest and received numerous awards. Many of the traditions that still exist today – the Fringe, the training schedule and the selection process for All Americans, Kick Company and Miss High Kick were implemented under Mrs. Wheat’s direction. Mrs. Wheat retired from Highland Park High School in 2005.
Ms. Christie Crummel was named as the second director of the Highland Belles in 2005. Ms. Crummel came to Highland Park after serving as a drill team director at Cleburne High School and Irving McArthur High School. A seasoned instructor at Marching Auxiliaries, she introduced the Highland Belles to a second contest each year – the MA Grapevine Regionals contest. The team also began attending the Contest of Champions National Competition at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Under her direction, the Belles continued to excel at competing and winning in annual contests while maintaining their excellent performance level on the field and basketball court. Miss Crummel served from 2005 – 2011.
Mrs. Shannon Phillips became the third director of the Highland Belles in 2011. A former Sergeant and Captain of the Kilgore Rangerettes, Mrs. Phillips’ work experience includes serving as director of the Westlake High School Hyline and the Lake Highlands High School Highlandettes, as well as director of the Desperados country & western dance team at Richardson High School. She is a staff member for Encore Creative Productions, and a former board member for the Texas Dance Educators Association. Mrs. Phillips brings years of experience to the Belles organization, helping to maintain and grow the success of the Belles today and into the future.
Although the style of dancing has changed over the years – the tempos are faster and the turns and leaps more advanced – the Belles tradition of excellence will always continue.