Cheer

Ellison High School senior Karina Diaz Santini, a member of the school's Emeralds dance team holds a poster promoting the group's dance camp Saturday with the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

A group of girls, ranging from children just starting dance to high school seniors, have a chance this weekend to learn from an iconic dance team that boasts a global fan base in the millions.

There are spots still available.

The Ellison High School Emeralds dance team members are excited to host members of the famed Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders for a dance camp from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Ellison gym.

The camp is open to kindergarten through 12th-grade students.

Registration forms are available at Killeen Independent School District schools. Completed forms and payment may be dropped off at the Ellison front office at 909 E. Elms Road in Killeen or at VP Printing at 1805 Florence Road in Killeen.

The cost for three hours of dance instruction with a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader and the 22-member Ellison Emeralds is $90.

Groups of 20 or more can register together for $70 apiece.

Proceeds from the camp will help pay for the Emeralds’ team trip to Los Angeles.

Emeralds Director Jenny Zehr said the team’s first-year booster club contacted the famed cheerleader corps and found out they had only conducted one such school fundraiser in the past.

This weekend’s event in Killeen will be a first in Texas for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, Zehr said.

Ellison Emeralds Booster Club President Valerie Payson contacted the Cowboys about a possible sponsorship and found out about the cheerleaders’ new dance camp program.

“It’s exciting,” Payson said of hosting the famous team. “It feels like an honor for them to come. All the girls are excited.”

She said the camp has attracted students from outside Killeen and she knows of one girl looking forward to spending her birthday dancing with the cheerleaders.

One of the most excited participants in the camp is Ellison senior Karina Diaz Santini.

The three-year Emerald remembers when she was a young child and first saw the cheerleaders performing during a Cowboys game. Since that time, she has wondered if she could make the dance team one day.

“I’ll probably cry when I first meet them,” Santini said Tuesday, anticipating the dance camp coming up.

After stretching together, camp participants will divide into two groups by age and each will learn a dance from a different cheerleader.

Also, the campers will learn a dance to perform at a future Ellison basketball game.

“My parents and friends have always been Dallas Cowboys fans, and I guess I jumped on the bandwagon,” Santini said, explaining the first time she attended a game in person as a child.

“I didn’t know they had a show,” she said of the Cowboys cheerleaders. “Now, I follow them. Maybe, I can do that one day.”

She watches the group’s reality television show “Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team,” a Country Music Television show in its 12th season.

The Ellison High senior knows that high school graduates can audition for the team and that there is a required written test on Cowboys history, which she is confident she can ace.

“When I watch them, I am mesmerized,” she said. “They are so good.”

While most Cowboys fans suffered through a Thanksgiving loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, Santini noticed the cheerleaders performing on the field and three different routines on stage with musician Thomas Rhett during halftime.

That’s a lot of work, the high school senior said, to prepare for the regular game performances and to dance alongside the music star.

Naturally, Santini has questions for the visiting cheerleaders.

“I’ll probably drive them crazy asking questions,” she said.

“I want to know about the tryout process. I want to know, ‘How did you feel when you made it?’ I want to know what it’s like to perform in front of a huge audience. I want to know, ‘How difficult is it?’”

Hopefully, she will have her questions answered this weekend.

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