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Super Bowl Surreal for REL Performers
02/07/2017
 Super Bowl Surreal for REL Performers
Photo by Alice Henrichsen
Super Bowl was “Surreal” for Student Performers

By: Susan Passmore

No matter which team they were rooting for, some Robert E. Lee High School students are still cheering about their Super Bowl experience. They witnessed the spectacle of the pre-game and halftime performances from the field at NRG Stadium as cast members!

Twenty-four Lee dancers, including 21 Celebrities Dance Team members, two JV Belles and one dance student, along with 53 Lee Band members and several other students, were a part of the 800 cast members in the spectacular halftime show, carrying torches, pre-programmed individually to emit different colored lights. As the students, representing more than a dozen area schools and wearing earpieces to hear instructions, moved to the appropriate spots, they formed graphics and words in the high-technology show. Some freestyle dancing and funky costuming were involved – after all, the halftime show featured Lady Gaga.

The dance group had been asked by the Pepsi production company also to participate during the pre-game activities, holding colored silks to form the huge American flag on the field during the national anthem, which was sung by country music artist Luke Bryan.

The opportunity for the dance team and the band came about through Celebrities director Alice Henrichsen’s 18-year association with American Dance and Drill Team (ADDT) as a teacher at summer camps and a judge. Assistant director Julia Collins has also judged for ADDT.

“ADDT had been involved in casting for the Super Bowl in Dallas 2011), so when we heard it was in Houston, I contacted Joyce Pennington from ADDT about the opportunity,” Henrichsen said.

The group’s participation during halftime wasn’t widely publicized – in fact, students and parents signed a nondisclosure agreement with the NFL preventing the announcement of their participation up until the halftime show itself - but the students rehearsed at various locations in the Houston area, including Stallworth Stadium, for the past two weeks. Finally, the rehearsals moved to NRG, and Lady Gaga joined the group, making a superb effort to meet and interact with the performers.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity being with Lady Gaga and the whole dance team at the Super Bowl,” senior Celebrities colonel Giselle Perales said. “The only word I can think of is ‘surreal.’”

While the REL students were not all together on the field at halftime, many of them were between the 50 and 45 yard lines, directly in front of the stage and just about as close to the action as they could get.

“I was right in front of Lady Gaga, so I felt like she was performing for me!” Yulia Trujillo, senior Celebrities captain, said.

Robert Poulin, REL’s head band director and assistants Caleb Lopez and De. Stefan Ice, were unable to take their entire band, so they selected 53.

“It was merit-based. We looked at their track record in our program and their age (over 16). We also wanted students who were trustworthy,” Poulin said.

Senior REL band member Eunice Mendez was pleased to have been among those selected.

“This was an amazing experience! I never thought I would come close to being in the Super Bowl,” Mendez said. “When we heard Lady Gaga say, ‘I love you,’ I thought, ‘I can check that off my bucket list.’”

Although there were many long rehearsals, and assignments for classes often had to be completed on the bus, the students and their sponsors agreed that when the big day finally arrived, it was all worth it.

“Everyone was super nervous. You could feel the excitement when we ran in and saw everyone in the stands for the first time,” said Maegan Springer, senior band member.

The Super Bowl experience was made possible by the collaboration of district administrators, including Phillip Morgan, director of Fine Arts, school administrators, sponsors and parents.

“I feel thankful to them. They knew it was going to be hard on us, but we learned so much from it, especially to manage our time better,” Naida Garcia, senior band member said.

As Patriots and Falcons fans and armchair quarterbacks everywhere hash out their thoughts on lousy plays, missed opportunities and the unbelievable comeback, the REL performers know that they were truly the winners in the Houston Super Bowl. 

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