Odessa High School's freshman Erica Morales rehearse a dance routine with fellow Showgirls April 12 in the OHS Showgirls' dances studio. (Jacob Ford | Odessa American)

When the Odessa High School Showgirls took home hardware from the recent American Dance/Drill Team Nationals in Arlington, they were making up for lost time due to COVID-19.

Kristina Rios is head director for the Odessa High School Showgirls and a dance teacher at OHS, and the assistant director is Ashleigh Christian.

In the Small Team division, OHS was awarded National Champions in Hip hop and National Champions in the Open category; took second in Contemporary; third place in Jazz; fourth place in Pom; 2nd place overall in Small Team and fourth place Overall in the whole competition, the district newsletter said.

This is Rios’ sixth year as head director and she has 23 girls on the team. All of them competed. The American Dance/Drill Team contest is one of the largest in the Dallas area. The teams that take part can come from all over the country and world, but the majority this time were from Texas.

“We did extremely well, especially from how we started. We started off rough like I’m pretty sure most teams did. There was a lack of team bonding and knowing how to dance with each other and just simply knowing each other …,” Rios said.
“… I was extremely nervous for competition this year, but around January is when we started coming around and the girls pulled it together, and I’m very very happy with how we ended the year,” she added.

Rios said she’s praying that next year will be a lot more normal.

“… These kids deserve a normal year this year,” Rios said. “We got a lot taken away from us — pep rallies, football games, a lot of performances that, that if they would have happened at the beginning of the year it would have helped us be a little stronger for this year. … We came out on top at the end. …”

She added that she had a lot of new girls this year, as well.

“… My returners were the ones who pretty much helped kick everything into gear and fill them in on how stuff was supposed to be,” Rios said.

She noted that Showgirls is a dance team.

“The cool thing about Showgirls is, I would like to say we’re, we’re, rough around the edges but in a good way. We’re a little bit more raw. We take a lot of risk with our music, with how we dance with also staying clean and classy,” Rios said.
Christian has been with Showgirls for five years. She said she has loved every group of girls that has come through. This one is special because there were so many new girls and she has watched what they were like from the beginning of the year until now.

“… I’ve just been blown away by their determination to get it, and I feel like in competition they really showed all the work that they’ve been putting in … so it’s been really, really awesome for us,” Christian said.

Rios said the program has grown from when she first started. “This program, it keeps getting better and better not just not because of me, but just because simply the girls come here with the desire to dance and to perform and entertain for the community and for their school,” Rios said.

Showgirls is year-round.

“We don’t have an offseason …,” Rios said.

Among a myriad of events, the Showgirls dance at University of Texas Permian Basin basketball games, their own basketball games and hold little Showgirl clinics.

“From January through the end of March is our competitive season. We try not to perform as much because we do hold practice from Monday to Saturday, so it’s a lot of wear and tear on the girls. And then after March, we kind of start all over again with tryouts so for example we have officer tryouts today. We have team tryouts at the end of this month and then once we get the new team we start practice all over again until the end of May. Then we go to officer camp, and then we’re done for a couple of weeks in the summer and then we start all over again at the end of June,” Rios said.

Hannah Gray, an 18-year-old senior, Thamara Ramirez, a 16-year-old junior, and Sophie Ramirez, 17-year-old senior team captain all said the team has come a long way.

“I think we did extremely well considering what we’ve been through this whole year. Obviously it wasn’t a normal year, but at the end we pulled through. Although it wasn’t as easy in the beginning, we did our best and we came out in second place which is not bad at all. Even though we didn’t get first, in our minds we did because of everything you went through to get there,” Thamara Ramirez said.

Gray said she felt the same way.

“I feel like since the beginning of the year didn’t start the way we wanted it to, we pulled through at the end … Getting second place was like winning in our eyes,” Gray said.

Sophie Ramirez said the team did exceptionally well in the contest. She noted that the team rebooted some dances from last year.

“… We were stronger than what we were last year and we got to experience what it was like to go through different troubles. But in the end, we were still able to conquer something that was challenging for us …,” Sophie Ramirez said.