Sam Rayburn and South Houston High School juniors Karla Hernandez and Aylene Espinoza prepare for the Inaugural Ball in Washington, D.C., January 19.
| Espinoza stretches before practice in the dance gym.
By Reesha Brown
Pasadena ISD’s South Houston and Sam Rayburn juniors Aylene Espinoza and Karla Hernandez will make history as they dance at the 2017 Black Tie and Boots Inaugural Gala in Washington, D.C., January 19.
Considered inauguration weekend’s hottest ticket in town, they are among only 25 All-State Drill Team performers chosen by the Texas Dance Educator’s Association (TDEA) for this “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
“I’m very excited,” Espinoza said.
“I can’t believe it,” said Hernandez, who echoed her excitement.
Dancing since seventh grade, Espinoza credits her Jannette Dance instructors Kalya Holder and Saranya Taylor for this opportunity.
“They have been the best directors I could hope for,” Espinoza said. “They pushed me to my limits. Now, I have an amazing opportunity to dance in front of all these people with all these beautiful and wonderful dancers at the Inaugural Ball.”
In just two years, Hernandez has risen from dancing with the Rayburn Texanns to leading the group as a colonel, giving her a leg up on the competition and a ticket to the gala.
“To see her grow from her freshman year of dance class to representing Pasadena ISD is something you can’t describe,” LaNeese Gareri, Rayburn dance instructor said. “To have the chance to witness this makes me very proud.”
Hernandez was excited to be invited to the Inaugural Gala.
“This is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Hernandez said. “It’s not every day you’re asked to go to Washington D.C This will be my first time traveling out-of-state on an airplane, so I’m really excited to attend.”
To prepare for the event, the students were required to learn a rigorous choreographed routine under Eve Robinson of the Alvin High School Jacketeers, with support from instructors Saranya Taylor of South Houston and LaNeese Gareri of Rayburn.
Taylor and Gareri will accompany the students on the trip, and they have the added bonus to visit several historical landmarks including the National Mall, the Smithsonian Museums and the Arlington National Cemetery.
Taylor, vice-president of the TDEA, said it takes the crème of the crop to pull off a performance of this magnitude and be selected to perform during inauguration weekend.
“It was challenging to get to this point,” Taylor said. “They had to learn an eight-minute routine and were entrusted to work on their own. These 25 dancers are the best of the best and they are a wonderful representation of our organizations, Pasadena ISD and our state.”
Hernandez practices with her dance team before the big day.
SHHS dance instructor Saranya Taylor and Jannette junior Lt. Aylene Espinoza.
Rayburn dance instructor Laneese Gareri and Texan Col. Karla Hernandez.