ENNIS — Football season is underway in Ennis, and no EHS group is more excited about this season than the Lionette drill team.
This school year marks their 30th anniversary as a performing unit. To commemorate the occasion, the Ennis ISD Administration has granted the Lionettes permission to spend their March 2018 Spring Break representing the school in the grandest of fashions.
These 37 “lucky” girls (and their directors and chaperones) will be boarding a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, not only to enjoy a five-day vacation but while on board, this group will also be performing. What a great way to celebrate the Lionettes’ 30th line birthday.
The history of this drill team is quite impressive. Most high schools in this part of Texas started having drill (or dance) teams perform during the halftimes at football games in the 1960s. However, Ennis, with a very strong military band program, had opted not to add a drill team to their half-time shows like most other area schools.
It wasn’t until the school year of 1987-1988 that the band director at that time, Mr. Ivan Goodwin, decided to incorporate a Lionette drill team as part of the Ennis High School band. In other words, a girl had to be in the band before she could try out to be a drill team member.
In fact, it appeared that the EHS band used the extra bodies (the Lionettes) to fill-in the gaps at marching halftime shows and at UIL band contests from time to time.
The first “director” to oversee the first 26 Lionette members was Mrs. Beth Goodwin, who just happened to be the daughter-in-law of Band Director Goodwin. She was also a Child Development teacher and part of the high school faculty.
Back during their first year of existence, the Lionettes had six officers, and according to the 1988-1989 EHS Yearbook, they were actually considered a “dance ensemble,” not a drill team. They performed “light” jazz dance moves and also used some props for their routines.
Always a fan favorite (and even today), was the high-kick routines and their ripples (flowing movements with a light rise and fall as it moves down the drill team’s line of young ladies).
The Ennis Yearbook actually listed the different events where the Lionettes performed during their inaugural season. To quote the 1989 yearbook, this dance ensemble did their routines at “the ice cream supper, all football games, pep rallies, and some of the basketball games.”
The drill team dancing has evolved dramatically since the days of the first Lionettes. Mrs. Tia Hensley has been the Director for the current group since she took over in the spring semester of 2016. Joining her this year as her Assistant is Mrs. Jennifer Chapman Howard.
When asked what the most rewarding part of her job as Director is, Mrs. Hensley replied, “I love seeing the girls mature as dancers and young women. I literally have the privilege of watching them grow on a daily basis.”
In 2017, at present, Mrs. Hensley explains, “During their time on the team, the girls are required to perform a variety of genres including, but not entirely limited to jazz, hip hop, contemporary, lyrical, kick, tap, and ballet.” This year’s team of 37 girls, two team managers, and six guy escorts have worked very hard, beginning their new season in July at drill team camp. The newly-elected Lionette line members participate in a mandatory camp each year to learn their new routines for the upcoming football season and beyond.
Their season runs through tryouts in May, where the members are selected for the new school year (2018-2019).
Per Mrs. Hensley, the qualifications to be selected into this group are, “They must be respectful, hard-working, and committed to the team and its high values. We have tryouts at the end of the year (in May). Hopefuls learn routines, progressions, kick techniques, and other dance specific skills during tryout week. They work hard and learn new material during the week, and then they audition the following Saturday.”
Keeping their grades up is also part of the requirements of this group.
The current 30th line is requested to perform at pep rallies, football games, school-opening ceremonies, and other school related events (i.e., Fish Camp, Mr. EHS, etc.). The girls are often a part of city events like the Ennis’ National Polka Festival in May, the Ennis Christmas Parade, and the Ennis Red, White, & Blue Bike Parade around the 4th of July.
In addition to school and community events, the Lionettes enjoy giving back to their city in the form of community service. They perform at fundraising events for special causes, as well as march in local parades (as mentioned previously). In the past year, the girls have held a “Back the Blue Campaign,” and they also completed a “Socks for Soldiers” drive.
The girls also have a competition team that they must audition for, called the “Elite Team” that competes yearly in area drill team (small ensemble) competitions. Last year, however, the entire team attended the competition in Plano with the Elites for the first time, and both groups (large and small) represented Ennis High School very well.
Each year in April, the Lionettes put on their Annual Spring Showcase. This is a big production performed on their own high school stage. Their fellow students, friends, and family then fill their performance hall on both nights of their program.
They perform a very diverse collection of dance routines during their two-hour show, such as jazz, modern/contemporary, tap, ballet, and hip hop. Sprinkled in during the night, the audience is entertained with some comedy, singing, and dramatic readings.
As Homecoming approaches on October 27, this bunch of energetic young ladies are working strenuously in preparation for their special performance for previous alumni of the team, as well as showing off the little girls from their dance clinic.
Until Spring Break in March of 2018, you can bet the Lionettes will be practicing, even more, hours than usual, in their attempt to perform of a lifetime on their cruise ship Vision of the Seas.