The Bridge City conspiracy of secrecy got out in a big way. Millions of people around the world watched as nine members of the high school Strutters drill team danced with Lady Gaga at the Super Bowl.
They didn’t wear their signature red and white uniforms. Instead they had colorful costumes and wigs.
Director Cathy Riley said they were invited through a national dance organization. Each Super Bowl halftime relies on dancers who live near the host city. They had to keep it secret.
“We had to sign a contract to keep it confidential. The kids could only tell their parents,” she said. A mention about the plans on social media would get them eliminated from the show.
“It was a big secret at our school, but some people kind of figured it out at the end,” she said.
That may have been because of the practices for the special routine. They rehearsed five to eight hours a day at least three days a week plus weekends. The rehearsals included traveling to stadiums in the Houston area like Baytown to work with the other dancers.
“We made nine trips on a school bus,” Riley said. Still, they made it to classes every day. She said attendance and good grades are requirements for the Strutters.
Riley is a teacher at the school and also made her classes. “We had late nights getting in at midnight and getting five hours of sleep,” she said.
The principal knew the secret because Riley had told him about the performance offer before committing to it. He thought it was a lifetime experience for the students and endorsed the effort.
Even though the rehearsal schedule was “horrendous,” Riley said she “knew I had to offer the opportunity.”
Only girls 16 years or older were allowed to perform. Nine of the Strutters made the age requirement and participated in the show. They are Mia Woodruff, Lauren Guidry, Avery Harris, Lyvia Ebard, Madison Esquivel, Victoria Doan, Ashlynn Koons, Sydney Hansom and Chelse Cisneros.
Riley praised superstar Lady Gaga for being kind and generous with the young dancers. Eight hundred teens were on the field with her. The first rehearsal with the singer was on Wednesday night. Riley said the kids went “berserk” over her. Later, they became equal performers.
It was good the teens had a chance to work with the singer days before the Super Bowl, Riley said. That way they became accustomed to her and the work needed.
Lady Gaga and the other performers ran through the show three times on Wednesday night. At Thursday’s rehearsal, Gaga lip-synced the songs to save her voice. Friday was another full-out practice show.
The final performance was “everything the same as she practiced, except when she said ‘hey Mom and Dad’,” Riley said.
The girls all had ear buds to listen to directions and the music. At one time during a rehearsal, Gaga came through the system telling them how much she loved them.
Of course the Strutters were rooting for the Atlanta Falcons with Bridge City High alumni Matt Bryant, but they never got to see him. Riley said the dancers were at another sports stadium and bused to NRG Stadium for the halftime show. After the show, they took a bus back to the other stadium.