I'll never forget the first time I learned how to do a jump-split.
It was my freshman year at Southlake Carroll High School, way back in 2002, and I was at my first practice after making the junior varsity Emerald Belles dance team. My coach was a former varsity Belle herself, and she knew the JV squad was essentially boot camp for the next year's tryouts. And when I made the varsity team my sophomore year, I learned other tricks like the death drop and flying splits.
But the jump-split — that's the Emerald Belles' signature.
Locals who have been to a Carroll Dragons football game have likely seen it the during halftime show. The dancers, adorned in sparkling skirted uniforms and sequined white cowgirl hats, spend 2 to 3 minutes high-kicking their way across the field, making innumerable different shapes. Once the finale comes, they jump and spend a moment suspended mid-air as a solid unit before landing in splits on the field. The crowd goes wild.
The shock and awe of the spectacle never seems to lose its edge. And it certainly didn't on June 4 when the whole country got to see the Emerald Belles in action on the TV show America's Got Talent.
"I would have told you guys you better bring it, but you brought it," said judge Gabrielle Union, harkening back to her film Bring In On. "Wow!"
The AGT judges commended the team on being in-sync and a cohesive squad, but Howie Mandel was not impressed, saying they didn't live up to Radio City Music Hall's famous Rockettes before giving the Emerald Belles a "no" vote.
But it didn't matter. The team got resounding approval from the rest of the panel and proceeded to the next round of competition.
"There's one reference point right now, which is the Rockettes," said judge Simon Cowell, "which tells me someone new needs to take their place."
This isn't the first time the Emerald Belles have captured an audience beyond North Texas. The team's competition high-kick routines have been viral video fodder in recent years, and one has even garnered nearly 3.7 million views on YouTube since being posted in 2017 (below).
There's no doubt about it: the Emerald Belles have talent.