Some dancers add birthday wishes to 'Rette week

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For some aspiring dancers, this week may be one of the most important they have ever faced. Tryouts for the 79th line of the Kilgore College Rangerettes are being held on Thursday and, in the days leading up to the big event, a few candidates are marking another milestone on their calendars.

Claire Hodges, a recent graduate of Cedar Park High School, turned 18 Sunday.

Hodges, who has been dancing for years, said she was excited to be participating in the Rangerette pre-training sessions but admitted the experience was stressful. However, she may have some help from an experienced team member.

Rachel Green had a birthday on Sunday as well, turning 19 years old. Green, who is from Austin, went through the tough training and selection process last year, when she was inducted as a member of the 78th Rangerette line.

“We'll have some very busy days but it is absolutely worth it,” Green said of her experience at the training sessions.

Two other young women at the training session were also looking forward to birthdays during training week. Candidate Caroline Rhodes traveled all the way from Springdale, Arkansas to try out for the Rangerettes on the week of her birthday. Madison Blalock, who is from Mount Pleasant and became a 'Rette at the 2017 tryouts, has a birthday on July 12, the day when tryouts are held.

Assistant Rangerette director and choreographer Shelley Wayne remarked on the significance of the birthdays during the days leading up to tryouts, when a little over 30 young women will become new Rangerettes and approximately 60 young women will receive disappointing news.

“It could either be a happy birthday or a sad one,” Wayne said.

Candidates came from across Texas and at least two other states for their chance to participate in training sessions before trying out for the 'Rettes. One hopeful didn't have quite so far to travel.

Rachel Clower graduated from Kilgore High School less than two months ago with many achievements to her name, such as winning a $5,000 college scholarship in a national essay contest and being named a homecoming princess. Despite all her achievements, Clower admitted feeling some nerves at the training session on Monday.

“I'm very nervous. All I can think about is seeing my name on the sign,” she said, catching her breath after completing another performance of a dance routine with nearly 100 other candidates.

In addition to perfecting their steps, jumps and moves, the candidates also have to learn and abide by the strict Rangerette rules and culture.

“Today is the first day that we learn the rules so I'm extremely nervous,” Clower said. “It's only the second day but it is more mentally challenging than physically challenging. I'm just trying to stay positive.”

Clower said she has been looking forward to this experience for a very long time and landing a spot on the Rangerette line would be a huge achievement for her if she makes the final cut.

“I'll probably cry tears of joy,” she said.

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