It’s halftime at a Roswell basketball game, and just outside of the hallway is a group of young ladies in red sequin outfits, hose and brown dance shoes. One by one they parade into the gym with a smile on their face and their head tipped back pointed toward the sky. As they walk, they go to the outer edge of the court single file.
One girl is in front of the other, their arms draped on the shoulder of each girl in front of them until they start a new line. When the girls have five rows, they quit counting and slowly gather themselves and give each other enough room, all with their heads tipped back as they silently and quickly adjust their feet. The girls then shout Angels! to which they receive a standing ovation.
No one has noticed the lady that has walked to the scorer’s table, along the way, she has hugged and shook hands with everyone who has said hi to her. She has asked about family and listened really quick as she is on her way to do the most important job of the evening as far as she is concerned, and that’s cue the music for the Charlie’s Angels dance routine.
What many in the stands do not realize is that without Silvia Hernandez volunteering 19 years ago, there might not have been a Charlie’s Angels dance team. Hernandez was working at Roswell as the attendance secretary and had a good relationship with Kim Castro’s mother, Lavinia Herrera and she knew Castro’s sister, Jennifer.
Castro’s daughter Desiree wanted to form a dance team, but at the time only a school employee could do school-sponsored events. Castro was not a school employee. Hernandez didn’t know each other but had friends in the same circles. Castro worked at Popo’s when she met her husband, Danny, who is a singer. Castro went to Hernandez and told her if she would sponsor the Angels, she would never have to do anything with the team.
Roswell’s principal at the time was Greg Spradling, and he felt that the Angels was a one and done thing. The Angels faced stiff opposition from the administration because they didn’t see the need to have two female cheer-spirit teams at the same time. They met a lot of resistance from the administration.
The superintendent at the time — Amarante Fresquez — felt like there was a certain number of spots for cheer and that more girls would compete in dance and he didn’t see a problem with having another spirit squad.
If it weren’t for him,” Castro said, “we wouldn’t have a dance team today. We thank him a lot. We invite him to our banquets, and if he’s in the stands, we try to recognize him if possible.”
Hernandez is no longer an employee of the RISD — she is the business manager for the Department of Health for children’s medical services for the state of New Mexico.
When Charlie’s Angels first began, they didn’t know the styles and their first time they competed at state, they took home third place. The first time they won it all was in 2009.
“She’s more like my sister,” Hernandez said of Castro as tears welled up in her eyes. “She doesn’t stay mad but for a second when we have disagreements. Things usually work themselves out. The girls try to play us against each other. The girls will go to Kim and say, ‘Is it OK if we do this?’ And Kim will say, ‘Have you asked Silvia?’ and they’ll say she said, ‘no.’ Then it’s no.”
The reason Hernandez and Castro have gotten along so well for the last 19 years is that each knows their role. Hernandez is not trying to teach dance routines. She is more comfortable being behind the scenes doing the things that no one wants to do but needs to be done for the Angels to be successful.
Hernandez does things like videotaping practices from the back so that she and Castro can see the whole performance from many sides to get the team ready for competition. Hernandez is also a valued eye at practice — she will let Castro know if a dancer doesn’t point her feet. She also is the disciplinarian and will meet with parents, make sure transportation is scheduled, as well as the other maintenance things that Castro does not want to do or is not good at.
“I really think the reason a lot of programs don’t succeed,” Castro said, “is because they don’t have the help. It would be overwhelming if I had to do all of this myself
Castro feels like it’s the continuity of being together through all of the years that have made them and Charlie’s Angels stronger. Both ladies have won and lost together and she shed tears of joy and sadness. Not having to break in a new assistant coach or learn how to coach them or their ways has been a benefit to working together.
“I think a perfect balance is,” Hernandez said, “I do what Castro doesn’t want to do — not that she can’t do; and she does what I can’t do. I know she could discipline, but that’s not her cup of tea. I think it’s a balance — we’re not in competition with each other.”
Hernandez can recall every girl from her first team to the subsequent team by name, parents, years they were on the team and what they are doing now. She and Castro have been invited to weddings, to baptisms of more than one of their former dancers’ children.
Even after dance practice, both will watch film and talk to each other later in the night. Hernandez’s husband, Henry is used to the frantic pace after 26 years of marriage.
“Both of our spouses know,” Hernandez said. “It’s a family thing. I have a girl that graduated in 2008 and she (Loretta Conteras Grado) asked us to be a part of her wedding. She asked us to be a part of her daughter’s baptism the next year and then her son’s two years later. It’s one of those things that you think you touch their lives here, but it goes on after high school. The girls come back to see how we’re doing and the dance team.”
The Angels have had entire families dance for them. In their first year, they had the Martinez family dance, starting with Carrie Martinez, and then her sister, Teresa joined the team. Two years later, her sister, Catherine, joined the team. A year later, another sister, Jacqueline, and then the last sister, Michaela, was the last sister to dance for the Angels. There were 17 years of Martinez girls on the Angels.
“That mom (Martinez) liked our program,” Hernandez said. “The Martinezes have good supportive parents. We’ve never had a parent in here telling us how to do something or that you were mean to my kid. The Martinezes were very disciplined and had the best facials ever and they were hard working kids.”
Roswell faculty has had their children be on the Angels: Lorenza and George Aho, Kelly McDonald, Debbie Dumlao, Susan Sanchez and James Kelt. Castro has coached two of her daughters (Desiree from ‘99, and Ali from 2010-13) and three nieces, (Amanda in ‘99), and Olivia Herrera (2003), Elizabeth Lopez (2009). Priscilla Richardson is a cousin of Castro and she was the first girl to dance for five years as an eighth-grader and she is currently dancing at NMSU.
Castro’s son, Danny Jr. married a dancer, Gabby, who graduated in 2008. They have been married since 2014.
Former and current Angels have tried out for New Mexico State University, University of New Mexico, Eastern New Mexico University and the Dallas Cowboys (Daniella Palomino), who made it to the semifinals. She is currently a culinary chef and is now married with two children. Also, a current Denver Nuggets dancer and former RHS angel is Shania Hernandez.
With the competition around the corner, Hernandez has made the team dress in all black so that it is easier to see the mistakes and correct them. She also wants the team to be as one and not stand out.
“It’s about the kids,” Hernandez said. “I hope the girls don’t think that I’m mean. I hope they know how much I care for them. I hope they take the discipline because it works. They don’t forget where they’re going and what time to be there. When they leave our program, I think they amaze other coaches and then the girls are amazed that other girls are not like them.”
The Angels have instituted team rules that work from 19 years of experience. They have to sign a drug testing policy through the school. They cannot disrespect a teammate or coach, and they have to behave on social media and act well in school and out of school.
Most of the Angels are good students with a majority of them carrying over a 3.0 GPA. Eight seniors on the team will be graduating in white (honors). The five seniors in 2018 graduated with honors. Emily Tucker, a sophomore, is on track to be the valedictorian when she graduates. The Angels practice teamwork in dance and in the classroom as they will help each other with their studies if they need it.
“It’s about the girls,” Hernandez said, “but I’m not going to lose either. We start in June and we practice, practice, practice. We’re here to win. We work hard. Every competition matters no matter what the size of it. The team we have now has not lost any competitions. … Why would I practice since June to say, ‘I hope we do well. No, I hope we win. The standard is high and I think they set that years ago.”
Hernandez expects the eighth-graders to catch up and be up to speed. Castro and Hernandez are not worried that some of the girls on the team are in eighth grade — they are on the team for a reason.
“We’ve had great parents,” Hernandez said. “We couldn’t do it without them, or the administration of RISD. We love the support we get from the city of Roswell.”
What started out 19 years ago as just helping out has turned into Hernandez and Castro turning the Angels into a dynasty.
This year, the Angels are entering a team performance in hopes of winning Grand Champion. They will compete in POM, Jazz and Team, and do three dances.
The Angels will leave Roswell school at 6 a.m. Wednesday morning and catch a flight out of Albuquerque to arrive at Orlando at 8 p.m. and will stay that night at the Hard Rock hotel.