Replacing former Tyler Junior College Apache Belles Director Ruth Flynn after 27 years could be considered an intimidating task for some people. However, it is a challenge Jasilyn Schaefer is taking one high kick at a time.
Schaefer is a former Apache Belle and has been serving as the interim director since her mentor Flynn announced her retirement last year. For Schaefer this promotion comes as a dream come true and a chance to inspire young women.
“I dreamed and imagined it but to have it become a reality is really an honor and a blessing,” Schaefer said. “I hope that my direction is not just bound to the dance floor and that it helps all of the young women that come into the program.”
Schaefer started dancing when she was in high school and put in lots of hard work to improve her personal dance skills.
“I didn’t start taking dance from the time I was 3,” Schaefer said. “Starting later in life was somewhat of a challenge to overcome, and I took a lot of private lessons to make up for the lack of training that I had from early on that a lot of other people had.”
However, Schaefer was determined to build on her dance experience and the idea of being an Apache Belle motivated her.
“I gave up a lot as far as some other extracurricular activities to be able to dedicate my time to dance and I knew I wanted to be an Apache Belle so I really spent not only some of my financial resources but also time on achieving that dream,” Schaefer said.
Schaefer grew up in Dallas and moved to Tyler to attend TJC after looking at college drill teams.
She then earned her associate’s degree in fine arts from TJC and her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Texas at Tyler. Schaefer also was able to work under Flynn and gain experience.
“My junior year at college I wrote her (Flynn) a letter asking if I could come back and finish my degree and work under her,” Schaffer said. “I wanted to work under her and learn about this job in particular and all the facets of it.”
Following Flynn as the Director of the Apache Belles also honors Schaefer.
“It’s and extreme honor. I would say that I have learned more from miss Flynn in regards to leading this group,” Schaefer said. “What we do is so unique and is so different that you can’t just go to college and learn it.”
According to a TJC press release, TJC President Dr. Mike Metke and Dr. Johnny Moore, TJC vice president of student affairs, announced that Schaefer would be the Director of the Belles beginning Feb 8.
“It was an extensive search,” Dr. Metke said. “Many people were interviewed and many were asked their advice on who should lead the Apache Belles. It always, overwhelmingly, came back to Jasilyn.”
Schaefer realizes that the world of dance is changing but believes that the Belles’ originality is what makes them stand out and will continue to sustain them.
“Dance has defiantly become more popular and more difficult with the evolution of reality shows and shows about dancing that have really peaked everyone’s interest,” Schaefer said. “I think its very important to maintain the traditions that make the Apache Belles so unique and not like every other team.”