Whooping it up, Fredericksburg native Derek Steinbring hoists dance partner Emily Walker sky high during a routine with the Aggie Wrangler dance group. The Wranglers will perform their "high-octane country dance" for free at the Stock Show Sale this Saturday in Fredericksburg.
by Phil Houseal
Back in high school, Derek Steinbring admits he "was a little bit scared" to ask a girl to dance. Now, as a senior at Texas A&M University and member of the elite Aggie Wranglers dance group, Steinbring's challenge is to accommodate all the ladies who come up and ask to dance with him.
"I'm not afraid to dance with anyone now," he said. It wasn't always that way.
Along with many of his classmates at Fredericksburg High School, Steinbring enjoyed going out to Luckenbach and taking a turn around the dance floor. As he said, "I thought I could dance before." But when he stepped on campus at A&M in the summer of 2005, he was amazed by what the Aggie Wranglers could do. So he took all the dance classes they offered.
Those were the first steps of his journey to join the group. He recruited his girlfriend, Emily Walker, to be his dance partner, and they started practicing. The following year, they became one of six out of 16 auditioning couples to join the 22-member group. It was then that the real work began.
The Aggie Wranglers stay on campus throughout the summer, learning routines. Steinbring estimates they rehearse five to six hours a day during the week, then 10 hours on Saturday, plus performing for freshmen on campus for Fish Camps.
They rehearse and perform year round, and also incidentally go to school. Steinbring is majoring in Animal Science with a minor in Pre-Dental; Walker is a Pre-Med student. He also works two jobs.
As with all things A&M, being an Aggie goes beyond wearing a logo on a sweatshirt. Steinbring, who arrived as a college freshman looking for ways to get involved in campus life, now loves spreading the spirit of Texas A&M through country western dance. He has traveled the world, danced for kings and presidents, and met sports and music legends.
"One of my freshman advisors told me to never let my schooling get in the way of my education," Steinbring said. "I took that to heart. I always realized that managing my time and my studies are my number one priority, but I also try not to get so bogged down in schoolwork that I lose sight of that. I am here to get an education, but you also can get an education not found in the schoolbooks."
Steinbring and the Aggie Wranglers will be at the Gillespie County Fair Grounds to put on a demonstration of their kicks, lifts, and fancy steps for the Stock Show Sale.
The dancing these college kids do is unlike any you might encounter at Turner Hall. Steinbring used phrases like "high-speed polka," "high-octane country," and "Aggie-style jitterbug." Sometimes it appears to be "cowboy ballet ." Watching clips online (youtube.com/user/aggiewranglers), you'll see lots of flips, twists, and coeds flying through the air. This being Texas, the gals even lift the guys ("My partner will put me into a triple cartwheel," Steinbring said. "She actually holds 200 pounds of me at one time.").
Steinbring invites all his old friends to come out on Saturday to watch the young men and women dance. The performances are free, and often include a few dance lessons after the 15-minute routine.
"It is a sight to see," he said. "The choreography, the unity, the routines - the stuff you see us do is something you don't see every day."
These days, the only fear Steinbring senses might be from the audience. "Some of the moves will make your jaw drop," he explained. "It never gets old."