Houston native, Sharon Salvato Toups Celebrates 20-Year Anniversary as Founder of Award-Winning, Lil’ Wranglers® and Elite Wranglers®
Performance group are regular halftime entertainers for Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, and the Harlem Globetrotters
They will be performing at Graceland in Memphis this summer along with the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville
A bit of history……. Wrangler Traditions Start Early: Locations include Houston, College Station, Dallas, Waxahachie
The award-winning Lil’ Wranglers® and Elite Wranglers ® continue to entertain audiences all over the State of Texas and beyond, just as they have for the past 20 years.
Under the direction of founder, Sharon Salvato Toups, former Aggie Wrangler, Texas A&M class of ’89, the Lil’ and Elite Wranglers range in age from 5-18 years old. These highly-skilled dancers perform signature stylized country & western jitterbug as well as swing dance moves that entertain and deliver big Texas smiles to the faces of audiences everywhere.
Some notable performances have included LIVE at the Austin Rodeo with Aaron Watson, DisneyWorld, Branson, Dollywood, Sea World, Royal Carribbean Cruise lines, and many others. They were honored to represent Texas in the 58th Presidential Inaugural Parade, and were featured entertainment at the Texas State Society Inaugural Ball in Washington, D.C.
BEHIND THE SCENES with Sharon Toups, Director Lil’ Wranglers®/ Elite Wranglers®/ Wrangler 101(SM)
How did you first become involved with the Wranglers & what did you like about it? I lost my Father in 1997 and was a stay at home Mom, at the time. I fell into a deep depression and knew I needed to find my way out. I founded the organization in 1999 when I saw the potential for a youth country & western dance partnership between my two young children, Seth (7) and Sarah (4). I called up several friends and we got 4 little couples together to form our first team. I loved the idea of teaching young people to work within a partnership from such a young age. To learn to communicate and cooperate within a partnership and team is definitely a life skill.
Share how your role with the organization evolved over the years? Today, I serve as the National Director, overseeing the Regional Directors for each of our 4 locations in Texas. A few years ago, we received many calls for our group to start programs in other cities like Dallas and Houston, so we answered the call. We are now in Houston, Dallas, Waxahachie, and searching for a location in the Hill Country.
What are ages of participants & what are they learning to do? They range in age from 5-18 years and learn many different aspects of partnering dance skills. They learn our specific Country & Western dance through the Polka, the Two Step, Swing and the Waltz. They train in fundamentals and jitterbug moves on a weekly basis to gain muscle memory and strength.
Where do they get to perform & how often? They perform all over the State of Texas and beyond with approximately 50-100 performance opportunities per year. We take free performance requests and try to fill each one as they come in. It’s rare that we cannot make a performance unless we are already booked.
Notable appearances? Top of the list is representing Texas as 1 of only 2 groups chosen and recommended by our Senators to march in the Presidential Inaugural Parade for President Trump. Also featured at the Black Tie and Boots Inaugural Ball representing Texas. Second would probably be our Austin Rodeo performance on the dirt while Aaron Watson played his song, “Outta Style” live on stage.
Favorite thing about being part of this? I’ve danced many styles since I was 5 years old, and this style is my absolute favorite. It’s truly so rewarding to create choreography and share my knowledge with all of my students who can use this style for the rest of their lives. It is also wonderful to share the joy of this program with so many wonderful families.
BEHIND THE SCENES with Seth Toups, Regional Director for North Houston, Assistant Director for Lil’ Wranglers®, Choreographer for Elite Wranglers® team
Share about how this organization has impacted your life? This program has been a part of my life since I was 7 years old. Obviously, it played a major role in my development. Learning to dance at a young age is never a bad thing. I probably would not have impressed my wife as much if I could not dance. This organization provided me opportunities to work intimately with directors, producers, and country musicians. It has also been a creative outlet for me to experiment with new ideas. Finally, this organization has introduced me to thousands of great people, many of whom have become lifelong friends. It is hard to picture my life without being involved in Lil’ Wranglers.
Do you have a favorite memory? There are many memories that come to mind when I think back throughout my time as a Lil’ Wrangler, Elite Wrangler, Aggie Wrangler, Wrangler Instructor, and choreographer.
All of my favorite memories have a consistent theme: I enjoy pushing limits, trying moves that are rarely attempted, that are too wild, or that are too dangerous. I thoroughly enjoy the struggle of the creative process. Everything I do, or teach, is trying to win over the audience, whether it’s at a national dance competition or behind the scenes of a music video shoot.
What do you see for the future of the Wranglers? The program will likely expand to more cities across Texas as the LW/EW alumni base continues to grow in number and mature in age. I expect the program will continue to influence young people’s lives and eventually become a household name across Texas as an extra-curricular activity.
Also, I anticipate the program will have more performances in large US venues and a few more performances internationally as recognition continues to grow.
For more details, go to https://lil-wranglers.com/.