By Cassidy Pate, News Editor
When it comes to the name Dahlston Delgado, there are few words that live up to the career path he has paved for himself in just 16 years as a choreographer. From Belton to Broadway, flying across the world to making a special appearance on Netflix’s popular show, “Cheer,” Delgado’s career spans the globe and has no sign of slowing down any time soon.
A Belton native, Delgado graduated from Belton High School in 2007. He began cheering in seventh grade at Belton Junior High School and continued his school cheerleading career through his junior year.
At the age of 17, Delgado took his first choreography job outside of the gyms he worked at, at East Texas All Stars.
“I still work with them, and we still joke because when she hired me, she didn’t know how old I was, and I was 17 at the time, and so here I was choreographing girls that were older than me,” Delgado said.
When his senior year rolled around, his parents gave him a choice: travel to Dallas three times a week to compete with the top team at Spirit of Texas or continue cheering for BHS.
“I kind of gave up everything at the school to start traveling to Spirit,” Delgado said.
His competitive cheer career began at Extreme Cheer & Tumble, and he started working as a coach and choreographer at Extreme in 2004. Following this, Delgado’s mother, Dawn, drove him to Cheer Station in Austin to compete on a higher level for his freshman, sophomore and junior years.
After graduation, Delgado moved to Dallas to work, and 2008 was when choreography became his full-time career, as he began taking on new clients and traveling for choreography.
“I cheered and coached until I tried out for Broadway in 2011,” Delgado said.
Upon receiving a swing role in “Bring It On: The Musical,” Delgado moved to New York for two years, which also meant taking a break from teaching choreography to learn someone else’s steps for a change.
Belton’s Elayne Kaufman met Delgado when he was in high school but had heard of him through the cheerleading grapevine, as there were few men who tried out for school cheerleading at the time. Kaufman served as the varsity cheerleading sponsor at BHS and continues to support Delgado in any way she can, which includes watching him in “Bring It On: The Musical” five times in four different places during its national tour and Broadway run.
“It’s been an adventure; he broke my heart the end of his junior year when he quit, but I think I’ve supported him thoroughly; I love following him all over the country, literally,” Kaufman said.
When he returned from New York, Delgado’s choreography picked up where it left off. He now choreographs roughly between 75 to 85 routines a year, including high school, college and All-Star cheer routines, traveling as far as England, Puerto Rico and Canada, as well as throughout the U.S. to do so.
“I live on an airplane,” Delgado joked.
Never losing sight of where he started, Delgado remains Extreme Cheer & Tumble’s choreographer and often visits Belton to see his family. In 2019, Delgado led the Belton High School cheerleaders to first place at National Cheerleaders Association (NCA) High School Nationals.
“Having Dahlston continue to be a part of Extreme means the world to our All-Star program. As busy as his schedule is, he has always made time for Extreme,” Owner of Extreme Cheer & Tumble Bridget Wiley said. “No matter Dahlston’s huge success he has always remained humble. Dahlston is and always will be a Belton Tiger at heart!”
Delgado said he has gained confidence and developed personal trust throughout his time as a choreographer. In the beginning, he would worry about whether or not he was doing the right things to set his teams up for success; now, having choreographed numerous national and world champion routines, he goes into choreography knowing he has what it takes.
In 2019, five out of ten of the teams Delgado choreographed routines for won first place at NCA College Nationals in Daytona, FL., and Texas Tech University Large Coed received the highest score of the competition with Delgado’s choreography.
“I tried to not do anybody that competes against each other; that’s the only competition where I’ll only do one in each division, so I took 10, and I won five, which is good,” Delgado said.
Each of these ten schools have remained Delgado’s clients for the current season, one of which is the infamous Navarro College – who won first place in their division – that has gained popularity through the Netflix show “Cheer,” a docuseries detailing the work ethic, drive and dedication it takes to succeed in the world of collegiate cheerleading.
Although he had assisted with Navarro’s choreography in the past, last year was the first year he did it alone. With the added pressure of a Netflix show, it was also one of the only times he got nervous going into choreography.
“At the beginning, whenever I first met the producers, you never know what type of angle they were going to take it; it could have gone a completely different way, but we were super happy with how it came out,” Delgado said.
And the world seemed to agree, as Delgado woke up to 300 messages the day after its release.
“We didn’t think that it would blow up this big; I don’t think that anybody did, but it’s been crazy,” Delgado said.
Having been on Broadway, Netflix and traveled across the world, it is hard to imagine where Delgado’s next dream will take him, which begs the question: what’s next?
“Hopefully not teaching eight counts,” Delgado joked.
Although his plans for the future are not set in stone, Delgado said he will definitely continue doing choreography.
“I’m for sure going to keep doing my thing with choreography; I’ve thought, every time I visit New York I’ve thought ‘I’m going to try out again,’ like I have to at least be in one more,” Delgado said. “I’ve always told myself that I want to choreograph a musical one day just to like have the best of both worlds.”
Wherever his journey takes him, those close to Delgado are confident that he will remain on top.
“He’s very talented at what he does, and he’s a natural, so every motion he does he makes it look ten times better; everything he does, everything is clean, everything is precise,” Jasmine Robertson, former athlete of Delgado and coach at Extreme Cheer & Tumble, said. “His work speaks for itself, so it was awesome to see that on the Netflix show like I knew immediately, ‘oh, that’s Dahlston’s.’”
It is through his distinct style that his name has become well-known in the sport of cheerleading. Likewise, the success and fortitude of his company, Dahlston Delgado Choreography, has established itself by the reputation he has built.