Local dancers headed to ‘America’s Got Talent’

Photos by Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Madyson Hurst, 11, of Jasper, left, and Sarah Wagler, 18, of Loogootee, rehearse with the Dance Central Academy Senior Stompers at the DCA studio in Jasper on Wednesday. The seven-member dance team is preparing to audition for the television show "America's Got Talent" in Louisville on Tuesday. The dancers dress as nerds in their clogging routine.

By ALLEN LAMAN
alaman@dcherald.com

JASPER — This is your chance to say you knew them before they were famous.

Their journey started at Dance Central Academy of Perforning Arts in Jasper more than a year ago, and in less than a week, they’ll be auditioning for a spot on one of the most popular television shows in the country.

See more rehearsal photos here

Maybe you’re already familiar with the DCA Senior Stompers. The seven-member clogging team has received national acclaim for its totally nerdy routine, after all.

Ainsley Small, 17, of Jasper, center, rehearses with the Dance Central Academy Senior Stompers at the DCA studio in Jasper on Wednesday. The seven-member dance team is preparing to audition for the television show America's Got Talent in Louisville on Tuesday. The dancers dress as nerds in their clogging routine.

Tuesday, the squad will take to the Kentucky International Convention Center in Louisville, dressed in tube socks and plaid shorts hoisted up by suspenders, with the hopes of scoring a ticket to the second round of “America’s Got Talent.”

But even if they don’t move on and dance before the likes of Simon Cowell, Howie Mandel and Gabrielle Union, they’ll still be geeked that they tried.

“It’s a chance of a lifetime to get to go,” said Carolyn Randolph, owner and director of Dance Central. “And even if this is all they get to do, it doesn’t matter. It was fun practicing, it’s fun getting together to go, and to be there will be a lot of fun, too.”

Set to “The Big Bang Theory” theme song and Huey Lewis and the News’ “Hip to Be Square,” the group of dancers — who span from a sixth-grader to college freshman — have formed a close-knit bond during the past 15 months. Through their award-winning performance, the cloggers mash their percussive shoes to dances like the Macarena, Nae Nae, and moves made popular by the video game Fortnite.

The local stompers have earned accolades and special distinctions at many competitions during the past year. In July, at the “Applause Talent” nationals contest in St. Louis, the girls brought home the award for most entertaining act.

Karis Wigand, 14, has danced since she was 5 years old. She said some dances just aren’t as fun as others. That’s not the case with this 90-second number. Behind their thick-framed glasses (held together with perfunctory nerd athletic tape) and pigtails, the girls are encouraged to act goofy and transform into some of the most coordinated geeks you’ll ever see.

“You get to be a character,” Karis explained. “In most other dances, you’re just yourself. You don’t get to express anything. This one, you get to be a completely different person.”

Addison Randolph, 10, of Jasper, waits to practice her solo clogging routine during the Dance Central Academy Senior Stompers' rehearsal at the DCA studio in Jasper on Wednesday. Randolph is preparing to audition for the television show America's Got Talent with the DCA Senior Stompers in Louisville on Tuesday.

Every dancer interviewed for this story is a fan of “America’s Got Talent.” They know the drill: open auditions held across the country weed out most of the performers, and from there, a televised callback round further cuts down the entrants. The remaining talent then performs on live episodes that are broadcast on NBC as acts of all kinds vie for a million-dollar prize.

If the DCA Senior Stompers don’t make it to Round 2, airtime is still a possibility. Carolyn explained that pre-recorded clips from the first auditions are shown early in the season.
The girls won’t know if they’ve advanced for a while. Performers moving forward in the contest will be notified by the end of March.

The group is made up of Karis, Ainsley Small, Megan Jung, Madyson Hurst, Hannah Seifert, Sarah Wagler and AzLeigh Young.

Carolyn’s daughter, Addison, is also auditioning individually for a spot on the televised talent show contest. She will perform a solo clogging dance set to the song “Freedom,” by Pitbull.

Zoie Warner, who dances at the local studio and will be attending next week’s auditions in an emotional-support role, said there’s no one more deserving of the opportunity than her friends.

“Because I know all my friends work super hard at dancing,” said Zoie, 11. “For me to be there and to see it through with them, to be able to just give them a hug before and after and cheer them on, that’s really important.”




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