West Springfield dance team returns from ‘America’s Got Talent’ stint

September 21, 2011

After a series of successes on the reality TV show “America’s Got Talent,” the West Springfield High School dance team returned home Aug. 8 to share its experience with family, friends and fans.

The team was selected to perform on NBC’s vote-in variety show competition after submitting a YouTube video of a school routine.

“We just decided, when we got back from our [National Dance Alliance] tournament [in March] that we should see if we could get on ‘America’s Got Talent,’ ” said dance team coach Jason King. “We really had no goal in what we were doing. We just wanted to get some exposure for the team.”

On Aug. 14, big band crooner Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. was announced as the winner of the show’s sixth season, defeating the preteen band PopLyfe and dance groups Team iLuminate and the Silhouettes. West Springfield’s 17-member dance team made it to the finals before being eliminated from competition, which featured 54 acts.

Although the team had its first dance routine prepared for the New York-based competition, its coaches said they were not expecting a four-performance stint on the nationwide show.

“After the first show, we had to come up with new routines each week and teach it,” said coach Tara Perez, who took the reins of the team 10 years ago.

“The pace is very fast. It’s television. . . . We’ve never had to work that fast. They basically needed everything yesterday,” said King, who has coached the team for six years.

The coaches attributed the team’s success to a fierce fan following and sticking to what their students do well.

“We wanted to be us and not do a cookie-cutter performance,” King said. “You don’t always have to stay in bounds. You can do something different.”

“America’s Got Talent” is judged by such pop-culture figures as Sharon Osbourne, wife of Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne; CNN’s Piers Morgan; and “Deal or No Deal” host Howie Mandel. The judges offer feedback on performances, though viewers decide the fate of performing groups or individuals, whose talents this year included singing and dancing, motorcycle tricks and magic acts.

West Springfield’s last routine on the show brought students to the stage dressed as vampires, with white-gray wigs and black suits.

“We thought it went over great,” Perez said. “I know one of the judges commented that we were predictable, but the judges sometimes would contradict themselves. They’d say, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing’ and then say, ‘You’re predictable.’ ”

But the team is happy with its success on the show. Coaches said they did not expect to gain admittance to the competition, let alone reach the finals.

Although they are out of the running, the team still has a shot at traveling on tour with the winning acts. Votes can be cast on NBC’s Web site for “America’s Got Talent,” which could aid the team in being added to the list of tour acts.

“The biggest thing about this team is they are all really humble,” Perez said. “They’re all really good kids. They are truly like one big family.”

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