CEDAR RAPIDS – Lynne Waggoner-Patton wants to bring her Silhouettes dancers home to Cedar Rapids, but first they have to film a video for her to take to London, then head to Caesars Palace in Las Vegas where they’ll perform Friday through Sunday.
Then they’ll head back to Arvada, Colo., to prepare a new 90-minute show to launch in Denver in January and possibly take on the road.
Offers and inquiries are pouring in after the troupe — featuring 40 dancers ages 4 to 19 — soared to a second-place finish Sept. 14 on NBC-TV’s “America’s Got Talent” competition.
“The opportunities are endless,” Waggoner-Patton, 46, says by phone from her home in Erie, Colo., as she’s putting finishing touches on the video and Vegas shows. “We’re getting hits from all over the world for the kids to perform. They’re going to have exciting lives and I want to bring them to Cedar Rapids.”
Now she just has to find financial sponsors and a venue large enough to accommodate the troupe that shot to fame dancing behind a screen, creating fluid shapes in silhouette to inspirational music. Spot colors, like a red balloon, and pictures are projected onto the front of the screen.
Celebrity judge Sharon Osbourne deemed their work “exquisite” after seeing them dance to Blessid Union of Souls’ “I Believe” on Sept. 6. Before that, Piers Morgan said their July 19 patriotic homage set to “God Bless America” was “just complete genius.”
Always known as being the tough judge, Morgan declared during a June qualifying round:
“That is one of the most brilliant things I’ve seen in a long time. I think I’ve seen everything, and then this kind of act comes out of nowhere. We all just sat back and I could hear us go ‘Wow.’”
The odyssey began in 2009, when Waggoner-Patton, a 1983 Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School graduate, formed the troupe at her studio, A Rocky Mountain School of Dance & Performing Arts in the Denver suburb of Arvada. She had been asked to create something to showcase the Mile High City in an opening ceremony for the 2009 SportAccord, which drew 1,500 people from the Olympic Committee and international sports federations and event presenters.
“They wanted the Olympic Committee to see Denver sites through pictures and dance, so I said, ‘What if we form our bodies into a picture and have that picture come up on the screen?’ It was really, really difficult, but the kids pulled it off,” she says. “We did a cityscape, a skier, the big blue bear (an iconic city sculpture), Red Rocks Amphitheatre — really great monuments for Colorado.”
“America’s Got Talent” personnel saw a video of that March 24, 2009, performance online and wanted to see more. Two years to the day later, the troupe auditioned for the popular television talent search in Minneapolis. Osbourne, Morgan and Howie Mandel were there, despite “a monster snowstorm” that delayed things a day.
“They told us they loved us, gave us a standing ovation and said, ‘We’ll definitely see you in Vegas.’ That’s not a given, though,” Waggoner-Patton says. “Over 100,000 people auditioned, so we were very lucky to get the call.”
The next step launched an emotional roller coaster.
“They tricked us,” she says. “They called us and said, ‘We’re not sure you can be a headlining act. Bring six dancers out of the 40 and do a corporate presentation to the judges.’ ”
After a hectic week developing a product and marketing strategy, she says all the acts summoned to Vegas for the same reason were brought into an auditorium.
“They made the children stand there and said, ‘You’re all going home.’ I was just devastated. I thought, ‘What have I put these children through,’ but we had prepared them for that. Then they said, ‘The reason you’re going home is because we’re pushing you through to the live shows.’”
And they were off, on a whirlwind that took an entourage of 40 dancers, 23 chaperones and their leader to Hollywood and Las Vegas, where they charmed the stage crews, judges and the viewers who determined the winners. The kids kept up with their studies through a virtual academy school online. The TV show picked up their travel and hotel tabs.
About 100 family members also followed the troupe through the studio audience, including Waggoner-Patton’s father, Larry, of Cedar Rapids. Her sister Lisa, also of Cedar Rapids, attended the finals, but sister Lori Hart of Hutchinson, Kan., had to stay home. “She runs the Kansas State Fair, which was happening during that time,” Waggoner-Patton says.
Finishing in the runner-up spot to the smooth sounds of crooner Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. wasn’t disappointing in the least.
“Someone on the red carpet asked me if it was bittersweet. There is no bitter in this process — it is all sweet,” Waggoner-Patton says.
“Second place works much better for these children. They still get to do the Caesars Palace show, they’re in the running to go back to ‘America’s Got Talent’ next year, and we can control how much the kids are going to be performing. We can take pieces of the shows out and still have the excitement.”
What about missing out on the million dollars that went to the winner?
“Second place doesn’t get money, but if we had won it, we planned to give it to homeless children in Colorado. We took the money factor out a long time ago,” she says. “We were never in it for that. …
“It was never about winning money or being famous,” she says. “It was about the journey and learning from the journey.”
For Waggoner-Patton, the journey began in her hometown.
“Growing up in Cedar Rapids gave me the strength, courage, abilities, determination and work ethic needed to take 40 children through the ‘America’s Got Talent’ journey,” she says. “Everyone from the school teachers at Pierce Elementary to Richard Barker at (Theatre Cedar Rapids) gave me knowledge, guidance and opportunity.
“Being a Cedar Rapids native truly made a difference in the outcome of this adventure. My dad brought me up with the understanding that if you work hard toward a positive goal, your life will be blessed. The Silhouettes have been truly blessed and we thank everyone for their support.”
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