A group of dancers from the New London area will be getting some national exposure tonight as they perform live on a BET program.
WTO, or We’re The Ones, will appear at 6 p.m. on 106 & Park during the “Wild Out Wednesday” portion of the show. According to the show's website, this weekly segment features three artists or groups in hip hop, R&B, or step and dance competitions performing before a live audience. Viewers vote for their favorite performance, and the winners return for an all-star showdown.
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Todd Belcher, who founded the group in his sophomore year at New London High School, said he has been watching 106 & Park for several years and was excited to get a chance to perform on the show.
“I know for a fact that [today]’s going to be one of the greatest days in my life,” he said.
The start of the group
Belcher said he has been dancing since he was three years old. He did so by studying the moves of Michael Jackson and other talented dancers and musicians.
“Ever since I saw him do the moonwalk I knew I wanted to be a dancer,” he said.
Belcher and fellow WTO member Kevin Mendez, both 20, attended NLHS before finishing their education at New London Adult Education. Mendez said he was also self-taught.
“I’ve always wanted to dance on stage and do something for people to know me,” he said.
Anthony Mark Attinello, Jr., a 19-year-old Grasso Tech graduate, got into dancing after a friend showed him a video of an impressive dance routine. He adds a break-dancing element to the five-man group and also picked up the skill through independent study.
“It’s just practicing and YouTube videos, that’s it,” he said.
Auditioning for BET
Since its formation, WTO has performed in the first two New London Youth Talent Shows as well as Sailfest and local schools and shows. Belcher said that when 106 & Park invited groups to audition to be on the show, the group rose to the challenge. Last week, they drove to New York City and waited to perform alongside numerous other groups.
“I would give it like a good 10, 15 dance crews that were from Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, all throughout the New England area,” said Mendez.
After an hour and a half in the green room, it was WTO’s time to show their moves.
“We ended up freestyling, because we were more comfortable that way,” said Attinello. “The reaction form the judges was really good. We did something they’d never seen before.”
Belcher said Omar Grant, a BET producer, told them after the performance that they should stay by their phones.
“Literally the next day, around 2 o’clock, we all got the call that we would go on the show,” said Belcher.
On Tuesday, members of the group met at Writer’s Block Ink to practice. WTO works these sessions around their busy schedules of work, school, and family matters, but if they can get together they’ll practice for hours at a time.
Belcher said that if the group wins out of today’s performers and goes on to win the “March Madness” competition, they’ll receive $5,000, a trophy, and a sponsor. However, the group is also hoping the performance will win wider recognition for themselves and the area.
“It’s to show that Connecticut does have talent, New London does have talent,” said Mendez.
“I’m hoping it opens up the doors to a lot more opportunities and just getting my name out there,” said Attinello.
WTO’s acronym has been referred to as “We’re Too Original,” but Belcher said “We’re The Ones” is meant to convey a message to youth in the region.
“We’re trying to get the word out to New London and everyone else that if you have a dream, pursue it,” he said. “Don’t worry about what everyone else says.”
Mendez said he hopes to inspire people to take up dancing, saying everyone has the ability to add their own unique style to the activity.
“It’s not a hobby. It’s not a sport you do for a season,” he added. “It’s something you do every day.”
Belcher said WTO hopes to bring in new members in the spring and start teaching classes at Writer’s Block Ink this summer.