In its 125-year history, the Garde Arts Center has seen a lot of great performances—and Friday night’s New London Youth Talent Show was right up there.
The show got off to a late start not because the performers weren’t ready, but because the line of people waiting to buy tickets was so long. Event organizers had been confident the show would draw a sizable audience because 900 people had bought tickets in advance. Still, they never imagined they’d pack the house.
“We’ve got 1,400 people in here and we’ve still got people standing!” said Curtis Goodwin, 24, who helped organize the show.
It may have been an amateur production but all 55 performers had worked hard to earn their place in the spotlight. If any of the singers, dancers, poets, rappers, and musicians participating had any pre-performance jitters, they didn’t show it.
“This is our first performance. It’s been one of our goals to get on stage,” said 19-year-old Alex “A.G.” Grimotes, of the hip-hop/R&B duo The Hearttaker Boyz. “It’s a very good way to get our name out there,” agreed his partner in rhyme, fast-flow rapper Teaurean “T. Real” Nolan, 19.
The performers couldn’t have asked for a more enthusiastic crowd. The audience was packed with young people who became as much a part of the show as the 55 performers on stage. They clapped to the beat, waved their hands in the air, whooped and cheered for their classmates and friends. Despite a few technical hitches, local comedian Dame FK kept the show going and the energy high with jokes and shout outs in response to tweets from the audience.
Dance groups JMD, Twist, Epic Dance Crew, Latin Heat, IKOD, and WTO wowed the crowd with hot Latin dance and Hip-Hop routines, break-dancing and gymnastic flips. Jessie Bostick channeled Michael Jackson and got a lot of help from his friends; D’Andrea Knox took an avant-garde approach and blended mime with modern dance; and IKod’s youngest member, who couldn’t have been more than 10, was a definite scene stealer.
The musicians were equally strong, with performances by Claudia Perez, Flavor Conclusion, Sara Buscetto (New London City Councilor Michael Buscetto’s daughter), Kirshon Augmon, Frank Colmenares, Justin "Jus Cuz" Dozier, Hearttaker Boyz, Andrianna Mendoza, Ariana-Marie Samper, Kathiana Celestin, Andrew Camacho, and Fresco Fred.
Although the crowd was roaring from the get-go, the evening began quietly with a moving poem by Shariena Hill to set the theme for the night, speaking of the hurdles young people face and the dreams they need to believe in to keep going. For event organizer, 21-year-old Colmenares, last night’s show was the realization of a long-held dream of his own.
As a founding member of the Writer’s Block program, Colmenares had been pushing for an event to showcase the talents of local teens. Sadly, it took a tragedy to make it happen. Formed in the wake of Matthew Chew’s murder at the hands of local teens, the New London Anti-Violence Group was looking for a way to engage the city’s youth. At the group’s founding meeting, Colmenares suggested a talent show as a way to provide a creative outlet for young people and bring them positive public attention for a change.
New London Police Officer Anthony Nolan, who helped organize the event, was on board right from the start. “Our kids are very talented and have unknown skills because there is no place to show them,” says Nolan. Pulling together such a big event in just two months was no mean feat but for the show’s organizers, last night made it all worthwhile.
“I think it’s great that there was initiative to make this happen,” said New London City Councilor Robert Pero, who attended the event. “Kids in our community have talent. They really put their heart and souls into this.”