The race for this year’s winner of the $1 million “America’s Got Talent” competition includes a race- and gender-bending group called Hammerstep, co-founded by former Elyria resident Garrett Coleman.
The group was chosen to continue last week after performing before a national audience. The show airs 9 p.m. tonight on NBC.
It was an incredible experience, said Coleman, who won the 2005 World Championship in Irish dancing and danced with Michael Flatley’s Riverdance group from 2006 to 2010.
After a long day waiting to perform, Coleman was worried — especially about America’s Got Talent judge Howard Stern’s rumored dislike of dance groups — but the reaction of the audience and judges was “breathtaking,” he said.
The high-energy group danced in gas masks and when they were finished, they took them off to the roar of the crowd.
“Everyone in the balcony was on their feet, and two judges — former Spice Girl Mel B and Howie Mandel — were on their feet,” he said. “I almost got emotional on stage after this 13-hour day.”
Even Stern was complimentary, Coleman said.
“He said our skill level is so high we were impossible to ignore,” Coleman said.
The progress of Hammerstep in the competition is being monitored by Coleman’s grandparents, Garrett and Geraldine Murray of Elyria.
Coleman shares a first name with his grandfather, who specialized in zoning issues as an attorney, and he frequently stays in their Gulf Road home while he is in the area.
Geraldine Murray said she last watched “America’s Got Talent,” produced by Simon Cowell’s Syco Television and FremantleMedia North America, when then-classical singer Jackie Evancho, then 10, was in the running for the prize.
She said her grandson’s group has its roots in Irish dance but also has some former street dancers.
“They’re unbelievably talented,” Murray said. “It’s decidedly a blend, but it’s still strongly Irish in parts.”
Coleman said he hopes the group he founded with former Riverdance lead dancer Jason Orames brings together dancers from hip-hop to people in a shared social mission of acceptance.
The group had its U.S. premiere at Lincoln Center, he said.
In order to pursue his dreams, Coleman, a summa cum laude graduate of the University of Dayton, turned down a six-figure sales job.
He said he is hoping the appearance on “America’s Got Talent” inspires others.
“The social mission behind it is to bring people from various backgrounds together behind a unified progressive art form that is Hammerstep — it’s a new form of dance.”
The talent show, which includes voting from a national audience, features an array of performers, including singers, dancers, comedians, contortionists, impressionists, jugglers, magicians and ventriloquists.
For more information on Hammerstep, visit www.hammerstep.com.
Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or firstname.lastname@example.org.