By Rich Bockmann
Hundreds of youngsters from across the five boroughs demonstrated their moves from motion pictures at the Edward Byrne Center in South Jamaica last week during the Police Athletic League’s annual Showstoppers performing arts tournament.
With “Let’s Go to the Movies!” as their theme, fleet-footed youths from 17 PAL centers, including a strong hometown showing from the Edward Byrne Center with nearly 30 participants, spent months preparing for the dance competition.
The day also saw competitions in cheerleading and step, for which Edward Bryne’s team took first place.
Nathalie Louis, assistant director of Edward Byrne, at 116-25 Guy R. Brewer Blvd. in Jamaica, said Showstoppers is the most important event of the year for the center’s 200 or so members.
“A lot of staff and parents agree Edward Byrne is the main center for performing arts,” she said, adding that even though the center is used to taking home awards, the youngsters remain humble.
Dancers from Edward Byrne’s first-to-fourth-grade group threw their hands in the air and kicked their feet as they performed “You Can’t Stop the Beat” from the movie “Hairspray.”
Choreographer Regina Victor said she was impressed with the effort her students put into practicing and the results on stage.
“They put a lot of hard work in and their commitment and determination really showed,” she said, adding the fifth-to-eighth-graders had a tough act to follow. “The younger kids have the most energy.”
Edward Byrne’s older group chose a mix-up of songs from “Breakin’” and “Step Up 3D” for their afternoon performance.
Myshelle Williams, 11, said she and her teammates practiced for hours every day after school in preparation for the competition, but she was hard-pressed to come up with an answer when asked who had the best moves.
“It’s hard to say because we’ve got a lot of good dancers,” she said.
Alexis Madden, 12, said that all the time she and her friends spent preparing taught them about teamwork, challenging themselves and having fun.
“It’s about showing what Edward Byrne is all about,” she explained.
The judging panel was paying close attention to musicality, technique, group work, stage presence and creative use of costumes and props.
Judge Jonathan Lee, a professional dancer who has appeared in movies such as “Step Up 3D” and “Friends with Benefits,” sat on the judging panel and said an award-winning performance had to combine all those elements together.
“It’s more than technique. They’re putting on a show to entertain a crowd,” he said. “The most important thing is that they’re having fun.”
PAL Executive Director Alana Sweeny said Showstoppers Day is just one of the ways the organization tries to empower its young members.
“Not everyone’s going to be a basketball star or a great dancer. We try to get enough groups so that everyone can find something they excel in,” she said. “There’s an enormous amount of talent here.”
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.