Meridian area students prepare for America's Got Talent audition Dancers hone their skills, passion for praise

Dave Bohrer / The Meridian Star

Jontavia Clark stands in front of a column of students who dance in Unity, a local praise dance group slated to audition for America's Got Talent.

Seven Meridian area students are headed to Houston later this week to audition for America’s Got Talent.

Janet Moore, of Meridian, has been helping students to practice praise dance since 2013. Just recently they sent in a demo recording to America’s Got Talent, capturing their praise dance to Kirk Franklin’s “More Than I Can Bear,” Moore said. After receiving affirmative feedback, they scheduled an audition with America’s Got Talent for Friday night at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. Moore said they will also be doing a session on Thursday for an America’s Got Talent commercial. Moore will accompany them.

Moore has also worked with the students on African dance, but it’s the praise dance that they’ll be auditioning for with America’s Got Talent. As Moore reflected on the dance recently, she noted the importance of connecting movement with meaning.

“You’re moving to the words of the beat or the song,” he said. “If I’m singing praise to God, I’m doing a movement to praise to God … Everything has a meaning when it comes to African (dance), and everything has a meaning when it comes to spiritual music. It’s taking the meaning of the words and the beats and putting it into action.”

Describing praise dancing itself, Moore said, “You’re gracefully moving to spiritual music.”

Moore said the dancing began with just a few children and then grew to about 20.

“I was at a park with a few other children, praise dancing, and other kids just wanted to join in,” she said.

Moore started directing — or choreographing — the children as a parent.

“It started with me and my son, and one of the other little girls, and it just went on from there,” she said.

As the children practiced the dance, on a recent afternoon at the Velma Young Community Center, they clearly used movement to convey emotions and to create careful praise themes. Religious faith also pervaded their work.

“We try to let the young kids know that there’s nothing wrong with praising the Lord,” said Jontavia Clark, a Meridian High School junior.

And focus, said Davone Chambers, was key to the performance.

Meridian area students prepare for America's Got Talent audition Dancers hone their skills, passion for praise

Dave Bohrer / The Meridian Star

Some of the students who form the troupe Unity partake in praise dance practice Monday afternoon at the Velma Young Community Center. Back row, left to right: Jasmine Carter, Davone Chambers, Ajaiana Brooks, Jontavia Clark and Darryl Johnson. In front: Jajuan Smith.

“I just let everything go,” said Davone, a student at Northwest Middle School.

The students also talked about channeling emotion with their dance.

“When you feel it, it just shows up in your movements,” said Darryl Johnson, a Meridian High School sophomore.

The students’ dance, as they practiced, was filled with gestures such as reaching into the air and sometimes stooping over, to embody the sense of feeling a burden.

Meridian area students prepare for America's Got Talent audition Dancers hone their skills, passion for praise

Dave Bohrer / The Meridian Star

Some of the members of the local praise dance group called Unity are headed to Houston to audition for America's Got Talent. From left: Jasmine Carter, Davone Chambers, Darryl Johnson, Janet Moore, Jontavia Clark, Jajuan Smith and Ajaiana Brooks. Not pictured, but attending the audition: Tenaj Moore.

“We’re usually dancing in front of churches, and it’s a smaller crowd,” said Jasmine Carter, a student at Community Christian School. But she said she thought the students would lose themselves in the whole experience of the dance — even in front of a new or large audience.

“And we always pray before we do anything,” Davone Chambers added.

Parents also came to watch the students practice, including Denise Johnson, Darryl's mother, who noted the importance of creative activities to engage students.

“When we moved here is when we met Ms. Moore,” she said, “and he has been with them ever since.”

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