Young dancers will have to be on their toes in more ways than one during this weekend’s Talent On Parade competition at the Orpheum Theatre.
That’s because organizer and promoter Kim McCluer has come up with some impromptu challenges to throw at the competitors, who range in age from 7 to 19 and come from Kansas and 14 other states.
“It’s kind of a new concept,” McCleur said. “With all the (reality TV) game shows, we wanted to bring that to dance.”
During what’s known as the audition portion of the competition, for instance, judges will teach the dancers different step combinations, then award bonus points based on how quickly the kids pick up the moves.
The competition will allow dance fans to see some young dancers who, if past TOP events are any indication, may go on to bigger things, McCluer said.
“We’ve had kids dancing on Broadway, in shows in Vegas and on TV,” she said. “We’ve been at it long enough to see these kids go on to do some pretty amazing things.”
McCluer is a former Wichita public school teacher who had worked as both a dancer and choreographer before starting TOP 18 years ago.
“Wichita was a small enough market that a lot of the dance competitions at the time weren’t coming through here,” she said.
She first expanded into nearby cities such as Joplin, Des Moines and Lincoln, Neb. The schedule for 2015 currently has 28 stops, stretching from Redondo Beach, Calif., to Kalamazoo, Mich. McCluer’s husband, Eric, now works full time in the business as well.
In addition to competitions, TOP hosts dance camps, workshops and a summer show in Branson, Mo.
The 80 dancers in this weekend’s competition will be broken up into groups of teens and pre-teens. McCluer said they were invited to the competition based on previous TOP events.
“They have either won a regional competition or placed,” she said.
McCluer said many hope to go into dance as adults.
“We literally saw 17,000 (dancers) on the road. Out of those kids, I would say probably 2 percent have that true aspiration. This kind of skims off those kids that maybe have an interest in that.”
Tickets to the TOP competition cost $12 and are good for admittance to both day’s events. The audition segment is from 5-8 p.m. Friday. Saturday’s lineup includes an improvisation challenge from 9 to 11:30 a.m., and the prepared solos dance competition from 1 to 5 p.m.
The bulk of points are awarded for the prepared solo portion, when dancers have up to three minutes to impress the judges, who are dance professionals from Dallas, Las Vegas and Kansas City. The top prize in each age group is $2,000.
McCluer hopes her reality TV-inspired competition plays well with contestants. She says TV shows that feature dance competitions have definitely impacted her business.
“ ‘So You Think Can Dance’ has probably had the biggest influence,” she said. “Many of the kids who are on that show have been through dance competition. Some shows, like ‘Dance Moms,’ are not so positive.”
If You Go
Talent On Parade Solo Dance Challenge
When: 5-8 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Saturday (awards start at 7:45 p.m.)
Where: The Orpheum, 200 N. Broadway
Tickets: $12 ages 13 and up, ages 12 and under free; selectaseat.com.