Written by William Keiser, Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator of the Dance Institute of Washington
On Sunday, November 15th, ten talented performers, aged 6-18, took the virtual “stage” for an evening of performance broadcast to an audience of over 50 watchers. This was the Dance Institute of Washington (DIW)’s fourth annual Youth Talent Showcase, an opportunity started in 2016 to provide an uplifting platform for youth who are eager to showcase their talent, who then receive feedback from experienced judges. While this event is usually a big in-person evening, complete with balloons, a charismatic emcee, and families bustling in and out of DIW’s flagship 14th street building, this year, the action was substantially more confined, but no less dynamic.
These performances were of varied disciplines; in the first half, we saw dance, acting, and some guitar playing and singing. In the second was rap, modeling, comedy, rock music, and spoken word poetry. After the show, the performers all hopped on a special zoom call to receive personal feedback from the judges: dance teacher Edwin Sorto, model/creative director Yoii Moore, musician Sean Isler, choreographer Shalyce Hemby, and hip-hop vocalist Cleva Thoughts. They announced first and second place winners in each category, but the spirit of the event was more of personal growth and expression than of competition.
For the performers, most of whom have been cooped up in restrictive quarantines for the past seven months, just having the chance to perform is extremely meaningful. Fatima Diop, sister of Adelina Diop, a DIW student, performed Sunday in the Youth Talent Showcase for the fourth time. Her persistence paid off. Her rendition of “Don’t Stop Believing” was technically proficient and emotionally moving. She received 2nd place in the teens’ category and the opportunity to make a professional film with video production company DLE Vision. Fatima’s and Adelina’s mother writes, “I’m so proud of Fatima and of her perseverance and accomplishments. She is truly developing her gift and this is an amazing opportunity is presenting for her. She thanks DIW and DLE for the opportunity to further develop her talent.”
In the kids’ division, first place went to Raegen Coby, with a contemporary and hip hop dance routine. Second place was awarded to Fly Zyah, whose raps covered subjects of injustice and Black Lives Matter protests. In the teens’ division, first place was awarded to 18-year-old Morelys Urbano, whose beautiful and hard-hitting spoken word poem spoke about migration.
On the kids’ and judges’ zoom call to dispense feedback and answer questions, judge Edwin Sorto summarized the evening best. “There’s only one of you in the world and everybody here needs to see you,” he explains. 10 participants, 5 judges, 10 videos, 44 minutes, and $326 raised in donations for the Dance Institute of Washington later, we are in agreement.
If you would like to enjoy these inspiring performances, we encourage you to watch them here.