Pittsfield's Youth Alive Step Team and Drum Corps to audition at Apollo Theater


PITTSFIELD -- Pittsfield's Youth Alive Step Team and Drum Corps hope to make it from Pittsfield to the White House one day.

But first, they're working on making it in Harlem.

On Friday, about a dozen high school-age members of Youth Alive will head to New York City so they can be at the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem by 6 a.m. on Saturday. There, they will join the throngs of hopefuls planning to audition for a spot in the spring lineup for Apollo's Amateur Night live show. Amateur Night is also featured on a BET television series called Apollo Live hosted by Tony Rock.

"We have a dream goal of getting to the White House to perform," said Youth Alive step dance coach Destiny Saunders.

Saunders began dancing with the group when she was 16. Now 25, the graduate of Pittsfield High School and Mitchell College in New London, Conn., has been helping coach the team for the past five years. The step group often performs with the drum corps, coached by Jerome Edgerton.

"I'm really proud of this group. We all want to allow these kids, with this much talent, to show what they can do, let their talents expand and be known," said Saunders. "The Apollo would mean we'd be one step from our goal, one step from our dream."

Youth Alive will have 90 seconds to show off their synchronized step and drum skills to the judges, and will find out on the spot whether they'll be invited back to perform for Amateur Night.

In addition to putting in a lot of practice, Saunders has also been looking to put the kids in new uniforms. The entire team has been working on fundraising for the trip.

Youth Alive supervisor Shirley Edgerton said the group has to raise about $500 by the end of the week to cover all the team's food, travel, lodging, and uniform expenses.

"[The youths] are ecstatic at the opportunity to audition at a venue where many legendary entertainers began their careers," said Edgerton.

She also described the trip as an educational experience.

"They are continuing to learn valuable life lessons and skills. Some haven't traveled to New York City, others haven't ridden a subway, others don't know the historical significance of Harlem. There will be so many firsts on this trip," she said.

This isn't the first time Youth Alive has worked to gain national attention. A few year's back, the group did a preliminary audition for the NBC television show, "America's Got Talent."

Back in November, Youth Alive Step Team member Michelle Atiemo also did an impromptu step routine from the audience of the CNN show "Anderson Live!" A video of her performance and interview can be seen at http://bit.ly/UwM7DC.

To donate to Youth Alive: Make checks payable to Youth Alive. Send them to Youth Alive, 57 Myrtle St., Pittsfield, MA 01201.


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