Arts & Culture

Cedar Rapids native bringing Silhouettes back to 'America's Got Talent: Champions'

Casting light through shadows

The Silhouettes shadow dancers, created and directed by Cedar Rapids native Lynne Waggoner-Patton, spread their message
The Silhouettes shadow dancers, created and directed by Cedar Rapids native Lynne Waggoner-Patton, spread their message of love on “America’s Got Talent: The Champions” Season 2. See the Denver-area troupe in action at 7 p.m. today on NBC-TV. The Silhouettes placed second on “America’s Got Talent” in 2011. (Trae Patton/NBC)
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The Silhouettes are again stepping out of the shadows and into the spotlight of the world’s largest stage.

The Denver-area dance troupe, created and directed by Cedar Rapids native Lynne Waggoner-Patton, will compete tonight on “America’s Got Talent: The Champions” Season 2. The episode airs at 7 p.m. on NBC-TV.

As always, the dancers will share an inspirational story through the words and shapes emerging in the shadows they cast behind a screen.

“Every performance I create is about inspiration and believing in yourself,” Waggoner-Patton said by phone from her home in Erie, Colo. “For me, and for my cast, we were able to get several messages across in this show that are really important and we feel will help benefit so many people when we’re able to use this show as a catalyst to promote awareness. I can’t thank ‘AGT Champion’ producers enough for letting me put those messages out there.

“Who gets the chance to take a craft and be able to put it on something like this — a platform as big as this — and be able to do great things with it for other people,” she said. “It just really is very fulfilling, and I can’t imagine my life without it right now.”

As Season 6 runners-up in 2011, The Silhouettes were among 40 acts invited back to compete against other winners and fan favorites from the “Got Talent” global franchise. The Silhouettes took 42 dancers to the 2011 competition, but this time narrowed the scope to 17 dancers. Ranging in age from 11 to 28, plus Waggoner-Patton, 54, they traveled to Pasadena in October to tape their 3-minute entry.

The Silhouettes came close to winning the $1 million prize in 2011 — finishing second to jazz singer Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. But if they had won, they intended to donate the money to children’s charities. That commitment has remained the same.

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Since then, various Silhouettes casts have traveled all over the world and across the United States, giving command performances for corporations and nonprofit organizations, and raising money for various causes. They’ve raised $50,000 for homeless children in the United States as well as funds for children’s health concerns, including cancer, epilepsy and Type 1 diabetes; disaster relief; and to purchase service dogs for people with health challenges such as seizure disorders.

“We’ve tried to help so much for children in need. That’s really the important part,” Waggoner-Patton said. “Although the casts change, the kids are still very blessed in the cast. It’s important to make them understand the gift of giving back with these blessings. We make sure they understand their part in this performance is to give back to children who don’t have the ability to have anything in their lives like this. ... It humbles my cast, and makes them realize that although it’s great to be on ‘America’s Got Talent’ and be on TV, it feels really good to give back, as well.”

Professional track

The Silhouettes are in such high demand that after 20 years of running a full-service competitive dance and performing arts studio, Waggoner-Patton eventually closed that school to open one focusing solely on training children ages 3 to adults for in-house performances and to aim for the professional track with The Silhouettes. They still can study everything from ballet to hip-hop, tumbling, acting, silks and more, but they’re also required to maintain a 3.0 grade-point average.

Waggoner-Patton tried for a couple of years to train both competition and recreational dancers, as well as The Silhouettes, but it “just didn’t work,” she said.

“It was too difficult for the dancers — too much on their plates,” she said. “They’re healthier in their minds, bodies and spirit doing Silhouettes as opposed to competitive dance. ... The schedule is just much better for them now.”

Dancers cycle in and out of the troupe as they first go into training and eventually go off to college. The dancers accepted for this round of “America’s Got Talent” were basically rookies, Waggoner-Patton said, and they had to sign on to train at least six hours a day, six days a week, from June through the end of October “to get them up to speed.”

Part of that training includes three hours of school, even in the summer and backstage at taping, to help train their brains to be flexible enough to change course at a moment’s notice to meet the TV’s fast-paced demands.

“You’ve got to move quickly,” she said, and handle any choreography changes she might have to create on the fly. Those skills also will help further their careers. Just as she credits all the support from her Cedar Rapids schools, dance studio, Theatre Cedar Rapids and her family, especially her father, Larry Waggoner.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be doing something like this — ever,” she said. “It’s been fun and a ride. It been hard — it hasn’t been easy. ... It’s about working hard and believing and not letting anybody tell you no. ...

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“I call it the Power of Yes. If everybody’s telling you no, just say, ‘Yes, I can do this.’”

Comments: (319) 368-8508; diana.nollen@thegazette.com

Watch it!

• What: The Silhouettes on “America’s Got Talent: The Champions”

• Creator/director: Cedar Rapids native Lynne Waggoner-Patton

• When: 7 p.m. today on NBC-TV

• Show website: nbc.com/americas-got-talent

• Artists’ website: thesilhouettes.com

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