Singing, dancing, optical rings: America’s Got Talent auditions held downtown


Video by Nicholas Serpa

Downtown Phoenix may be beginning to cool down, but the stars for the 11th season of “America’s Got Talent” are just warming up.

The show has already started auditions for next season, and Phoenix was on the list of audition cities for the first time ever.

The auditions took place at the Phoenix Convention Center on Thursday, and the variety show held true to its name. Among those in attendance were singers, dancers, guitar players, piano players, magicians, comedians and more. Those young and old came to display their talents for a chance to later appear in front of the celebrity judges Howie Mandel, Mel B, Heidi Klum, and, for the first time ever, Simon Cowell, former “American Idol” judge and current “Britain’s Got Talent” judge.

This season’s group of judges was not at this preliminary audition, but contestants who passed the qualifying round on Thursday will have a chance to audition in front of the panel this spring.

One young girl named Jaelyn Juniel sang “Rockin’ Robin” by the Jackson 5 for her audition. Juniel said she was excited to be auditioning for the show and said she was inspired by what she had seen on YouTube.

“I’ve always been seeing all the things on YouTube,” Juniel said. “I was like, ‘Mom, you should sign me up for this.’ She was like, ‘OK, fine.’ Then she signed me up for it, and I was like, ‘Ok, yes!’”

Juniel said the one piece of advice she wants to remember for herself is to never give up.

The top prize for the winner at the end of the season is a show for their performance in Las Vegas. Jalen Garrison, who performed a color-guard routine, said she would like to include her team if she wins.

“If I could get other people to join me, because it’s usually a team sport,” she said. “There’s another part of color guard that’s also called winter guard, and it’s just the guard and then you choreograph shows and you have music, and so I think that would be a really cool thing to do.”

Leigh Hotz performed magic tricks for his audition, but he describes himself more as a comedy entertainer who uses magic. He said he doesn’t get as many”oohs and ahs” as other magicians, but he gets a lot more laughter in his show.

Eric Gilian, who performed with optical rings and has auditioned before online, said he’s better prepared for this audition because he thinks he knows what they want to see.

He said the optical rings are “a new form of juggling” where the performer creates the illusion that one of the rings is floating while the other ring is floating around it.

Jon Taylor and Keli’i French were two of many dancers in the holding room. Taylor said he prepared for the auditions for a couple of months, and there was heavy competition at the auditions.

Both Taylor and French thought the chances of someone from Phoenix winning this year are pretty high.

“There is a lot of talent out there,” French said. “I don’t wanna be cocky … I mean Phoenix is a great state, so if one of us makes it then you know we’ll be rooting for them.”

America’s Got Talent is still accepting video auditions online.

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