Wellington, FL - January 21, 2015 - Two acts of very different types rose to the top Tuesday night at The Grille Fashion Cuisine during auditions for American Equestrians Got Talent. Singer Teaghan James and breakdancer Roberto Gallardo were neck-and-neck throughout the competition, and it took two rounds of performances and a tiebreak by the judges to determine James as the winner.
Six contestants - James and Gallardo as well as ballroom dancers Heidi Degele and Eric Ocando and singers Nicky Greed, Jackie Boudria and Taylor Hughes - came out to compete for the $500 PSdressage.com-sponsored prize and a spot in the March 15 final. A $5,000 grand prize sponsored by Robert Ross, P.A., Luxury Equestrian Realtor for Keller Williams, is up for grabs at the final.
This was the third of nine opportunities to audition, and each week thus far has featured a greater variety of performers and a larger crowd of spectators. Ayden Uhlir and Ki-Juan Minors, who have already secured their places in the final, returned to kick off the evening with new songs before turning over the stage to the contestants.
The judges this week were Debbie McDonald, Olympic medalist and World Cup Final champion; Margaret Duprey, whose Cherry Knoll Farm owns top show jumpers, dressage horses and para-equestrian horses as well as Angus cattle; and Chip McKenney, CEO of Phelps Media Group and founder of the Gay Polo League.
Each singer put in a strong performance, and James' rendition of (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman brought the judges and the crowd to their feet.
Judges and spectators then headed outside to a larger stage set up for the dancers. Dressage trainer Degele showed off her ballroom skills with Ocando, who owns Dance All Night in Wellington. Finally, Gallardo took the stage and wowed the crowd with his incredible breakdancing moves.
James, Gallardo and Greed were the crowd's top choices and returned to battle it out for the win. Greed's self-produced reggae songs were a hit, but James' performance of "Lady Marmalade" and Gallardo's breakdancing skills earned the most applause.
"You are phenomenal," McKenney told James. "You need to do a duet with Ki-Juan and rock the house!"
The audience showed so much support for both James and Gallardo that it was impossible to determine which competitor was the crowd's choice. The judges were called on to break the tie and settled on James as the winner, admitting it was a tough decision to make and hoping Gallardo would still have the chance to move on to the final.
"You've got to promise us you'll be back!" McDonald said to Gallardo.
James competed in Equestrian Idol several years ago and has sung at polo games as well as at the Winter Equestrian Festival. She was representing the sport of show jumping and said that Minors, last week's winner, had encouraged her to audition.
"I have been friends with Ki for a long time, and he is my makeshift vocal coach," James said. "We sing together and collaborate a bit. We have been in a couple of super amateur cover bands together. Last week, I came to watch Ki. He was just killing it, and he said, "You're in this!'"
A groom and exercise rider for Tiffany Foster, James hones her vocal talents by singing to the horses.
"I love to play with horses, and this is something fun to do on the side," she said. "I sing all day at the farm, so the whole crowd from my farm was here, and they were so supportive."
Auditions return to Wednesdays every week through March 4. Sign up to audition by contacting Robert Dover (email@example.com).
Several sponsors, led by Robert Ross, Kim and Fred Boyer, Equestrian Sport Productions,Tuny and David Page, and PSdressage.com, are supporting this exciting event. If you are interested in becoming a sponsor, please contact Sara Ike (908-234-1251 or firstname.lastname@example.org.) or Robert Dover (Rdover2@aol.com).
American Equestrians Got Talent Fast Facts
Spearheaded by U.S. Dressage Team Chef d'Equipe Robert Dover, American Equestrians Got Talent is the third annual East Coast fundraiser to benefit USEF High Performance Dressage programs through the USET Foundation.
Contestants audition to earn their place in the season finale. Celebrity judges will be on hand at each audition to critique the performances, and the audience's applause will determine who moves forward to the finale and who goes back to the barn.
Judges Debbie McDonald, Chip McKenney, and Margaret Duprey
When: Every Wednesday evening from Jan. 7 through March 4, 2015. The Jan. 21 audition was moved to Tuesday, Jan. 20, from 7:30 to 10:00 p.m.
Where: The Grille Fashion Cuisine, 12300 South Shore Blvd., Wellington, Florida
Prize: PSdressage.com is sponsoring prizes of $500 to be awarded to the top performer at each audition.
Participants: Auditions are open to the entire equestrian community, including riders, grooms and others involved in any discipline from dressage and hunter/jumpers to polo and Western. Please sign up in advance by contacting Robert Dover (Rdover2@aol.com). Walk-ins accepted if space is available.
When: March 15, 2015
Where: The Stadium at PBIEC (Global Dressage Festival show grounds), 13500 South Shore Blvd., Wellington, Florida
Prize: The winner, who will be named America's Most Talented Equestrian, will receive a grand prize of $5,000 sponsored by Robert Ross, P.A., Luxury Equestrian Realtor for Keller Williams.