So getting a chance to perform in a talent show at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis is a huge deal.
“I’m pretty nervous,” said Greer, 15, a ballet dancer from Edwardsville. “There’s going to be a lot of people there, and it’s going to be televised (on Nine Network).”
But she’s also excited.
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Seventeen acts, including three from the metro-east, will compete in the finals April 8 at the Fox. The show is free and open to the public, but tickets are required.
Greer’s ensemble will dance to “The Gypsy Song” from the opera “Carmen.”
“It is a classical point piece, but there are Spanish flamenco influences,” said CiCi Houston, director and choreographer. “It’s a very fiery, lively, energetic piece. It requires a lot of spirit, but also technical ability.”
The girls wear flowers in their hair and colorful brocade dresses and use lacy fans as props.
“It’s a four-minute dance, and by the end, we feel like we’ve run a marathon,” Greer said. “But you have to have stamina and not look like you’re tired at all.”
Encouraging young artists
The annual competition is sponsored by the Fox Performing Arts Charitable Foundation to encourage young artists.
The other two metro-east finalists are singers Rayna Campbell, 17, of Belleville, and Christina Jones, 17, of O’Fallon.
“While we usually only advance 12 to 13 acts to the finals, this year is an exception, and we have 17 qualifying acts,” said Mary Strauss, foundation board president.
Representatives of film, TV, music and theater judge acts on technical ability, stage presence, interpretation and originality.
Winners will receive scholarships of $8,000 for first place, $6,000 for second and $4,000 for third, as well as other prizes and performance opportunities.
“It’s a good experience because (young artists are) able to grow,” CiCi said. “The judges give them valuable feedback — suggestions, tips and criticism — at the end of every round.”
Greer is the daughter of Marlene and John Den Houter. She’s been taking dance lessons since age 6.
Her parents are key because they drive her to Premiere Performance in Glen Carbon two nights a week and St. Louis Ballet School in Chesterfield, Missouri, three or four times a week.
Greer has wanted to be a ballerina since her grandmother gave her a book with a photo of English dancer Darcy Brussels in “Swan Lake.”
“That just turned a switch in my brain,” Greer said.
Opera is Rayna’s passion
Rayna is a Belleville East senior who sings opera. This is the third time she has entered the Fox competition. She was a semi-finalist in 2015 and a finalist last year.
On April 8, Rayna will sing “Lascia Ch’io Pianga,” an Italian-language aria by George Frideric Handel.
“Last year, I performed an art song, ‘Il Misero’ by Verdi,” she said. “This year, I wanted to try something different. I’m looking more at the message. It’s about letting go of any negativity in life.”
The past year has been exciting for Rayna.
One highlight was performing with world-renowned soprano Christine Brewer at a Masterworks Chorale Christmas concert in O’Fallon.
“I was definitely scared because she has such a big voice and presence,” Rayna said. “But after we got done with our rehearsal, those fears went away. She was so easy to work with.”
Rayna also appeared in two productions of Winter Opera St. Louis and continued her involvement in Opera Theatre of St. Louis’ Artists-in-Training Program.
On March 3, she sang three pieces at Powell Symphony Hall with the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra.
“It’s a very big hall, and I didn’t use a microphone,” she said. “I was worried about whether people could hear me, but the house was packed, and it seemed like everybody could hear me.”
Rayna is the daughter of Miaki Campbell and the late Ronald Campbell and a member of Concert Choir, Treble Choir and Upper Mixed Choir at school.
Christina will sing Whitney
Like Rayna, Christina was a semi-finalist in the Fox competition in 2015 and a finalist in 2016.
She sang an original song the first year and won the Kranzberg Vocal Performance Award last year for “Best Thing that Ever Happened to Me” by Gladys Knight & the Pips.
“Before I went on stage, I was shaking, and I was praying to God, ‘I hope I can do this,’” she said. “Then I went out there and saw all those people in the audience ...
“But once I start singing and really getting into the music, I’m in my own little world. It’s my happy place.”
Christina is a junior at O’Fallon Township High School. She’s mainly into pop music but likes R&B and musical theater. On April 8, she’ll sing “I Have Nothing.”
“I don’t do it exactly like Whitney Houston,” she said. “With everything, I like to add my own flair.”
Christina is the daughter of Natalie and Darryl Jones. Where she got her musical talent is a running family joke.
“When I was pregnant, I would stand next to the piano, and her dad would play, and I would sing and rub my belly,” Natalie said. “And she came out screaming. She plays everything — piano, guitar and ukelele — by ear.”
Christina is a member of Concert Choir and Great Expectations show choir at school. She will play the witch in the musical “Big Fish” this weekend.
But nothing is like performing on the Fox stage.
“It was breathtaking to see her up there,” Natalie said. “It fills a mother’s heart to see her child’s dream come true.”
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