(written by Lindsey Bynum)
Sixty dancers courageously signed up for the Josh Turner Dance Contest, which took place Thursday on the Family Zone Stage. Dance styles ranged from Western swing to Irish clogging, belly dance to hip-hop, each of them performed to a Josh Turner song.
The Dance Contest was set up in an “American Idol” fashion. Shane Tallant, host of HGTV’s “Designed to Sell,” emceed the competition, in effect playing the role of Ryan Seacrest. Josh Turner, emulating “Idol” judge Randy Jackson, was joined by two colleagues playing Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell.
The first round was broken in to six sections. To the tune of “Your Man,” groups of 10 dancers performed in front of the stage. Five from each section got to move on to the next round. During the fourth section, a surprise guest, Chuck Wicks, joined the participants. As he danced and held one of the dancer’s baby, and Turner nodded humorously toward a Wicks hit, observing, “Looks like he’s ‘Stealing Cinderella’.”
Thirty dancers made it to Round Two, performing five at a time onstage in six sections to the sound of another Turner title, “All Over Me.”
Seven remained for the last,round. One was James Howarth, who has clogged for the past 40 years and performs with the Nashville Cloggers. The field also included three sets of Western swing dancers, who included two sets of siblings, a freestyle hip-hop dancer and a line dancer. Each contestant was given the opportunity to show their true talent solo, sans partner. As the last notes of “Why Don’t We Just Dance” faded, the judges deliberated before asking the audience to help by yelling the loudest for their favorite contestant.
Ashland City, Tenn. sister and brother Julie and Jedi Willis, 7 and 10 respectively, eventually took the prize on the strength of their Western swing steps. Jedi said, “This is my sister’s first time performing with me and she did a really great job,” Jedi observed. “I’ve been dancing for four years now and we all teach ourselves the moves.”