Local tap-dancing duo Sean Jones and Luke Pilalis showed off their skills to judges and viewers across America this summer through "America’s Got Talent" on NBC.
This was the first live television experience for the duo, who have been tap dancing together for 11 years.
“As soon as I got on stage and saw the crowd of people, I got crazy amped,” said Pilalis, 17, of Roselle. “The nerves that I had went away. I was ready to get on stage and dance.”
The dancers performed three times for the TV show, but only the third on July 29 was televised live. That performance turned out to be their last on the show, as they didn't make it past the quarterfinals.
“We got shot down, which sucks. I guess America didn’t want to send us through,” said Jones, 18, of Bloomingdale.
"America’s Got Talent" is a top-rated NBC reality show that brings performers from across the country to compete for a grand prize of $1 million. The judges include Heidi Klum, Howard Stern, Howie Mandel and Mel B, and the host is Nick Cannon.
Jones said he and Pilalis practiced for their first live TV appearance several hours every day.
“All the judges enjoyed our performance except for Howard Stern,” Jones said. “He’s always been the guy that doesn’t enjoy what we do or doesn’t think it’s good enough.”
In two weeks, each judge gets to pick a group that was previously eliminated to return to the show to compete, Pilalis said, adding there’s a slim chance that he and Jones will be picked to come back.
“If you don’t get called back, it’s like you did it all for nothing,” he said.
Although Jones and Pilalis were eliminated, Jones said his family enjoyed the performance as much as the dancers did, and they thought it was the coolest thing to see the boys perform live at Radio City Music Hall.
“I cried. I was overwhelmed with pride,” said Jones’ mom, Robyn Scurek. “They were both trending on social media worldwide, anywhere from fourth to first.”
The dancers fuse hip hop and tap together as a style of dance to make it more modern and appealing for a younger audience, Jones said, adding there’s so much more you can do with tap dancing than other dance styles.
The tap dancer said his late sister, Felicia, is his main inspiration for dancing. She died in 1999 from acute pancreatitis.
“I started dancing because of her and followed in her footsteps," Jones said. "She was doing all kinds of dancing."
Felicia began dancing with Luke’s mom, Mary Pilalis, at dance classes Pilalis taught at Bloomingdale Park District, Scurek said.
Scurek's three sons – Sean, Zachary and Austin – also took classes at the Park District before Mary created Center Stage Dance Studio in Bloomingdale in 2001.
“They’ve all used dance on some level,” Scurek said. “Felicia is the only one who passed away before the studio opened.”
Both Jones and Pilalis started tap dancing with Aspire Dance Company at Center Stage Dance Studio when they were only about 3 years old.
The duo have been buddies since they were born, Scurek said.
“It’s more of a brother relationship than just friends,” Jones said. “We share the same interests and love dancing and playing sports together.”
Both are recent high school graduates, Jones from Glenbard North in Carol Stream and Pilalis from Lake Park in Roselle.
College is next on the horizon for the dancers and friends, as Jones heads to The Boston Conservatory and Pilalis to Northern Illinois University.
Even though it looks like the "America’s Got Talent" competition is over for the tappers, Jones said he eventually wants to become a professional dancer, and he knows dancing is something Pilalis doesn’t want to give up either.
“Tap dance isn’t leaving us at all,” Jones said. “We’ll be dancing for the rest of our lives.”