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September 17, 2014

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Joe Downtown: Shuffle Zone at First Friday hosts talent search for teens

For the past few years, Shuffle Zone at First Friday has served as a haven for breakdancers, “pop and lock-ers,” DJs and anyone who just wants to dance for a few hours on a Friday night.

Starting Oct. 4, it will also be home to something of a “Star Search” for young singers, dancers, beat-boxers and other talented young people.

First Friday spokesman Charles Ressler characterized it as a place for young people to hone their craft and have fun in one of the few Las Vegas venues considered safe for kids.

“This will give them a stage to perform in front of their peers, create venue pipelines to help them grow and find gigs, and truly cultivate their talent,” he said.

The zone, located in the Boulder Plaza, a 7,100-square-foot outdoor venue at 1047 S. Main St., will also offer lessons in beat-box, DJing, hooping (a performance style of hula hoop) and other arts. Lessons are free and will go from about 5-9 p.m., then the Shuffle Zone talent show will begin.

Some 4,000 to 6,000 young people, ages 13-20, attend each First Friday and have been flocking to the Shuffle Zone. After going through a security checkpoint, “it’s like going into a nightclub, and without any messaging around it, kids are getting educated about all these pop culture art forms just by being present,” Ressler said.

The talent show idea came about recently when Shuffle Zone’s management team noticed a crowd encircling a group of dancers popping and locking — a funk form of dance characterized by alternating movement of joints, then locking them into place — and asked them to perform on stage.

Sponsors of the talent search, Ressler said, include people deeply involved in the performance industry, including Limelite (stage production); e320 (talent booking and management); Envisage Imagination Factory (shoots music videos and more); Watercolor Marketing (event management); and Charity Faith (Shuffle Zone management).

Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown, he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.

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