Island twins will dance their way to international event
Island twins Tyler and Travis Atwood, 10, will travel to Poland this December to represent the U.S. in the World Dance Championship. Both boys were selected to fill two of the five soloist spots on the team.
“Travis and Tyler are my heroes,” said their mom, Sheryl Atwood, who – along with husband and father, Chris Atwood – will accompany the twins to Poland. “They are so committed, driven and incredibly fearless.”
Competing in Mikolajki, Poland in the Jazz World Finals, the Atwood twins will perform individually, as well as in a duo performance, using hip-hop, jazz and acrobatics.
“We’re very excited to be going to Poland to represent the USA,” Tyler said. “We were chosen as soloists for the team and we are going to compete against France, Russia, Poland – all those countries and more.”
Tyler will perform to “Higher Ground” by Stevie Wonder and Travis will perform to “Ain’t Nothing Wrong with That.” Together, they will perform to “The Boys Are Back.”
A beginner hip-hop class at the age of six sparked a shared love of dancing in the twins.
“They had been asking to take hip-hop since they were four, and we thought they would change their minds,” Atwood said. “They fell in love with the studio, the dancers, dancing. They were invited to join a competitive hiphop team. Now, they dance as part of the teen and senior dance company.”
Training at the Talent Factory in North Kingstown six days a week from 4 to 9 p.m. allows the twins to perform in a variety of dance styles, including hip-hop, contemporary, ballet, jazz and tap. Homework is finished before lessons begin, Sheryl Atwood said, adding that she works as fitness director and studio manager for the Talent Factory.
“Many people see me working at the studio now and think that is how they got involved,” said Atwood, a former dancer. “Reverse it. I had nothing to do with dance anymore. I had a totally different career. But because the boys’ schedules don’t allow me to do anything else really, now I just do work that suits them and their schedules, which means I work where they train.”
Atwood added that such sacrifi ces are made by many parents to allow their children to pursue their passions.
Dancing at such a level is also extremely expensive, she said.
“All sports, when taken seriously, can be consuming and expensive,” she said. “Many parents sacrifice to allow their children to pursue their passions. Chris and I certainly do. There are many things that we don’t do in order to continue to support their dreams.”
The twins also take the occasional music or voice lesson, as well as play competitive soccer, compete in track, and surf, snowboard and ski. And even though they know it’s not typical, they enjoy taking ballet training at the R.I. Ballet Theatre.
“That training helps with hip hop, other dancing and sports,” Travis said. “All athletes need to practice. Good athletes practice a lot.”
In a sport that is typically dominated by girls, Tyler and Travis have found their niche, with friends both inside and outside of dance supporting them and their passion.
“On the local level, we dance mainly with girls,” Travis said. “They are all really cool. On the national level, there are a lot of talented male dancers.”
The boys, who love hanging out with their friends, added that the ones who don’t dance have been really supportive.
With hopes of becoming professional dancers in the future, the twins have already auditioned for several Broadway shows, including “Billy Elliot,” “Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Spectacular” and “Pan.”
Travis said that to succeed as professional performers, their acting and voices need to be strong, too.
“We definitely want to dance professionally,” he added. “We will be professional dancers that do movies and shows, and then we will choreograph later in life.”
Traveling to New York City to compete has resulted in national titles for the twins – including those won at the New York City Dance Alliance National Championships held this past July.
“We just got back from NYC for two weeks, where we had NYCDA nationals,” Travis said. “We did great. We won some national titles. We got to work with choreographers and teachers from MTV, movies, Broadway, TV…it was crazy and fun.”
Dancing solo, as a pair and sometimes in groups has allowed the twins to share in their achievements, as well as their struggles.
“In dance, being twins can be great,” Tyler said. “It can also be hard, because sometimes I will come in first and my brother will come in second…then he will come in first and I will come in second. We are happy for each other. My brother is my best friend. We don’t really fight. I get annoyed if he tells me “you are doing that wrong,” but we work it out.”
To support Tyler and Travis in their upcoming trip there will be a raffle at the Talent Factory in North Kingstown. The prize is a free year of dance classes and tickets are $10. The drawing will be held Sept. 7. There will also be a yard sale at the dance facility at the end of August. All proceeds from both fundraisers will help defer travel costs for the World Dance Finals.