Christopher Antoine never imagined that to gain a foothold in his high school he would need to learn how to move his feet.
During his sophomore year at Uniondale High School, Antoine was looking to take up an extracurricular activity, but not on a sports team. The soft- spoken teen decided to audition for the Rhythm of the Knight Uniondale Show Choir, a group that combines jazz, tap, ballet, hip-hop and contemporary dance routines to covers of popular songs by Beyoncé, Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake.
“I’m not afraid to admit that, when I first came in, I was one of those people with two left feet,” said Antoine, 17.
Through extra practice and listening to critiques from the choir instructor and choreographer, Antoine graduated from stagehand to prominent male bass within a school year.
His progress mirrors how the group has advanced in the six years since it was created by director and instructor Lynette Carr-Hicks. It ranks seventh nationally among show choirs and has appeared on the “Today” show, “Good Day New York,” CNN and News 12 Long Island. Now, the group is preparing for its biggest stages yet as part of the Show Choir Nationals in Nashville, Tennessee, in March and representing the state of New York in the Show Choir America national competition in Orlando, Florida, in April. To offset travel expenses, the choir will host a series of fundraising concerts, including a Motown-themed tribute show Friday in the high school’s auditorium and a Christmas show with Kenny Rogers at NYCB Theatre in Westbury on Dec. 23.
THE COST TO COMPETE
Carr-Hicks said she’s observed that most of the top-ranked teams compete in more than one national competition.
“And so, this year, I kind of introduced to the parents [the idea] to let’s try to do a little bit more,” she said.
One of the biggest obstacles for the show choir, which practices year-round, has been the expense. Along with help from the district, Carr-Hicks estimates it will cost $100,000 for the entire 39-member troupe to compete in Orlando and in Tennessee — that’s buses or airfare, hotels, food, set designs and costumes.
“It costs so much to be a part of the group,” said Carr-Hicks, 47, of Westbury.
In addition to her full-time teaching position at Uniondale High and her work with the Rhythm of the Knight group, Carr-Hicks oversees the school’s choir. She also acts as a booking agent, responding to the many performance requests regularly submitted. In September alone, the show group performed at a 9/11 remembrance ceremony in Manhasset and at Mets Plaza before a baseball game.
THE MORE THE BETTER
More performances have enabled many of her choir members, such as 16-year-old Emmanuel Beauge of Uniondale, to gain traveler’s miles.
“I’ve lived in this town all my life and it’s all I know,” Beauge said, adding that before he joined the choir, he’d never been outside his hometown.
“That’s one of the great things, when you see those kids just happy, and they are so excited to be a part of it. I love them very much,” a tearful Carr-Hicks said.
It’s easy for Carr-Hicks to identify with students like Antoine and Beauge. She found her voice while a student at Westbury High School with help from a choir teacher and in 2004 appeared as Muzzy Van Hossmere in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” at the Marquis Theatre on Broadway. But she realized her true passion — teaching — in recent years with encouragement from Uniondale Superintendent William K. Lloyd, who hired her at the high school in November 2007.
“Since her first day, she has demonstrated a unique ability to develop close relationships with each of her students, shape her teaching method around the best ways to hone students’ individual talents, and help them accomplish their goals,” Lloyd said. “This passion for helping students succeed has guided the Uniondale Show Choir to attain national and international fame, and it has established a high standard of excellence throughout the district each year.” Carr-Hicks said the show choir has been “a true gift.”
The experiences have proved just as life-changing for her choir members.
“My confidence grew a lot. At first, I was afraid to sing in front of people, but it’s not a problem for me now,” Antoine said. “It’s shown me, at the end of the day, all you really need is determination and the drive to work hard.”
Rhythm of the Knight Uniondale Show Choir
WHEN | WHERE 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4, Uniondale High School, 933 Goodrich St.
INFO $20 adults, $10 students; facebook.com/events/1045329578898508
Christmas Holiday Spectacular
WHEN | WHERE 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, Uniondale High School
INFO $20 adults, $10 students; uhsshowchoirrotk.com
Kenny Rogers: The Gambler’s Last Deal Christmas show
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 23, NYCB Theatre at Westbury, 960 Brush Hollow Rd.
INFO $49.50-$124.50, 800-653-8000, livenation.com