Local dancers perform on national TV stage

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JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — After growing a national following on live television this summer, a local group of teenage dancers is preparing to return to normal life, including high school.

Jasmine Flowers, a ballet group from Atlanta Professional Dance Academy in Johns Creek, appeared on “America’s Got Talent” July 29 at the Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The group of 25 girls is largely made up of Chinese-American teenagers, ages 14 to 18.

Wei Dongsheng, director of Jasmine Flowers and owner of Atlanta Professional Dance Academy (APDA), incorporates traditional Chinese dance in his ballet lessons.

“Chinese folk dance is unique,” Dongsheng said. “It has very clear rhythm and coordination.”

The show contacted Dongsheng, known by his students as Mr. Wei, after discovering a YouTube video of his students performing a “Jasmine Flowers” ballet dance.

Team members told NBC that the mixed-style dance, which includes the use of fans, helps them connect to their roots. The group made it into Radio City in the quarterfinals, or the top 48 contestants before heading home. Despite being off the show, Jasmine Flowers has received continued support.

“People just really love that dance,” said member Jessica Ma.

Ma, 15, has been dancing with APDA for eight years. Ma said that AGT took her and the team by surprise, especially when they advanced past “Judgment Week” July 23.

“We were so excited and so incredulous that we had actually made it so far in the competition,” Ma said. “We were just overwhelmed with emotion, everybody was crying.”

June Shi, Ma’s mother, accompanied her daughter to the live show.

“It’s an unprecedented experience for the parents,” Shi said. “The dads went crazy at home. The weekend before, they all stood in front of the supermarket handing out flyers. If not for their daughters, they would never have done that.”

Dongsheng said the city of Johns Creek offered to help get the word out.

“It’s really touching; we feel honored to represent our city and the state of Georgia,” he said.

Although most don’t plan to make a career out of it, Ma said the team has enjoyed dancing with the academy.

“Dancing is a great way to both keep in shape and to express yourself artistically,” Ma said. “It’s just really fun and we all love it so much. But you know, school and college in the future is still the priority for most of us.”

Although they have received invitations to perform from others, the girls will start school and continue to dance not as Jasmine Flowers, but Mr. Wei’s ballet class. The next recital is in late October.

“After a wild summer of preparing for AGT and traveling to New York, we’re going to ease back into normal life now,” Ma said.

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