ARLINGTON — Libby Schindler had to bite her lip when she was asked about her participation in “America’s Got Talent” this summer.
But she admitted that her face told the story.
“It was hard to go back to school — you couldn’t tell people about it,” said Schindler, 19, about her group from Arlington-based Northwest Dance and Acro studio being on the NBC reality show this summer. “They could almost read my reaction. All we could say was that we auditioned, but people could read between the lines.”
The group of local girls, who ranged from age 7 to 18 and includes Arlington, Marysville and Lake Stevens residents, reached the second round of competition in Las Vegas, but were unable to advance into the next round in Los Angeles during the show which puts individuals with varying talents up against one another for a chance to win a $1 million prize.
Although fans of the show knew that the 17 Arlington girls were voted off the show relatively early by celebrity judges Piers Morgan, Sharon Osbourne and Howie Mandel, it was only recently that they could talk about their experiences on the show due to non-disclosure agreements they signed with NBC.
The show concluded in September, with the grand prize going to singer/guitarist Michael Grimm.
Despite the Arlington group not finishing where they would have liked, Schindler, the eldest of the performance group, said that the experience being on national television was something that she had never seen.
The girls, led by Northwest Dance and Acro instructor Augga Hawkins, traveled south to Portland, Ore., for tryouts in March.
They didn’t find out that their 90-second performance consisting of contortionism, dancing and gymnastics had landed them a trip to Las Vegas until May.
“All of us were jumping up and down,” Schindler said. “All of us were in tears.”
Once the girls were called down to Las Vegas, they spent an entire week waiting for their turn to perform. The entire process was similar to filming a movie, Hawkins said.
“There were lots of things going on — lots of interviews, lots of sitting around,” Hawkins said. “They would put their makeup on and just wait. It was a lot for our little ones.”
The girls were even required to attend school-type classes with teachers who would instruct them on various subjects while they were away from home.
“It’s really hard to do school when you’re preparing to be on TV,” Schindler said.
But that experience gave the girls a chance to meet and make friends with other contestants their same age.
When they weren’t preparing to be called up on stage or taking part in classes, the group was required to sit in and watch other performances while the judges critiqued them.
“It was really scary because there was nobody except the judges and the producers,” Schindler said.
Finally, on their final day in Las Vegas, Northwest Dance and Acro’s name was called, and the group performed in front of the judges.
Afterward, they stood eagerly on stage awaiting the judges comments.
“They kind of smiled and nodded,” Schindler said. “They started out with nice comments one judge asked us if we thought we had made any mistakes.”
The girls said that they hadn’t, and that’s about all the feedback they received before they were voted off.
“It took a while for it to sink in,” Schindler said. “A lot of us were disappointed and cried.”
Hawkins said that the experience was good for the girls because it showed them that they had to work together as a team.
“It was great whether they made it to LA or not,” Hawkins said. “They knew they did a great job.”