By Andrea Boyce
BYU student Jeremiah Christenot recently danced his way into New York City history at the famous Apollo Theater. Christenot”s moves made him the first white person to get a standing ovation from what has been called America”s toughest audience.
The Apollo Theater, located in Harlem, is where numerous performers became stars. Duke Ellington, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder and Whitney Houston are just some of the people discovered within its historic walls.
“Anybody who”s anybody got their start there,” said Christenot.
Christenot is one of 30 BYU students who participated in a New York internship program offered through the Communications and Visual Arts Departments during Spring Term. With only a few weeks left in their internship, the group decided to see Amateur Night at the Apollo.
Dan Stout, a communications professor who accompanied the group as a faculty advisor, said they were excited to visit the Harlem hot spot.
The crowd at the Apollo is famous for being picky about their entertainment. If they like an act they will clap and cheer, but if they don”t like a performer, they will literally boo them off the stage, Stout said.
“We felt a little out of place. Not only were we from Utah, but we were definitely the only white people there,” said Christenot.
Half way through the show the emcee asked for ten volunteers from the audience.
“I don”t know why I raised my hand, I just thought they were looking for a volunteer to help with a magic show or something,” Christenot said. To Christenot”s surprise the emcee pointed up to the third balcony where he was sitting and asked him to come to the stage.
Christenot said he was nervous.
“I thought to myself, I hope I didn”t get myself into something crazy,” he said.
When the emcee announced the volunteers were going to compete in a dance competition, Christenot said he knew he had gotten himself into trouble.
“I went out on the stage when it was my turn and the emcee asked me where I was from,” Christenot said. Besides being from Montana, which instantly dubbed him the nickname Montana for the rest of the evening, he had just come from work and still had on his suit jacket and slacks.
The crowd began to mumble for the dancing to begin so the emcee announced to the crowd, “We”ll see what Montana can do,” Christenot said.
Christenot said he didn”t intend to be funny, or even entertaining; he said he just didn”t want to get booed off the stage. So when the M.C. Hammer music came on, he started dancing.
“I don”t really know what I did that was particularly funny,” he said, “I took off my suit jacket, to get full range of motion of my arms, and the crowd went wild.” With the crowd egging him on, Christenot dug back into his dance past, which he said consisted mainly of stake dances.
“When I started break dancing, the crowd cheered even more, and some people tried to get on the stage to dance with me,” Christenot said.
“His hips started swinging, his feet were moving, and before we knew it he was down on the floor break dancing,” Stout said.
“It was the most entertaining five minutes of my life,” said Casey Smith, a junior majoring in visual arts, and fellow intern.
Stout wasn”t the only one surprised to see such a display of talent from a boy from Montana.
“The emcee kept saying, ”Look at the white boy go,” and ”You can”t judge a book by its cover,”” Christenot said.
By the time the music ended Christenot was exhausted, the BYU students in the balcony were rolling with laughter, and the crowd was on its feet.
Christenot won the dance competition.
Christenot believes that everyone has about 15 minutes of fame in their entire life, and he said he”s pretty sure he had more than his share.