Star campers


The bleachers are throbbing. “We’re gonna have the best performance ever!” a little boy wearing maroon sunglasses hollers, leaping out of his seat and tearing across the gymnasium floor. It’s “Camp Idol,” a dance competition that caps six weeks of Adventure Kids Day Camp at the University’s Lab Schools. Kids age 6 to 14 fill the stands, drumming their feet, wriggling nervously, and chattering nonstop.

Out comes “Ryan Seacrest” to announce the first act. Camp staffers, high school and college students, are playing the roles of host Seacrest and the three judges on American Idol. A dozen of the youngest campers walk onstage in a wobbly line, wearing Styrofoam props around their neck with bottle caps and wires attached, imitating robots. Pairs of campers leave each end of the line one after another to dance together in the middle. When they’re finished, the judges give them resoundingly positive evaluations—there will be no tears or harsh words here. Even “Simon Cowell,” the notoriously hard-to-please judge, says in his best British accent, “I have to say that I felt a little electricity in your performance.”

Ten groups dance in all. Highlights include the “Great White Sharks,” a group of 10- to 11-year-old boys who dance to a cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” “Paula Abdul” says, “I was a little unsure about your choice of song, but you won me over.” A group of girls age 9 and 10 incorporate cartwheels into their dance to “Stop! In the Name of Love.” When the last performance is over, supervisors and camp directors come onstage. “Are they gonna pick a winner?” asks one mother. It’s not that kind of show, though. “Popsicles will be handed out outside!” says a supervisor, and within minutes, the stage and stands have emptied.

Jenny Fisher, ’07

Photo: Two boys shake their hips to Shakira (top); with judges and host looking on, girls dance to "Stop! In the name of Love" (bottom).

August 2, 2006