CHICAGO — With fast-paced tumbling passes, jaw-dropping stunts and a "human jump rope," the Chicago Boyz acrobatic team has proved Chicago is no second city when it comes to talent.
The seven-member Chicago Boyz team wowed the America’s Got Talent celebrity judges — Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel, Howard Stern, and Mel B — during the Chicago audition and moved on (with four “yes” votes) to the second round of competition that begins airing on NBC Tuesday from Las Vegas.
“Chicago is a big city, and right now we’ve got a lot shootings and killings going on. It’s good that our team can show a different side of the city,” said Tim Shaw, the 35-year-old founder and head coach of the all-male acrobatic team that practices on the Far South Side.
Shaw, who grew up in Englewood and now lives in the South Loop, said he was “blessed” at 13 years old to begin performing as an acrobat with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey circus.
More than a decade after founding the Chicago Boyz, Shaw said his mission is to change lives through acrobatics.
“We can teach them to be good acrobats, good tumblers, and good trampoline fliers, but that doesn’t really teach them better people skills,” Shaw said.
“We really want them to learn how to get along, conflict resolution, how to focus, and how to get better results out of themselves.”
Shaw’s athletes seem to think “Coach” has done a good job. Avery Patrick Brown, a 22-year-old performer and assistant coach, calls Shaw his “guardian angel.”
“There aren’t that many people out there willing to help young men on the streets of Chicago. Tim coming in and training us to be better people, that’s truly a blessing from God,” said Brown, who grew up on the West Side.
Brown said since the team’s America’s Got Talent audition aired nationally on July 2, he’s been fielding calls, emails and text messages from fans all over the country.
“Everybody is just so proud of me. They can’t believe that somebody that came up in the type of neighborhood I did is finally going to make it somewhere outside of Chicago, you know?” Brown said.
Brown and his teammates haven’t made it onto the national scene for nothing, though. The Chicago Boyz dizzying 90-second audition consisted of acrobatic stunts usually reserved for professionals — including that much-talked about "human jump rope" stunt, in which one performing is swung by two others as yet another jumps over him.
“To take this little man here and just turn him into a human jump rope is beyond exciting,“ said judge Howard Stern, who gave the team a resounding “Yes!” after the audition.
That “little man” is 9 years old now, but Brown said he’s been doing the stunt since he was four years old. Brown said he’s saving his own favorite stunt for post-audition rounds, possibly the Las Vegas round.
“It’s double dutch, but I jump on my back inside the double dutch. Yeah, I’m definitely going to bring it.”
“Everyone can expect more energy, more tricks, we’re going to bring everything we have, everything that we work for,” said Brown.
NBC’s America’s Got Talent airs Tuesday and Wednesday at 8 p.m.