When the folks at NBC's popular TV show "America's Got Talent" came calling in 2013, Adam Battelstein was wary.
His movement illusion company, Catapult Entertainment, had three to four years' experience as a corporate entertainment organization. His dancers had only performed for companies, relaying specifically requested messages and stories to their employees. They did it all behind a giant screen, creating shapes through the silhouettes of their bodies.
The troupe will perform Friday at Memorial Hall in Pueblo.
"I had never seen the TV show," said Battelstein, a former professional dancer and Catapult's director. "I thought: Was it a gong show? Are we going to get humiliated? I did some research on the people who had done well and those who did badly on the show and thought any publicity is good publicity. At least we'll have some exposure."
The Connecticut-based group got more than they bargained for - standing ovations and praise from the judges, including notoriously picky Howard Stern, who "bowed to them," Battelstein said. Their performance - dedicated to the young victims in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn. - brought their popularity to a crescendo across the country.
"It's very hard to get me emotional. You did," Stern told them. "Your story came through crisp and clear. You are just phenomenal talents. You stole the show tonight."
Even though the group didn't win - they were cut in the finals after four televised performances - they made their mark.
"Phones rang off the hook," said Battelstein. "The corporate events business increased fourfold. We did more corporate events in a few months than we did in a few years."
Calls also came in from around the world wanting Battelstein to create a 90-minute concert and go on tour. After four years of touring Germany and Italy with two separate casts, the company embarked on its first American tour last year. Eight dancers contort their bodies into seven to eight shadow performances, including one done to Antonio Vivaldi's classical music piece "The Four Seasons," which Battelstein calls a crowd favorite.
"We're turning our bodies into lots of different things," he said. "That's the fun. It's like a magic trick where you get to watch how it's done, but you still don't know how it's done. It's difficult to understand what happened, how people suddenly became a tulip."
JENNIFER MULSON, THE GAZETTE, 636-0270, JEN.MULSON@GAZETTE.COM