By Matt Sheley
The Newport Daily News
October 7, 2013
[Jamestown, Rhode Island, USA] — Twelve-year-old twin brothers from Jamestown are tearing up a nationally broadcast dance reality show. Travis and Tyler Atwood and their mother Sheryl have appeared six times on the Lifetime program “Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition,” with their seventh appearance set to air Tuesday, Oct. 8, at 9 p.m. on Cox cable channel 40. There are 12 episodes in the series.
Bound by a confidentiality agreement, the Atwoods couldn’t tell The Daily News much about the show, but they agreed the experience was one the boys would do again in a quickstep.
Eighth-graders at Lawn Avenue School, Travis and Tyler said everyone has been really cool about the TV show and treats them the same as before they left in early April for taping on a locked set at a studio in Glendale, Calif.
“Literally, we couldn’t get out of the set,” Tyler said while sitting in his family’s living room in Jamestown. “Because it was a reality show, they don’t want anyone to know what happened. Whenever anyone asks, we just tell them to tune in.”
“It was so much fun,” Travis added. “We had a tutor on set for school, and everyone was really nice even though it might not always look that way (on TV).”
Episodes highlight the friction generated among the 11 young dancers — and their mothers. The dancers are competing for a $100,000 cash prize as well as a full scholarship to the Young Dancers Program at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York.
When the show asked the Atwood twins if they were interested in competing, their parents — Sheryl and Chris — had a heart-to-heart discussion. They agreed to permit their sons to dance, but to stay clear of the drama.
Travis, Tyler and their mom were subjected to a battery of interviews and tests to make sure they could withstand the pressures of reality TV. Sheryl and Chris Atwood had to agree to withdraw the boys from school until taping for the show was completed.
“People at my office who’ve watched it have said that my wife and the boys have handled themselves so well,” said Chris Atwood, who did not make the trip because he was tied up with business. “That was always the No. 1 goal, for people to see a family can have this type of experience and be themselves.”
Active in sports from soccer to snowboarding, Travis and Tyler said they got into dance at the age of 6 or 7 after seeing “So You Think You Can Dance” on TV one night. They were interested in learning some hip-hop moves, so they signed up for classes at the Talent Factory in North Kingstown.
“When I saw that they were the only boys in the class and all the girls were wearing ballet slippers and frilly costumes, I said this will be one and done,” Sheryl Atwood recalled, laughing. “Then, at the end of the class, they were getting high fives from all the girls and I had to rethink things.”
Since then, the boys have done extremely well at competitions and have earned a name in the national dance circuit. They will make a public appearance on Sunday, Oct. 27, at 9 a.m. at Just Dance on Metacom Avenue in Warren.
“I see it as another way to express myself,” Travis said about dancing. “If I had a bad day at school or playing sports or something like that, I can work it out when I dance.”
“At first, I did it because it was a good way to meet girls, but it’s really good exercise and way more intense than people realize,” Tyler added. “It’s a really good workout.”
The brothers said they enjoy dancing but neither sees himself making a career out of it, not at this point, anyway. For now, they are focused on school work and sports, which they said they would like play for a living. In addition to dance and sports, the twins are interested in engineering, marine biology and robotics.
Sheryl and Chris Atwood said they hope their sons learned some important lessons from the TV competition and use the experience as a stepping stone in the upcoming chapters of their lives.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if some people had comments about doing this type of thing. But we had very frank conversations about what this was and what we were getting into,” Sheryl Atwood said. “I think we showed you can go on reality TV and not argue or get on each other, just focus on what was important there and dance and stay a strong family.”
“I can’t say enough how great everyone has been, particularly the teachers and staff at Lawn Avenue,” Chris said. “It’s been a wonderful experience for the boys and
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