PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. - Service members played guitar, twirled rifles, and even commanded floating sticks. But it was a Marine whose gymnastic-infused contemporary dance routine flipped him to a first place finish and a $250 check at the annual Presidio has Mad Talent competition, Sept. 7.
Lance Cpl. Anthony Sierra-Denelsbeck, assigned to the Marine Detachment's 'Academic' Company, won the competition while fellow Marine, Lance Cpl. Kamari Walker, placed second with an original hip-hop performance, and Army Pfc. Makenzie Viens, 229th Military Intelligence Battalion, took third with a mesmerizing ribbon dance.
A three-judge panel provided half of the vote, while the audience at the Hobson Center provided the other half. It's also the first night of a three-night competition that will pit the post's best singers against each other Sept. 13 and 20.
Sierra-Denelsbeck who wowed the 100 service member strong crowd with a high-flying choreographed dance number called it a humbling experience to hear his name called as the night's winner; but with seven years of experience under his belt - not unexpected.
"Since I've been 15, I've always loved the performing arts," said Sierra-Denelsbeck.
That's when the 22-year-old from New Jersey began hitting the dance floor at his adopted family's dance studio. Soon after he became a competitive cheerleader, adding its gymnastic elements into his routines. Later in college he coached and choreographed dance teams and now at the Presidio teaches a contemporary dance class every Sunday.
Sierra-Denelsbeck, a Korean language student at the Defense Language Institute said the talent show gave him and all the other competitors a rare moment away from the regimented military lifestyle and brought together a sense of comradery amongst the artistically inclined.
"[Presidio has Mad Talent] was just a room full of people who just want to express themselves," he said.
But don't expect the Marine to be dancing in front of Simon Cowell on NBC's America's Got Talent anytime soon.
"I'm going to try to get better at Korean first," he laughed.