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Baltimore Backstage: Baltimore comic makes finals of ‘America’s Got Talent,’ dance classes at the Inner Harbor, family inspires film

In this week’s peek into Baltimore arts, we chat up a Baltimore-born comic who is in the finals of “America’s Got Talent,” learn how line dancing at the harbor is fun and healthy and talk about “honeys” with a local filmmaker.

Baltimore native makes it to the finals of ‘America’s Got Talent’

Baltimore native and comedian Mike E. Winfield is moving to the finals after the audience and judges gave him a standing ovation on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” Tuesday night. The comic was one of two acts who received the most votes Wednesday to reach the next stage of the competition for $1 million .

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Winfield is getting used to the crowd’s enthusiastic response.

“They were literally chanting my name,” the comic said reminiscing on his first performance back in May. “It was more like an out of body experience... When I walked back, Terry Crews [the show’s host] was like ‘Do you feel it? Do you feel your life changing at this very moment?’ I was so struck by everything happening I was like, ‘I don’t know.’”

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Mike E. Winfield performs for 'America's Got Talent' judges.

Winfield said he feels his Baltimore roots make him a strong contender.

“Baltimore is different from anywhere else in the country. It’s just so unique, the people there are just so original, and I feel that’s packed inside of me,” said Winfield, who has been doing stand-up for over 15 years and can also be seen in the feature film “Pimp,” with Keke Palmer and the late rapper and actor DMX.

With his “America’s Got Talent” appearance, he’s gained fans worldwide. ”People are finding comedy and old stand-ups from five years ago, and that’s really great.”

After Tuesday’s performance judge and comedian Howie Mandel said if Winfield didn’t win, he could open up for him in New York on Sept. 9 at the Westbury Theater.

The winner of the competition receives $1 million and a spot in the NBC show’s Las Vegas residency.

“The $1 million, I feel like that’s life changing for anyone. But for me, I hold the exposure highest,” Winfield said. “The exposure and what I’m able to do with that one day might even be bigger than comedy.”

He joked on Tuesday’s show that he needed the money to get his newborn baby.

”I need a million dollars. I just had a baby, I didn’t know if you don’t have a car seat they won’t let you take the baby home from the hospital, so the baby’s still there,” he said as the crowd roared with laughter.

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Winfield and the other finalists will perform at the two-night finale Sept. 13 and 14 to compete for the big prize. Until then, fans can follow Winfield on social media to keep up with his career and Maryland area tour dates.

“I’m due for a Baltimore trip and timing would be perfect after this all plays out,” said the comedian, who still has a lot of family in the area. “It’s always a good time.”

Electric slide into dance classes with Waterfront Wellness

After being diagnosed with diabetes in 2015, Terry Townes began taking line dancing classes. Within six months, she had shed pounds and was off diabetes medication.

Now a line dance instructor throughout the Baltimore area, including at Waterfront Wellness every Wednesday at the Inner Harbor, Townes, 60, boasts the benefits of the boogie.

“[Line dancing] helps with your memory, it helps with rhythm, it helps with your coordination, and it’s a good workout,” Townes, a Baltimore native said. “And it relieves stress as well.”

With free outdoor fitness classes through Waterfront Wellness, Townes offers classes with easy-to-learn moves. Most groups have about 10 to 15 students but classes often grow as passersby decide to join in.

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While the sessions are mostly for fun, Townes is on an educational mission. She wants Baltimore to learn the right way to do one particularly popular dance that she sees locals doing wrong all the time.

The line dance for “Jerusalema,” a song by South African musician Master KG that dropped in 2020 and was made popular by TikTok and social media, is supposed to start on the left foot not the right.

“It’s all over the world that they do the dance, but for some reason when you get to Maryland and Baltimore…[people] keep saying, ‘Well we’re doing it on the right, because it’s easier to do it on the right.’ But, if you’re a line dance person, you know to do it the right way,” she said.

Dancers of all ages and skill levels can join Townes every Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at West Shore Park. Additional classes are held at Rash Field Park and Wills Park. Waterfront Wellness runs through the end of October.

Family and ‘honeys’ inspire film project

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Felicia Pride, 43, is all about making space where she feels there is none.

Her production company Honey Chile is run by Black women and develops, creates and produces content by, for, or about Black women age 40 and over, who she calls “honeys.”

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“I realized that the conversations and experiences that my friends and I were having weren’t necessarily being captured on screen,” she said.

The company’s first feature film “Look Back at It” was born from a desire to tell a Baltimore story and an intergenerational narrative. Inspired by Pride’s mother, sister and niece, the film is about a teen who helps her 40-something single mother “get her groove back.”

“I’m trying to capture Baltimore in ways we normally don’t see, capture the sense of community and home, of hope and overcoming, while not ignoring the struggle. And I’m also trying to capture the beauty and complexity and depth of the women in my family who I don’t see depicted on screen enough,” said Pride, who wrote, directed and produced the film.

Pride said right now what she has is a “proof of concept,” a short film that demonstrates the project’s viability. To shoot the full-length feature film, she will need funding, which has been the biggest behind-the-scenes challenge. Still, Pride said, Baltimore has had her back.

“We have to balance budget with our desires to make this project as great as we can, so we have to be strategic about the sacrifices we make,” she said. “But luckily, so many family, friends, Baltimoreans jumped in to help and support us.”


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