INDIANAPOLIS — A local dance troupe will represent New Palestine on Friday before more than 100,000 spectators at the 54th annual Circle of Lights in downtown Indianapolis.

Hearts Ablaze Cloggers will perform during the annual holiday event on Monument Circle during a pre-show and a live, televised show before the Christmas lights strung vertically on the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument are illuminated, creating a huge Christmas tree shape.

Six acts featuring Hoosiers from around the state were selected from some 150 entries to perform. Hearts Ablaze, a 12-person clogging group directed by Crystal Corwin-Howard, is no stranger to the Circle of Lights Stage. The group also danced during 2014’s live show.

And the young dancers are thrilled to return.

Fifteen dancers from the troupe — with Corwin-Howard joining in for one number — will clog to “Go Tell it on the Mountain” and “Light of Christmas” by Toby Mac and Owl City, Corwin-Howard said.

Though she did not join the dancers in 2014, Corwin-Howard promised her students if they were chosen again, she would dance alongside them. She will step into her tap shoes for the second part of their performance, she said.

“I could tell they were having the time of their lives (in 2014),” she said. “It’s amazing. I can’t wait to dance with them.”

The group has performed around the Midwest at festivals, shows, street fairs and the Tunes and Tales program in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Hearts Ablaze participates in at least three competitions a year and was named the 2014 Cincinnati World of Clogging Championships Grand Champion team. The troupe’s performers come from five different school districts.

Ellie Roudebush, a junior at New Palestine High School, will take the downtown Indianapolis stage with her troupe for the second time.

Roudebush and her cohorts are excited to perform again.

“I feel like it’s going to be really awesome to perform and shine our light on stage again,” Roudebush said.

Bob Schultz, a judge for the Circle of Lights talent search event, said the group’s audition scored well on all three areas of judging — talent, stage presence and energy.

“We’re thrilled they presented themselves in such a way,” Schultz said. “This year, they were clearly a leader in all of those areas. They brought a continued level of talent and energy that will certainly make the experience even greater.”

Other performers include Josh Kaufman, the 2014 winner of The Voice and this year’s host of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s Yuletide Celebration; Linzi Rodgers and Broderick Thompson duo, friends from Indiana University now living in Muncie and Indianapolis; Celebration Worship, a Christian band from Anderson University; Raymond Davis Jr., a 12-year-old singer from Indianapolis; and Adia Dant, an 11-year-old singer from Indianapolis.

If you go

More than 100,000 spectators are expected for Downtown Indy Inc.’s Circle of Lights ceremonial lighting and holiday kickoff Friday. Festivities begin at 6 p.m. with the live televised show running from 7 to 8 p.m. on WTHR-13.

Each year, a child is chosen through a coloring contest to help “flip the switch” with Santa Claus and Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett to light the tree. The monument lighting occurs at about 7:55 p.m. The show concludes with a fireworks display.

Author photo
Rorye Hatcher is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at ​317-477-3211 or