Showcasing the best all-around

Jackie Conley

While athletes are preparing this month to compete at the Olympics in

Athens, Allen Ashrafyan and about 2,500 singers, dancers, musicians

and other performers will be taking part in the Eighth Annual World

Championships of the Performing Arts, beginning Monday at the Burbank

Hilton Hotel and Convention Center.

Allen, 16, a Bellarmine Jefferson High School student, will

showcase his Latin ballroom skills at the competition.

"I want to participate in it to show myself that I can do it and

to show that I'm pretty good at it," Allen said.

The competition will feature contestants from Africa, South

America, Europe and elsewhere.

"The Russians have outstanding dancers," said Griff O'Neill,

founder and director of the World Championships of Performing Arts.

"South Africa has beautiful models, and, from Jamaica, there's a

sister duet who won the grand prize last year."

The event will feature 2,500 acts, which will be narrowed down

through two rounds of competition, in eight junior categories for

performers 5 to 15, and in 10 senior categories for performers 16 and

older.

The opening ceremony will be at 7:30 p.m. Sunday and will feature

the Parade of Nations, in which contestants march in their team

colors with their national flag.

"The idea of creating an Olympics for performing arts was spinning

around in my head for years," O'Neill said.

The emcee will be Chelsea Brummet, star of "All That." Brummet

took part in the world championships as a performer two years in a

row. She won the Grand Champion Actress category in 2000.

The competition began in 1997, with 16 countries partici- pating.

This year, more than 40 countries plan to participate.

Glendale resident Gitane Melikyan, 17, said that although she has

been in several competitions, this is the first time she will be

participating in the World Championships of the Performing Arts.

"It's a good opportunity and will open many doors for people,"

Gitane said.

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