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'AGT' contestant tells an incredibly moving story with her unique sand art

Even among all the extraordinary acts on "America's Got Talent," Kseniya Simonova stands out.

America's Got Talent/YouTube

Kseniya Simonova tells a moving story using only the sand in her hands.

Usually, it’s singing, dancing and magic acts that take the lion’s share of applause on “America’s Got Talent.” But every once in a while, more out-of-the-box performances take the spotlight.

Kseniya Simonova, a Ukrainian sand animation artist, makes it onto that list.

Simonova, who won the title for “Ukraine's Got Talent” in 2009 and was a finalist for other “Got Talent” seasons, returned for the first ever “America's Got Talent: Fantasy League,” where fan favorite contestants form teams under each of the judges: Howie Mandel, Mel B, Heidi Klum and Simon Cowell.

For this performance, titled “Follow your Dreams,” Simonova told a sweeping, poignant and heartfelt story honoring the love between a mother and her son—using only the sand in her hands.

In only a couple of minutes, a phone turns into a house, then into two faces, then into two figures, then into a boy looking out of the window and into the sky, then a rocket and finally an astronaut in space. It’s pretty unreal.


Not only did Simonova receive a standing ovation from the audience, but praises from three of the four judges, with Howie Mandel calling her work “an amazing, emotional work of artistry.” Simon Cowell also commended her, saying, "no one else in the world can do what you can do.”

Online viewers seemed to agree and found Simonova to be one-of-a-kind.

“I always love these types of acts. Something unique that you don’t often see but can clearly see the talent and skill that it takes to perform,” one person wrote on YouTube.

Another added, “An incredible talent. Such an original and unique form of artistry!”

Not only is sand animation a rare art form, it’s also a fairly new one. According to the site Animation Explainers, it’s only been around since 1968, when artist Caroline Leaf manipulated beach sand on a lightbox for each frame of her film, “Sand or Peter and the Wolf.”

Animation Explainers also has a great passage about why sand animation is intriguing, saying, “The beauty of sand animation lies in that it only lasts for a short moment. It is a fragile form and often evokes very impassioned responses in viewers.”

If that doesn’t sum up the raw beauty of Simonova’s art, I don’t know what does.

By the way, if you’d like to see even more of Simonova’s sand animations, check out her website. You can also find a full length version of “Follow Your Dreams” here.

Light Balance Kids on AGT.

“America’s Got Talent” is back, this time reuniting the best of the best for its “All Stars” season. Winners, finalists, fan favorites and others from across the franchise step onto the stage once more to showcase their talent and compete for the title.

As you can imagine, the bar is set pretty high. On Monday’s premiere, Jan 2, one hopeful act truly shined—not only with another Golden Buzzer winning performance, but their incredible display of resilience.

Light Balance Kids, a dance group from Ukraine made up of mostly kids, earned their first Golden Buzzer back in 2019 after wowing judges with their robot themed light-up routine. Since that victory, their home country has been in the throes of war. One member even noted that some had to travel to the show alone. "Some of our parents, like my father, are still in the war in Ukraine. He's fighting for our country for independence and freedom,” she explained.

She went on to share that she’s been woken up at 4 a.m. so that her family could flee to an underground station, overwhelmed by the sounds of “bombs and rockets everywhere.” Needless to say, no child should ever have to experience that.

Another dancer added that after not dancing together since 2019, returning to AGT is an “opportunity to remember what it’s like to have peaceful times.”

She concluded with yet another powerful statement before the group began: “We want to show the world that light always wins.”

The group proceeded to do just that—performing a stunning video-game inspired number that earned a standing ovation from the audience.

Watch below:

The impressive spectacle was dubbed by judge Simon Cowell as the crew’s best. "If anything defines an All-Star, it was that performance, really,” he said, adding that their touching story on top of such talent made it all the more “poignant.”

Howie Mandel seconded, saying, "There's such an amazing message here. Where you come from, at this point it's arguably the darkest place in the world, and you come across the globe to bring us light.”

Then he hit that coveted Golden Buzzer button, and joined them on stage as the confetti dropped, telling the group they're his “favorite act ever!"

With a show like this, seeing astonishing talent is inevitable. But what makes it even more worthwhile is witnessing remarkable displays of humanity. It takes courage and strength to choose hope when surrounded by darkness. These kids have that in spades, along with some super cool dance moves.