Transcend – 1) to go beyond the range or limits, or 2) to triumph over the negative or restrictive aspects
The Las Vegas Strip is a beacon for fledgling performers hoping to succeed in the entertainment industry. One young couple known as Duo Transcend has longed for the applause of a captivated Vegas audience. Now that dream is about to come true under the famous beam of Luxor hotel-casino in what promises to be Sin City’s newest, boldest and brightest extravaganza - AMERICA'S GOT TALENT: Las Vegas Live.
When you perform for a nationwide television audience under the name “Duo Transcend”, you’ve already set the bar pretty high. Fortunately for viewers of America’s Got Talent, the husband and wife team of Mary Ellen Wolfe and Tyce Nielsen delivered sexy thrills and heart-stopping chills that brought down the house.
The duo’s story is fraught with determination, wonder, and a passion to entertain. It’s also one of overcoming near-impossible odds in the face of a debilitating medical condition – one that threatened to permanently end their careers.
The couple began their collaboration at a stunt show in Salt Lake City. Performing together for the first time, they fell in love and decided to create a solo project. The result was the jaw-dropping trapeze and skating act that catapulted Duo Transcend to fame on America’s Got Talent…and its global face-off known as AGT: The Champions.
Mary had this to say about their early days in the entertainment industry:
"We began our performance career as cliff divers in a stunt show. That’s where we met and decided to put a duo act together so that we could stay together and not have to take separate contracts."
"In the first year, we lived on saved money so that we could focus on training. In 2013 we were hired for our first trapeze contract and since then, performing has been our only job. We slowly worked our way into companies and were able to support ourselves one hundred percent by performing."
Despite all of the planning that went into their career path, one variable was completely out of their hands. Tyce suffers from keratoconus, a progressive eye disease that affects the corneas. With their skills dependent upon precision and timing, they faced the very real possibility of having to withdraw from show business.
A medical procedure called cross-linking can often help victims of the disease, but for Tyce, that option appeared to be out of the question. As Mary told us, "When I first met Tyce, the doctors in Utah said that his corneas were too thin to get cross-linking done. We were told the only option would be to get a cornea transplant, maybe in his 40’s or 50’s depending on how it progressed. Tyce’s older brother and younger sister also have keratoconus. We don’t know why."
The decision was made to continue performing, and eventually, the duo became three with the birth of son Jaxx. Being new parents was challenging enough, but a life on the road made it especially tough. So the couple aligned with the venerable Cirque du Soleil, who provided flexibility for them and their young boy. It was an enormous relief for the hard-working mother.
"It was hard to leave Jaxx home so much. Luckily we have a supportive family with who we could leave Jaxx. Sometimes we could take him with us, like when we would do gigs with Cirque (du Soleil). For a lot of gigs, it was just too expensive to fly him with us. We performed with Cirque Du Soleil since 2017 in their special event traveling shows. They were very accommodating to have Jaxx with us."
Duo Transcend then decided to take their next big leap of faith by auditioning for America’s Got Talent. The star-making competition has been at the forefront of new Vegas acts for over a decade. Headliners like Terry Fator, Shin Lim, and Mat Franco all have AGT to thank for their successful Vegas residencies. And while the series has launched numerous careers into the stratosphere, it’s also an intimidating option that opens you to criticism…and the potential for crushing disappointment.
"Auditioning on TV is a huge gamble. Circus people like us have already been training and working professionally for years, then go on TV with little stage practice time and have a judge hate you. Art is subjective. Some people will like you, some won’t, and having that happen on TV can be devastating for an artist." – Mary
Those fears were never realized, though, as Duo Transcend‘s audition brought three of the AGT judges to their feet. Throughout the competition, they continued to up their game, captivating voters and the panel week after week. Despite numerous standing ovations, the couple didn’t win but was invited to return for AGT: The Champions. This time they placed second overall, and now they're a part of the AGT family with its first permanent Las Vegas production.
The couple's television appearances also yielded a bit of a miracle regarding Tyce's vision:
"When we first auditioned, it wasn’t of a question of “if” I would go blind…but “when”. Because of AGT, we had one of the most successful eye surgeons in the country reach out to us personally. And he was able to do a procedure where he stopped the progression of the disease. So, I will no longer go completely blind. Now there’s a future that looks completely different, and I would have never known if it wasn’t for AGT."
With regularly-scheduled performances five nights per week at Luxor, the happy family has been able to settle here as residents. And DUO TRANSCEND has finally fulfilled their dream of being Las Vegas entertainers.
AMERICA'S GOT TALENT: Las Vegas Live will perform Wednesday through Sunday at 7 pm and 9:30 pm. Tickets start at $49 (plus taxes/fees) and can be ordered here.