After 12 seasons of dance, you’ve got to shake things up a bit and bring in something fresh—and the new format really has done that. From what I’ve seen, being in Vegas and watching the audition cities that I had not seen previously, we are getting some of the best of the best talent. And on my side, the Street side, we’re getting some incredible people who previously would not have even tried for So You Think You Can Dance. We’re dealing with people who have never left their cities, much less taken any dance classes or had any formal training, and now they’re starting to come out and wanting to show what they can do—because they have the chance to do what it is that they do.
Kenya “Standing O” Sutton was my favorite audition of the night. She’s incredible, and if we hadn’t switched the format, we would have missed out on that talent completely. And don’t get me wrong—she’s very heavy in the street dance scene. She has done battles and things like that. She’s known on the street scene, but this actually has given her a chance to be shown to the rest of America, and with that, I think, just comes a lot of power.
There’s something about a family show like So You Think You Can Dance offering a wide variety of talent in many different packages—whether it be color, creed, size, anything—because you get to see these people doing what it is they’re strongest at, and you never know who that’s going to inspire as they’re watching. And I think that’s been one of the strongest common threads through every season: that it’s ongoing inspiration for the future generation, and there’s always somebody that you can connect with. Out of the 20, there’s at least one person, and even if they don’t make it to the top 20, if you watch through the audition specials, you’ll see someone that you connect with; they’ll strike a chord. It moves you.
Mentoring has been my favorite part of So You Think so far. I have thoroughly enjoyed being an All-Star, judging was really hard, and competing was super hard, but mentoring is incredible. Mentoring has been great, because all of the knowledge I have gained going through all of the channels of So You Think You Can Dance—I can now boil all of that down and have the answers for all of the questions that I had going through it.
There’s something about that audition experience—if you are willing and able and strong enough to kind of put your ego aside, it opens up this whole new chamber of your heart to connect with these other artists that are super passionate about the same thing that you are. I really enjoyed Mission, the guy that came up and danced with his proteges and his students. That was great. I loved Beast and his little son, Bam Bam—so cute. The cutest thing. And even though it’s on the Stage side, I loved the story of Gaby Diaz getting cut in Texas and then coming back. That’s what it’s about. Travis actually had a similar experience in season 2, which is ridiculous, because it’s Travis Wall. It can happen to anybody—it’s just a matter of perseverance, and when you know, you know. And I think Gaby knew, I got cut, but trust me, I have something to offer here, and she wasn’t afraid to come back and show her face again. And that’s what it takes.
As told to Kelly Connolly