The last round of Vegas callbacks was a really dope episode but a really hard episode to watch. There were so many people who were hard to say goodbye to, especially now, watching it back and being able to hear them talk to the camera. Travis and I talk about it a lot: Sometimes we just wish that while we were in Vegas, we had a chance to walk away for a little bit and then come back and make the decision.
We had some great, great, great talent on Street, and hopefully a lot will come back next year, because there are definitely some stars we need to see again — like, of course, Standing O, Ladia Yates, Bdash, and Anime. I’m watching the episode back and just hoping that these people come back. Mission, from Detroit, this is his last time that he’s eligible to try out because of age, so that’s just hard. Hopefully he comes back and tries to choreograph.
And I will say that somebody I really miss and hope comes back is Christy — she had pink braided hair. She is one of my favorites. I wish we could’ve had her, but hopefully she’ll come back. The show made a difference for her — even talking to her now, she’s saying, “It changed my life. It changed my perspective on things.” Especially in the street community, if you don’t get something, your pride jumps in, but if you can learn something, it makes your training better. That’s what it’s about.
With Asaf, he was in the heat of the moment with all of his focus and determination, but listening is a really key goal. I’m big on the way people take the news, because I’m a dreamer myself, so I know that rejection is part of it. No matter how close to your heart, you’re going to receive some rejections. It matters to me the way people handle their rejection and handle the mistakes that they make onstage — their ability to brush it off and do it again — because with the choreography round, you usually do the routine twice in a row. If you mess up on the first one, you brush that off and try to redeem yourself on the second one. There were a lot of people who really pulled that focus in, so that was a very big deciding factor for us, especially for the 10 who made it in. Their focus game was just so intense.
Someone I was particularly impressed with, especially in choreography, is Eddie. He also goes by Venus. He really didn’t get that much shine on the episode, but I think that people will be really surprised and delighted to see him. The way he picked up choreography as a street-style hip-hop dancer was incredible, and the focus he gave and the smile he had through all of that was one of the determining factors. That’s just a great attitude to have. You didn’t get to see a lot of the support these people all had for each other and how much they were actually rehearsing together. Some Street dancers who have experience learning choreography were helping all of the other ones. That’s also what made it hard to say goodbye to so many people — you got a feel for the person and what they were like under pressure.
Now we’ve got our top 10 Street dancers, and what I’m excited about most is that we’ve seen what they’ve been able to do with a couple of hours of work, and now we get to see what they’ll do with a week of work. I’m excited for them to be able to speak on camera, because all of them have something to say. It’s such a diverse group. We’ve got JJ representing Japan, Lily representing Mexico — everybody has a story to tell. It’s not something that was handed to them — everybody recognizes the opportunity in front of them. I’m excited for it. I pray that if there are any train crashes in choreography, once they start getting outside their style, that it’ll be handled with grace.
It wouldn’t be So You Think You Can Dance if you weren’t watching the audition series and thinking, “Man, I’m disappointed this person didn’t make it through.” That’s kind of how it goes. I remember watching before — and after — I was on the show, thinking, “Oh this person is definitely in,” and then they didn’t make it. But Jaja didn’t make it last year, I didn’t make it my first time, Travis didn’t make it in the first city that he auditioned — it’s part of the story. It’s heartbreaking, but it’s part of it.
I feel like Travis and I have a harder job than the judges. Maybe Paula and Nigel feel it, because Paula has auditioned for jobs before and so has Nigel, and Nigel’s been doing the audition process since the beginning, so they know how it feels to be so close to something and have it taken away. But as long as they use it for fuel to come back and go harder, that’s what it’s about. I think that’s why the powers that be allow you to get so close to something: to let you know how bad you actually want it.
I’m really excited for what’s next, and congratulations to my Team Street.
As told to Kelly Connolly