This week’s top 20 performances were fun! It was the first elimination, and it was very interesting for me to see how America voted. What I noticed is that my bottom three guys had the best performances on the first day, so when the judges gave bad comments, America voted harder for those people. That kind of makes sense, but I could not believe that Derek and Moises were in the bottom; I thought America would fall in love with them. I believe Darion was in the bottom because I felt that Jim outshined Darion in the ballet number, so I could see why people would just pick up the phone for Jim.
As far as Monday’s performances go, I think the judges are starting to talk a lot about performance and their opinions about it — Why are you smiling here? Why are you making this face? — instead of talking about how incredible the number was or how they felt about this person’s ability. So now I have to take that and remember that that’s what they’re going to be commenting on all season.
Hailee, Darion, and Yorelis: The dress rehearsal for salsa was really, really good. They did the lift; they did everything. I just told them to bring more energy to the performance. Everyone got super excited last night and over-danced some elements of routines — the producers had to come backstage and say, “Everybody take a deep breath. Just chill. Everyone’s falling all over the stage.” So I felt bad for salsa. But Hailee figured out a way to get off the floor and continue on with the dance and nail it even harder, which is what we have to do as dancers, so I was very proud of her.
Derek and Ariana: I was rooting for that routine so much. In rehearsal, I thought that was one of the best routines, but in the beginning it fell flat — Ariana got tripped up on her feet, and she pulled Derek down with her. In the second half of the routine, they finally got it together, but then they announced that Derek was on the bottom. So I was really excited that he was going to have the opportunity to do my stage routine at the end of the show, because I knew he’d be a standout in that.
Alexia, Megz, and Virgil: I thought they were amazing. I knew that number was going to come together really nicely, and I thought Virgil and Megz were just awesome in it. I was really proud of them. It’s really crazy, because at this point, I’m helping them too, because it makes Alexia look better, and it makes the number look better, and then people get excited about that number. There’s definitely starting to be a gray area when it comes to, “Oh, I just want my team to do well.” We’re a family over here, and we want the best for every single person on this show. I was really proud of the three of them.
Edson, Burim, Gaby, and Lily: Bollywood was fun! Bollywood’s hard; it’s a lot of energy. Sometimes there are big tricks, but in this number there weren’t — it was more about the energy that they all four put together. Edson was having a little bit of trouble because since he and Burim had to do the same choreography the entire time, he didn’t really get to show off himself. They told him to lower his legs and arms, but I said, “That’s not okay. You need to go for it. You need to shine in this, because if it’s a bad routine, you’re going to be the one going home.” And Gaby, she’s a chameleon. Gaby’s going to go really far in this competition if she continues working as hard as she is.
Neptune, Kate, and Asaf: And then it was the Broadway number! I do not know what it is about these judges and Kate. I do not get it. The first week, she’s over-performing. The second week, they’re like, “You’ve got to turn it up.” She looked like an old Hollywood movie star up there. The performance was supposed to be laid back. I thought she was a star in that number. I have to be very honest: That number was a train wreck in rehearsal. Asaf couldn’t get the steps, and he didn’t seem like he wanted to get the steps, but then they had a turnaround moment. I thought they pulled that routine off so well last night.
Jaja and Jim: I am so proud of Jim. I am so happy that he had that moment. He was stressing out — he’s never taken hip-hop before. He’s literally been at a ballet barre since he was 3 years old. So I have to really give it to Jaja on this, because she helped him so much. She was being so honest with him every single time. They never stopped rehearsing, they stayed up late, they were always together, and she was always like, “Nope, do it again. Nope, watch me.” And on top of that, how charming and sweet was the message in Chris Scott’s choreography? With the message and the song and how it came together, and the fact that they’re both from two different worlds, it was this moment: This is what the show’s about. tWitch and I were backstage, and we got emotional, too. If they keep doing that, they’re the ones to beat for Team Stage and Team Street. That’s the standard we have to keep rising to.
Marissa, JJ, and Moises: Ray Leeper’s jazz number was incredible. Again with the judges and smiling! And then finally Paula came forward, and I was screaming backstage, “Yes, Paula!” Because from a woman’s point of view, the smile is kind of like, “I’m going to mess up your life.” They’re looking at each other and there’s this camaraderie — I absolutely agree with that performance, and I was so happy that Paula said that. I thought Moises was really strong, so I’m happy they gave him the respect for that. And then they announced that he was in the bottom three as well.
Team Stage group routine: For the bottom three, this was their opportunity to show why they deserved to be here. A lot of people had missed lifts that day, and I had people literally flying 20 feet in the air, so there was a lot that could go wrong. In one of the rehearsals, we threw Alexia up, and she came down and her elbow caught Jim on the nose. Jim had a bloody nose for 10 minutes. These are the things that we had to go through. I was like, “I want you to go for it, but let’s remember how responsible we have to be when we go for it.” I didn’t really get to enjoy the performance because I was worried about logistics, but I was so excited for them.
When they finished, I ran out on stage. The judges were going nuts, the audience was going nuts, and I felt the energy in the room. I knew right there that we were back on in this competition. We all truly worked together this week, and from the minute we started rehearsal — and then I got nominated for an Emmy — it was just like, we’re going to get this.
When Emmy nominations came out, I was in rehearsal for my Team Stage number — I knew nominations were coming out, but I was trying not to think about it. When it was 8:47 and nothing had happened, I was like, “All right, cool,” and I just kept rehearsing with everybody. Then at 8:51, I got some Twitter notification that said, “Congratulations,” and it listed the nominations. Right after I saw that, I finally got text messages from everybody. I had the phone in my hand, and my dancers were rehearsing, and I looked over and just started screaming. Then I just literally jumped into Robert’s arms. My team was so happy for me; it was surreal. I was like, “I have to leave the room; I have to call my mom; I have to call my boyfriend!” And then Executive Producer Jeff Thacker came by, and I ran and jumped into his arms, too.
And to top it all off: Tuesday, on our celebration of 10 years of So You Think You Can Dance, we got to do a new All-Star number, which I danced in and also choreographed. It’s 10 All-Stars, and we represented seasons 2 through 10. We started in the order of how we came on to the show—it’s just a sentimental piece. Plus, I got to do the bench routine with Kathryn.
As told to Kelly Connolly