Credit: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

I thought Monday’s finale was incredible. Having the whole top 20 back reminded us of everyone who’d gone and how long ago it was. I couldn’t believe that the summer was ending for me.

Obviously dancing with Jenna Dewan Tatum was, for me, a highlight. I had so much fun onstage with her. I get so nervous and so worked up, and my heart rate won’t slow down. Dancing onstage is one thing, but when you’re dancing onstage and there’s a camera and it’s going out to millions of people, that frightens the hell out of me. I just get so scared that I’m going to screw up — and especially with that routine, there are so many lifts. I just wanted to make her feel good and feel safe and look as amazing as she is, because she’s an extraordinary dancer. I didn’t want to miss an arm or a leg or have anything go wrong for her, because I knew a lot of eyes were on her in this moment as well.

So I put a lot of pressure on myself, but during the routine, there’s a moment where we make eye contact and I pull her into me, and she grabs my chest. That was kind of the “home free” moment. I was like, “All of the craziest lifts are out of the way now. Now I can really enjoy this.” Obviously the judges went nuts, and social media. All of the press — everything they’re saying about that number today is so nice. It’s really nice to be so well-received.

At the beginning of the show, I didn’t know that they were going to make me talk, but they brought me out. That’s happened a lot to me this week. They asked me about the Emmys, and really, it is amazing: I started as a contestant on this show nine years ago, and I didn’t win, but I knew that I was going to be a part of the show. I knew I was going to choreograph; I knew what I wanted to do with my life.

For every single person along the journey — my friends, my family, people who’ve given me my first opportunities and my first jobs, and the show for welcoming me back, and the fans who’ve tuned in every week and watched my journey from season 2 until now — that’s what the Emmy represents to me. It doesn’t represent the work I do on the show. It just represents my journey on So You Think You Can Dance. It’s like when Kelly Clarkson won American Idol‘s first Grammy; it kind of solidified the talent that the show attracts. It’s really cool that I could represent the show in this way, that it found unknown talent and eventually was able to receive an award for the talent. It’s the coolest feeling in the world. Again, I thank everyone who helped me along the way, because I would not be here without all of them.

And I am so excited for Gaby. I’ve said before that I was really pulling for her, and I really thought that she should win. I didn’t know if she would; I thought Jaja could to take it. There were a lot of online predictions saying Jaja, and I just figured, “If it happens, it happens.” But I wanted Gaby to win so badly, and I was waiting by the side of the stage, and they said “Gaby” and I literally screamed like a girl. I’m so excited for her. People were coming up to me and congratulating me, and I was like, “Don’t congratulate me. This is not about, ‘Oh, Team Stage won.’ It’s not about any of that.” I said, “Gaby won.” I’m so proud of her — yes, I helped her along the way, but this is not a “win for Team Stage.” This is literally just: I’m so proud of Gaby for winning this show. She deserved it so much. It was such a high, that night.

The sad part of this whole thing is: Why couldn’t Jim do that during the regular competition? If he had that routine with Alex during the regular competition, he would have been in the finale hands down. So that’s the frustrating part, but at the end of the day, he still got to do this routine. I’ve had that routine planned since the minute season 12 started. They’re exceptional, and their technique is just flawless. It’s not even about how high their leg goes — you’re looking at their supporting leg, and the way they move in their plié. They are literally flawless. It was a dream working with both of them. The story is very personal to me, and sometimes when I can’t get the words to say things, and I can’t deal with a certain life situation, I create a piece. That’s the way I’m able to deal with some therapy of my own. It was beautiful to watch.

As for what’s next for me, the good news is that my dance company, Shaping Sound, starts back in rehearsals in a week and a half. And I’m very excited to announce that Ricky Ubeda is joining us on tour. He’s joining Shaping Sound. We’ll have two and a half weeks of rehearsal, and then we open up and we go on tour. Fans of the show, if you want to see me dance live and see this fantastic show that this dance company’s created, you have to come see us on the road and check us out at

And then I have a project coming up in New York City that I can’t talk about just yet, but I’m super excited about it. It’s an amazing dance project. And let’s keep our fingers crossed for season 13.

What an incredible summer this was. I will never forget it. And on to the next!

As told to Kelly Connolly

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Episode Recaps

So You Think You Can Dance

Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, and the viewers at home crown America’s Favorite Dancer.

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