Behind the Scenes at “So You Think You Can Dance”
tWitch, Alison and Allison Holker
When DS editor in chief Alison Feller and I traveled to L.A. for the “So You Think You Can Dance” Season 9 finale in September, we were beyond excited. Amazing dancing, the return of some of our favorite routines and the crowning of America’s Favorite Dancers? Best day ever! But the show we saw was slightly different from the one viewers watched at home. Here are 10 of the best-kept “SYTYCD” secrets.
1. No cell phones allowed!
Planning to tweet a pic of Cat Deeley’s latest sparkly outfit? Think again. The “SYTYCD” set makes airport security look like a breeze: Audience members’ phones are confiscated on the way in.
2. The “SYTYCD” stage has awesome neighbors.
CBS Television City also houses “The Price Is Right” and “Dancing with the Stars.” Cat’s dressing room is right across from “DWTS” host Tom Bergeron’s!
3. “SYTYCD” tapings are crawling with celebs.
Anyone who’s anyone in the dance world is there. Is that Stacey Tookey rocking that little black dress? Allison Holker and tWitch taking a romantic pre-show walk? Will Wingfield and new parents Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo? Even dance fan Minnie Driver snagged a front-row seat.
Me and Melanie Moore
4. During commercial breaks, there are no commercials.
The judges schmooze with audience members while an emcee entertains the crowd, mostly by asking them to cheer for the fabulous dancers.
5. Some of the best choreography is done by the cameramen.
Every so often, a man dressed in black toting a huge camera hops on stage with the dancers, weaving in and out of the choreography. The most impressive camera moment of the finale was during Tiffany Maher and Brandon Bryant’s disco. The cameraman twirled around the dancers so quickly it made me dizzy. On TV, it looked like the stage itself was spinning.
6. Cat thinks she can dance—and she totally can!
She may have stayed poised and proper during her monologues, but we spotted America’s Favorite TV Host getting down on the sidelines during Witney Carson and tWitch’s Luther Brown hip-hop routine. Cat, will we see you auditioning for Season 10?
7. The dancers hold their routines’ opening poses for a loooong time.
While the intro tape of rehearsals is playing, they’re holding that pose, and while the judges are joking with Cat, the dancers are still holding that pose.
The front section of the audience stands for the whole show (comfy shoes are a must!), and even those with seats stand up for every routine. Then, when huge set pieces come through—like rocks for the final Lion King-style number—the audience shuffles to make room. It makes the fans feel like part of the action.
9. After the show, there’s a pizza party!
The “SYTYCD” cast and crew went straight from the stage to a table loaded with steaming boxes of pizza. We even spotted Tyce Diorio chowing down (while reading Dance Spirit, of course).
10. The contestants and All-Stars are actually friends.
Backstage after the show, we chatted with the All-Stars, who were eager to share how excited they were for the winners. “Working with Chehon made me fall in love with him as a dancer and a person,” Kathryn McCormick (DS’s November cover girl) told us. “And I’m so proud of Eliana.” For All-Star and Season 8 winner Melanie Moore, the finale brought back memories: “I was sobbing when I hugged Chehon after the show. It was like feeling last year’s emotions all over again.”
Harper Watters is a ballet dancer for today's generation. A social media maestro and a charismatic performer, the Houston Ballet soloist is equally at home in front of the camera hosting his hit YouTube series, "The Pre Show"; interacting with fans on his crazy-popular Instagram account; or showing off his beautiful classical technique onstage. It's a multifaceted identity that's proven to be invaluable to his career—and it's taking him to places he never even dreamed of.
Getting corrections from our dance instructors is how we grow, and as students, it's important that we do our best to apply every correction right away. But sometimes—whether it's because we're in physical pain, or have a lot on our minds, or are just not paying attention—those corrections don't sink in. And from a teacher's standpoint, giving the same corrections time and time again gets old very fast. Here are 10 important corrections dance teachers are tired of giving. Take them to heart!
Summer intensive auditions can be nerve-racking. A panel of directors is watching your every move, and you're not even sure if you can be seen among the hundreds of other dancers in the room. We asked five summer intensive directors for their input on how dancers can make a positive impression—and even be remembered next year.
When we think of a dancer who's broken barriers, American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland tends to be the name that comes to mind. And though Copeland has been a crucial advocate for equality in the world of ballet, Raven Wilkinson—a mentor of Copeland's—is considered one of the original pioneers of the movement.
In 1955, Wilkinson became the first African American to dance with the renowned Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Her fortitude in the face of bigotry and hate cemented her legacy. Now, with the release of the new children's book Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson, a new generation of dancers will be inspired by her tale of overcoming obstacles to achieve a dream.
The book details Wilkinson's life, from her experience as a young dancer training in Harlem, to her run-ins with the Ku Klux Klan while on tour with Ballet Russe, to her later ballet career in Europe. "There were times where my heart really hurt because of the situations I had to deal with," she says. "But I always had faith that I was made to be a dancer and that I was gonna dance."
Dance Spirit spoke with Wilkinson to discuss the new book and get her take on racial equality within the ballet world.
Postmodern pioneer Trisha Brown redefined how dance is seen and felt. A founding member of Judson Dance Theater, Brown frequently collaborated with other experimental artists like Yvonne Rainer, Merce Cunningham, Twyla Tharp, and Steve Paxton.
She embraced pedestrian movement, pairing everyday gesture with rhythm and fluidity. "It's liquid," says Wendy Perron, who danced with Brown in the '60s and '70s. "Like a river with many tributaries, water coming out of a faucet, or being on a raft and seeing the water move away in different directions." Brown also pushed beyond stages with choreography in fields, museums—even on the sides of buildings.
There's a common misconception that a dancer's body has to be thin. But the truth is that talent knows no body type, and the number on the scale never determines an artist's capabilities. Here are some extraordinary dancers fighting the stereotype of what a dancer "should" look like.
We always love a good halftime performance. And we LIVE for halftime performances involving talented kids. (Fingers and toes crossed that Justin Timberlake follows Missy Elliott's lead and invites some fabulous littles to share his Super Bowl stage.)
So obviously, our hearts completely melted for 5-year-old Tavaris Jones. Tavaris may have just started kindergarten, but during Monday night's game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, the Detroit native danced with the panache of a veteran pro at halftime.