Photo by Lucas Chilczuk

Ricky Ubeda's Reign

Call it the “So You Think You Can Dance" generation: Dancers who've been inspired by the hit Fox series since they were kids are now going on to compete on the show. Nineteen-year-old Ricky Ubeda has been a huge fan of “SYTYCD" ever since Season 1, and having on-screen role models like Travis Wall helped him explore his own potential as a young student. “The show was actually what got me interested in dance," Ricky remembers. “Watching dancers like Travis really inspired me." Now, Ricky is leading the pack of young-fans-turned-competitors: He earned the coveted Season 11 title in September.

Ricky, who grew up in Miami, FL, began taking hip-hop classes at age 8. He also joined the Miami Heat Junior Jam dancers, which helped him hone his performance skills. Around 14, Ricky started getting serious about dance: He transferred to Miami's Stars Dance Studio—co-directed by “SYTYCD" Season 6 alum Victor Smalley, who became Ricky's mentor—and joined the dance team at Coral Reef Senior High School. “I was surprised by how many of the things I learned on dance team helped me in the commercial world," says Ricky. “It was all about taking notes and corrections effectively, which came in handy on 'SYTYCD.' "

Those early experiences also taught him how to push himself to the limit—good preparation for the sometimes-grueling “SYTYCD" journey. Throughout high school, Ricky's everyday routine looked something like this: academic classes at Coral Reef in the morning, followed by dance classes for the second half of his school day, followed by after-school dance team rehearsals, followed by more classes and some teaching at Stars Dance Studio. “My high school training showed me the value of persistence," says Ricky, who graduated in May. “With a good work ethic, you can do anything."

(Photo by Lucas Chilczuk)

That discipline is about to be put to the test, as the next year is sure to be a whirlwind full of exciting—and intense—opportunities. The 73-city “SYTYCD" tour, which kicked off in October, runs nearly nonstop through February. Once that wraps up, Ricky will have the chance to join the Broadway cast of On the Town. “I've always dreamed of being on Broadway," he says. “When I went to watch On the Town in NYC after I won, all the cast members were waiting outside the theater for me. They were so sweet—they gave me a hat and we all took a big picture."

Though the future is wide open, one thing's for sure: Ricky will never forget his time on “SYTYCD." The sentimental dancer saved just about every memento from his journey, from each week's style and All-Star cards to costume pieces. “I even saved the flowers and bobby pins that were in Valerie Rockey's hair for our waltz routine," Ricky says, laughing. “And, of course, I have my card that says 'America's Favorite Dancer.' "

(Photo by Lucas Chilczuk)

5 Things You Didn't Know About Ricky

1. He's a great barista: Ricky made the other “So You Think You Can Dance" contestants Cuban coffee every morning during the show.

2. While Ricky was taping “SYTYCD," his home studio, Stars Dance Studio in Miami, raised more than $10,000 to help his family fly to L.A. and support him in person.

3. After winning the show, Ricky didn't get to celebrate at the wrap party with the rest of the cast. Instead, he immediately hopped on a red-eye flight to NYC to do press!

4. Ricky didn't spend a bit of his $250,000 “SYTYCD" prize winnings. He put every penny into investments, saving for the future.

5. The “SYTYCD" tour hit Miami on November 28—the day after Thanksgiving—so Ricky's family invited the whole cast to spend the holiday at their house!

Ricky's “So You Think You Can Dance" Journey

January 13, 2014: Ricky travels from Miami to Atlanta to try his luck at the open “So You Think You Can Dance" auditions. The judges are blown away. Mary Murphy later tells him, “I've gotta be honest: I fell in love with you the first day I saw you."

April 10–15, 2014: Ricky joins 156 other dancers in Pasadena, CA, for callback week, which he remembers as “the hardest thing ever. It's scary because there are so many talented people and you don't know if you're the right person." Indeed, he was: Ricky was the first contestant to make his way down the Green Mile and learn he was part of Season 11's Top 20.

Ricky and Jessica in Sonya Tayeh's Vow (photo by Adam Rose/FOX)

July 2, 2014: Fox airs its “Meet the Top 20" episode, during which Ricky performs Sonya Tayeh's Vow with Jessica Richens—one of the season's most memorable routines. “Sonya instilled something wonderful in us that lasted all the way to the end," Ricky says.

July 16, 2014: Ricky takes the stage with partner Valerie Rockey in a Viennese waltz choreographed by Lacey Schwimmer. “That was the hardest piece for me by far—

I cried at the first rehearsal," he remembers. “Valerie and I were two ballroom newbies trying to dance in frame, stepping all over each other."

Ricky and Valerie Rockey in Pharside and Phoenix's Turn Down for What (photo by Adam Rose/FOX)

July 30, 2014: Not only does Ricky kill it in the Top 7 guys' number by Travis Wall, but Ricky and Valerie also solidify their status as fan favorites with an amazing hip-hop routine by Pharside & Phoenix. Who could forget that ridiculous middle split move? “We became like brother and sister during that routine," Ricky says of his favorite tapstress.

August 20, 2014: Ricky gets good practice for the Broadway stage with a too-cute-to-believe Spencer Liff routine to “I've Got the World on a String."

August 27, 2014: All-star Kathryn McCormick joins Ricky to dance a Stacey Tookey contemporary piece—and it's a game changer. “Kathryn McCormick took me to another world," Ricky says. “We really dove into the intention of the piece together."

Ricky is crowned America's Favorite Dancer (Adam Rose/FOX)

September 3, 2014: Things come full circle as the final two are revealed to be Ricky and Valerie. (No shocker, as the pair were the only dancers “safe" every week of the series.) Ricky FTW!

Flying Solo

Ricky's well-crafted solos were a big part of what set him apart on “So You Think You Can Dance." Equal parts artistry and aptitude, each new routine helped solidify Ricky as a frontrunner in the minds of both judges and viewers. And except for his audition solo, Ricky choreographed them all himself! What's his secret? “Every dancer has a different formula, but for me, it's finding that balance of technique, artistry and performance," he says. “You have to give enough of each throughout the solo."

The Moment They Knew

A lot of us pegged Ricky as the “So You Think You Can Dance" Season 11 winner super early on—he's just that good. Here, producer Nigel Lythgoe and guest judge extraordinaire Jesse Tyler Ferguson look back on the moment they realized Ricky was the one to beat.

“Ricky's technique and charisma led me to believe he could go all the way the very first time I saw him audition. It's easy for anyone to say that now, but I said it at the time on camera!" —Nigel Lythgoe

“Ricky was one of those rare front-runners who followed through to the end and didn't crack under pressure. When I saw how he handled that stress, that was the moment I realized he had what it took to win. His glowing reviews and positive feedback from the judges and audience only fueled his talent—he never wavered or buckled under those high expectations." —Jesse Tyler Ferguson

(Photo by Brooklin Rosenstock/FOX)

Overheard Online: You guys couldn't get enough Ricky! Here are a few of our favorite fan comments.

“It's like someone took Jakob Karr's extensions, Mark Kanemura's quirk, Kent Boyd's cuteness and Billy Bell's freakishness and melded them all together into some beautiful Frankenstein of dance." —Nicole S. via YouTube

“You are this generation's Baryshnikov, Ricky! Bravo!" —Susana Tubert via Facebook

“I feel sorry for anyone who has to share the stage with Ricky. He will steal the show whether you want it or not." —Edson Mejia via YouTube

“Not only is he a phenomenal technically trained dancer, but he also makes you feel something. Gives me shivers every time!" —Wincy Leung via YouTube

“Watching Ricky Ubeda makes me want to stretch for 300 years." —@daanncceerrr via Twitter

“I'm completely in love with and in awe of Ricky Ubeda. What a wonderful dancer and a humble, beautiful person. Watching him dance is truly uplifting!" —Kelly Brownlow via Facebook

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What’s in Your Dance Bag—Based on Your Zodiac Sign

Sometimes our dance bags feel like portals to another dimension—we have no idea what half the stuff buried in our bags even is. (Note to self: Clean out dance bag.)

But have you ever wondered if there's a method to the madness? We're pretty sure there is, and as always, we're pretty sure it's something to do with astrology. That's right, your resident Dance Spirit astrologers are back with our best guess at what you keep in your dance bag—based on your zodiac sign.


You're always going 100 mph Aries (or maybe even more), so it's pretty much a guarantee that your dance bag is fully stocked with snacks to power you through the day. Granola bars, trail mix, yogurt, fruit. It's like a Whole Foods in there.

You've also usually got about six different pairs of shoes in your bag. As an Aries, you love adventure, trying new things and, most of all, a challenge. So when it comes to classes, you're all over the map. Tap, jazz, ballet, character, modern—you'll try them all.

Something else you won't go without? Your signature red lipstick, obv. How else are you going to show off your fiery personality? (And look amazing while doing it, TYSM.)


As a child of Venus, you always want to look your best, Taurus. So your dance bag is a hair salon/makeup station, all in one. If your dance besties need to borrow a hair tie, or are looking for a fun accessory to spice up their bun, they know you're the one to go to.

Also important to you? Smelling your best. Taureans love comforting, luxurious scents, so your dance bag is typically equipped with a favorite perfume or deodorant. (Or both.)

But what's most important is the bag itself—admit it, you've been using the same dance bag for years. We get it, Taurus, nobody likes change, and least of all the stubborn bull of the zodiac. But if your dance bag is really starting to smell like feet (or if your bobby pins are starting to slip through the holes in the bottom), you might want to consider investing in a new bag.


Gemini, you love to switch it up. So you're pretty much guaranteed to have at least three different dance fits in your bag at any given time. And your dancewear is always on point. You love to keep up with trends and try edgy, new looks.

Ever the intellect, you usually have a book in your bag, as well. You're always making book recs to your fellow dancers, and you refuse to be bored between rehearsals or backstage.

Though you might act carefree, Gemini, we know that at heart, you're ruled by Mercury—and you have more in common with your sister sign Virgo than you'd like to admit. That's why you always have a toothbrush, toothpaste, and some floss in your dance bag. No way you're getting caught with food between your teeth (or bad breath during partnering class).


Not to be obvious, but as a water sign, the first and foremost thing a Cancerian keeps in their dance bag? A water bottle, of course. (Preferably a Hydroflask, S'well or any bottle that comes in a fun color.) No dehydration here, please and thank you.

Your dance bag also functions as a de facto vending machine for your dance besties, since you always come prepared with the best snacks, and you're always willing to share. As a bonus, your snacks are almost always homemade, since you're practically a five-star chef.

And while we're wary of zodiac stereotypes, there is a pretty good chance your dance bag is stocked with tissues. And there's no shame in that—because, really, who can get through a performance of Romeo and Juliet without shedding some tears? Props to you for being in touch with your emotions, Cancer.


We'll state the obvious, Leo. You love to look at yourself, and sometimes the studio mirrors just aren't enough. So, naturally, you always keep a compact mirror in your dance bag, just in case your makeup or your bun needs an extra touch-up.

You also love bright colors, and you're not afraid to wear more daring dancewear than any of your besties. You've usually got a couple of leotards packed in your bag, just in case you need to make a fashion statement, and they're always fun. Bright colors, loud prints, stylish necklines—you'll try anything.

But something not everyone knows about you? You're an amazing friend, and incredibly loyal, Leo. That's why you've usually got something in your bag for your dance bestie, be it her favorite brand of granola bar, a fun sparkly pin for her hair, or a note reminding her she's a star, on and off the stage.


You're incredibly hardworking, Virgo, so you've always got the tools for success in your dance bag. TheraBands, foam rollers, tennis balls—you're the one dancer your teacher can always count on to be stretching between classes.

You also love to be prepared, so you've usually got a makeshift first-aid kit in your bag. The thought of suffering a blister or floor burn without the appropriate salves or bandages makes you shudder, and, hey, it's always better to be overprepared, right?

What's most noticeable about your dance bag, though, isn't what's inside of it. It's what it looks like—your bag is pristine. It never smells like feet, and you've got a hard-core system for what you keep in each little zip pocket or compartment. And TBH, all of your dance friends are jealous, though they'd never admit it.


Like your sister sign Taurus, appearances are important to you, Libra. You like to look good (no shame in that), so your dance bag is always stocked with the essentials: extra hair spray, lip gloss, concealer, bobby pins and a spare leotard, in case you get just a bit too sweaty.

You also love to socialize, so if this were the 1950s, we would say that you always keep your date book in your dance bag. As it is, you always have your phone with you, and it's usually blowing up with texts from your dance besties asking to make plans.

Your dance bag wouldn't be complete without your secret supply of chocolate. But to be clear: This isn't your average Hershey's bar. Libras aren't afraid to indulge, so you keep a bar of luxury dark chocolate tucked away for when the cravings hit.


You can't fool us, Scorpio—the contents of your dance bag aren't some big mystery, like you'd like us all to believe. In fact, they're pretty basic: For starters, you always have a black leotard or two in your bag. After all, black is your signature color.

One thing that isn't in Scorpio's dance bag? Toe pads. You love to look tough, so you'd never be caught dead wearing toe pads with your pointe shoes. However, this does mean you need a hefty supply of Band-Aids for the inevitable blisters.

You also love all things mystical and, dare we say, witchy. You're the Halloween queen of the zodiac, after all! So it's no surprise you always have a crystal or two in the front pocket of your dance bag. Let us guess…moldavite?


You're an explorer, Sagittarius, and that applies to your dancing. You're always trying new dance styles, and that's reflected in your dance bag. You always have the trappings of your latest obsession in your bag: heeled shoes for ballroom, kneepads for contact improv, sneakers for breaking, the list goes on and on.

But on all of your adventures, there's one consistency: You love making memories. And that means literally—you document everything. At each performance or recital, you're bound to be the one with a Polaroid or disposable camera in your bag, and you can usually be found snapping backstage candids of your dance besties.

Your other favorite form of documenting? Writing it down. You love to learn, so you're always taking notes. You can usually be found after class scribbling down your dance teacher's latest piece of wisdom. Your dance bag is crammed with half-filled notebooks, and you wouldn't have it any other way.


You like to be prepared, Capricorn. And we mean prepared—for every bad scenario imaginable. That's why your dance bag is a mini survival kit. The first Capricorn dance bag guarantee? A stitch kit, of course. Losing a ribbon on your pointe shoe mid-rehearsal is your worst nightmare.

You also always have at least three spare leotards handy. After all, what if you spill something, or get too sweaty or, worst of all, show up to an audition in the same leotard as your dance rival? No, thank you. As a Capricorn, you're expecting the best and preparing for the worst.

Another key to your survival kit? Headphones, so you can drown out the noise around you and focus on your dancing. And before anyone asks, the answer is yes, you have the perfect playlist—for each and every occasion.


Aquarius, you love helping others. That's why it sometimes seems like your dance bag isn't even for you—it's filled with stuff you bring for your friends. Snacks for one dance bestie, Band-Aids for another, and tampons, of course, just in case anyone needs one.

But when it comes to you, you're all about originality. That's why you always have tons of fun accessories in your bag: striped legwarmers, colorful socks, tie-dyed sweats and more than a couple of fun additions to your ballet bun, just to make it a little more interesting.

You're also a rebel at heart, Aquarius, which is why there's usually something in your dance bag that just borders on breaking the rules. Maybe your studio is strictly black leotards only—and yours is gray. Or phones are completely banned—and you just put yours on vibrate. We see you.


Like your fellow water sign Cancer, you're big on hydrating during dance class. But as a Pisces, you're a little more imaginative (and a little less practical), meaning you're usually carrying your water in something aesthetically pleasing, like a mason jar, a tumbler, or one of those fancy water bottles with a crystal in the base.

Unlike Cancer, you're a mutable sign, meaning you can adapt to just about any situation. Counterintuitively, this actually means your dance bag is pretty sparse. Unlike other zodiac signs who feel the need to overprepare in case of disaster, you're comfortable in most situations, and your dance bag reflects it. You like the basics, nothing else.

Something most people might not know about you, though, is that you get cold easily. We're not sure why, but it's a Pisces staple. That's why if you keep anything in your dance bag, it's the coziest of warm-ups.

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