The final four contestants competing on this season of So You Think You Can Dance
sat down for a conference call interview this past Friday and even over the phone it was easy to tell how thoroughly saturated in each other’s company they’d become during the days and weeks leading up to tonight's season finale.
Muffled giggles and whispered side-chatter broke up the silence between questions from the four reporters on the line. When I asked about things they did on their down time, they all got giddy explaining this imaginary Game of Thrones-
type deal they play with each other where everyone goes around pretending to kill one another in interesting ways. The story made me re-realize how young they all were (between 18 and 20), but, more-so, made me realize how confined to the SYTYCD
world they’d been over the past couple months.
“We don’t have as much time as we would like,” said Ricky Ubeda, the Miami native and competition favorite, “to [pay attention to] what’s going on […] in the outside world. We’re kind of [stuck] in this little bubble together.”
While they may lack a comprehensive view of current world affairs, there’s no shortage of inward reflection amongst this year’s final four. They all have a very honest understanding of what they’re a part of and what the show has done for them.
“As a dancer, I've come out of my shell much more [since the start of the show],” said Valerie Rockey, a tap dancer from Indianapolis.
“I agree with Valerie,” said Jessica Richens, who started watching SYTYCD
during its first season, in 2005, when she was 8 years old. “We were talking the other day about how we all feel so much more mature personally and [professionally] with our dancing […] We've pushed ourselves more than we ever thought we were capable of pushing ourselves.”
The show’s cutthroat elimination style and its high-pressure inducing performances, paired with the media's and public’s intensely magnified view of all the action, has helped make SYTYCD
a ten-time Emmy winner. It's also had its inevitable impact on the competitors.
“I think that the show really makes you realize a lot of things,” said Ricky. “You grow as an artist and you grow as an individual […] You become more of a professional and a hard worker […] You become able to push to the extreme, [which] causes a lot to change.”
“For sure, I think the show definitely matures you because of the amount of work we do and the amount of stress and pressure we’re under,” said Zack Everhart, the final four’s other tap dancer. “I think that we've all kind of grown up a little bit. But at the same time, it’s also put us in a spotlight that we've never really experienced before — at least I haven’t. I don’t think we’ll really know how [the show] has changed our lives until we get out of this little bubble.”
They’ll be out of their collective cable network bubble and have their freedom soon enough. After tonight, one of the four finalists will walk away with $250,000, a spot in the Broadway musical On the Town
, a chance to grace the cover of Dance Spirit
magazine and this year’s title of America’s Favorite Dancer. The other three will receive an endless amount of opened career doors. And did I mention that none of them are over 20?
"As long as I'm dancing," said Jessica Richens, "I'm happy."
The two-hour season 11 finale of
So You Think You Can Dance will air tonight, on Fox, at 8 p.m.