If it hasn't already, the So You Think You Can Dance tour might be making its way to a city near you soon! Last week, this season's top dancers came close to me in Oakland, CA, and I got a chance to hang out backstage with Chelsea Traille, Mark Kanemura, Katee Shean, Joshua Allen, and Jessica King. We chatted about life after SYTYCD, the rigor of the competition, what the judges were really like, and lots more. Check it out:
Buzz: Hi guys — how's the tour going so far?
Mark: Good — it's fun. The traveling is fun.
Do you get to interact with the fans at all? Are they what you expected the fans of the show were like?
Katee: Afterwards, we get to talk to them and stuff.
Mark: Yeah, you expect them to be young, but there are older ones.
Chelsea: A lot of women obviously, but I mean, grown men, fathers. I know a lot of married couples who watch together.
So what is more rigorous, the touring or the television competition?
Mark: I think the television competition was, by far. Just because it's not just physically draining but mentally draining.
Chelsea: The part about the show is you're cut off from reality. You're in your bubble, you don't really get the gist of how real it is because you watch it together, you film it together. The only live interaction that we get with the audience are the people that come in the studio, but other than that it's like tunnel vision.
To check out more of what we talked about, including Jessica's injury,
Speaking of rigor, the injuries got serious this past season. It made us wonder how dangerous this competition felt.
Chelsea: Yeah, but dancers are athletes.
Jessica: I think this show is probably one of the most intense situations a dancer can be in because not only is it strenuous on your body but it's mentally and emotionally draining as well and you don’t have time to sleep or regroup. And then each week it's like, "I got it, I can do this" and then they change it. "Oh, now you have two dances," "Oh now you have a new partner," "Oh, by the way, now you have two solos," "Oh and three group routines." So the more it builds, the harder it gets. It takes a strong person, you know, stronger than me [laughs], to make it through to the end.
Yeah, you guys had to switch gears a lot. How was it switching to new partners?
Katee: It was definitely difficult, I think, and it was almost funny because we'd watch everybody else in rehearsals and when you'd see your partner with somebody else, you're like, "That’s weird."
Jessica: You get a little jealous too!
Katee: Yeah! It’s weird how, like, crazy protective everyone had become over their partners because you'd been through so much together.
Jessica: It's funny because now it's all over and we're still like that. You build such a bond.
If you could have kept one partner throughout the entire competition, which dancer would each of you have picked?
Katee: See! No, we can’t do that.
Chelsea: Plead the fifth.
Mark: I mean, when I got Courtney for the last week, it was like the smoothest partnership. I don’t know what happened — it just really worked with us.
Chelsea: You all got to be friends by that point, too, so . . .
Let's talk judges. How hard was it to hear their criticisms each week?
Chelsea: Oh, we're our worst critics.
Katee: We probably critique ourselves more than anything the judges could say.
Jessica: You have to remember, it's not just the judges, it's all the people watching too. One of the things I got a big response from was, "Oh my gosh, Mia Michaels was so mean to you. We can't believe how you handled yourself." And it's like, I kind of built a wall. She would say things and I couldn't let it in. Especially as someone that we as dancers, we respect her so much, that it would hurt my feelings if I was going to really listen to it. It was really nice to have my partner step in and defend me.
Did the judges have different feedback for you on the air than off the air? Were they encouraging off the air?
Mark: We didn’t really get to hang out with them.
Joshua: The boys sometimes. [Nigel] would come into rehearsal, but we would be focusing on our stuff. And on the judges, a lot of what they were saying, they're masters. Nigel's really smart, he used to be a choreographer, and he knows a lot of things.
What about Mia Michaels? She seems like the coolest to hang with.
Joshua: She is, but she's hard.
Chelsea: I would call her fierce in every aspect. In her feedback and extreme in her creativity — she literally gives you every inch of herself in a piece. And she demands even more of that back. Which is fine, every choreographer should.
What's Cat really like?
Joshua: Cat is the coolest! She loves us.
Mark: Everybody always asks if she’s really as nice as she seems . . .
Joshua: She was nicer.
Chelsea: She's sweet. She talked to us like people. It was really cool to have that, like, real interaction in the midst of all that.
Jessica: There’s not much of it though, it's just right back stage before countdown — like, we don't get to sit and have dinner.
What's up next for you guys? What's the dream dance career?
Katee: Keep working, keep dancing.
Joshua: I would still like to dance a lot, a lot of different things. But overall I'd like to be a recording artist. So coming from a dancing background is cool, but I've always wanted to sing, too.
Jessica: We can't forget right now that we're on our own tour, and that is itself such a dream. We're not dancing behind anybody, we're headlining. So to ask that question, yeah, we have future goals, but this is huge.
Joshua: Yeah, that is what's crazy — it's such a blessing.
Chelsea: There's always the next dancer, the next generation on your heels. This is a conveyor belt industry.
Joshua: Yeah, I would say we have to work even harder — we're always going to have to prove ourselves.
Tell me some fun anecdotes that we didn't see on television.
Chelsea: I eat like a monster. Mark is so freaking funny! You would think he was quiet — he says hi, and it's just the timing, but it's funny.
Joshua: He doesn’t dance like he acts either. Like, I thought he was crazy when I first saw him
Jessica: We all did! It was like, stay away from that dancer . . .
Katee: But later, all the girls were together and it was like, "Oh, who is that?"
How'd you get into dance? What are your tips for people who dream of dancing?
Chelsea: Class junkie!
Jessica: Not just a class from one person — you have to put yourself in as many different classes as possible and in really uncomfortable positions.
Chelsea: All I did was academics, and it was all dance.
Jessica: Friday nights didn’t happen . . .
Joshua: They happened for me, but I had to give up track and football. All my homeboys were like, "What are you doing?" They were like, "For real? You’re gonna go do like, jazz or something?" You definitely have to give up things and if your friends are your friends, you're gonna know and . . . look where we’re at now.
Photos courtesy of Fox