Anyone who watches So You Think You Can Dance can attest to the talent and versatility of the contestants. But the dancers in season 12 seemed especially capable — and captivating.
The live tour featuring the show's top 10 contestants — who were split into "Stage" and "Street" teams to fit their preferred styles — takes the stage in Austin on October 16.
In advance of that, CultureMap spoke with winner Gaby Diaz and finalist Virgil Gadson about their experiences with the show, how they were able to adapt to different styles, and what we can expect from them in the future.
CultureMap: As dancers, I can imagine that you have no real expectations of fame. What was it like going from being a normal person to a celebrity almost overnight?
Gaby Diaz: We kind of lived in this bubble during the show. We all lived in apartments together, and we were in rehearsals the majority of our time, so we didn’t get too much time to go out and see people and have people recognize us. But the few minutes of free time that we had and did go out, it was weird.
Virgil Gadson: Since the end of the show, pretty much everywhere I went, people recognized me on the street, when I’m in the supermarket, or even when I’m driving in the car. But it’s cool; it’s great.
CM: Virgil, where does your enthusiasm and positivity come from?
VG: It comes from my parents — and especially my mom. She always taught me to be respectful and positive and just to live life to the fullest, not to have any regrets and just to enjoy everything and that everything is a learning experience.
CM: Gaby, your way of tap dancing seems to bring something completely new to the style. How do you approach that?
GD: I try to take what I’ve learned from all the other styles of dancing and incorporate that into my tap style. Not a lot of people know much about tap, so you have to make it visually appealing rather than difficult step-wise, because people don’t really appreciate that on television. So it was more about my arms and my performance and using the stage rather than doing complicated, small fast steps.
CM: What was it about tap that originally attracted you to it?
GD: I think it’s really underrated, and it’s a style that not everyone can do. So if you can do it, stick with it. It was like that little edge that I had over people who couldn’t tap because it’s difficult to pick up.
CM: Both of you were able to succeed greatly in styles that were not your own; why do you think you were so successful?
VG: I think it’s because of background training, all the different genres and styles that we had to train in to be on the show. If you want to be on the show, you have to be versatile, and it really helped us to prepare.
CM: Did you ever surprise yourself with how well you were able to do a different style?
GD: I think that happened every week. You kind of hope for the best and just put yourself in the piece 100 percent. If you give the choreographers everything you’ve got, they really work with you to make sure you look good and represent them well because they want their piece to look good too.
They don’t want you to go on stage feeling uncomfortable. So if you give them all your energy and effort, they work with you to make it as comfortable as possible.
CM: Do either of you have a favorite choreographer?
VG: Not really — all of them were great. This season, there were some new choreographers who came in, and I think we all learned so much from them, and it was a challenge at the same time. But it was amazing; they are all so unique and we learned from each and every one of them.
CM: What has been your favorite part of the experience so far? Least favorite?
GD: My favorite part was probably the finale episode, getting to do my favorite routines again on that stage for the last time. It was really emotional. My least favorite part was seeing people go home every week.
VG: That bond that we all had being on the show with the street dancers and the stage dancers, that was one of my favorite parts, just us all coming together.
CM: Gaby, you’re going to be part of Jennifer Lopez’s Las Vegas show. Will you be with the show for its entire run? Have you lined up any other gigs after that?
GD: I’m doing J. Lo’s show, but we’re not sure how long or when; that’s still in the works. But after that — I don’t know! You’ll have to check back in with me and see what I’m up to.
CM: Virgil, have you lined up any other gigs after the tour is over?
VG: Oh, I know what I’m going to do! I’m going to start choreographing more, directing, producing, do some more film and television, and hopefully have my own Broadway dance show.
CM: What can we expect from the tour? Will you be doing the same routines from the show or some new stuff?
GD: We’ll be doing a lot of the favorites from the show. There are some new surprises in there, some fun numbers. We each get a little solo, a little longer than we got to do on the show. It’s a high-energy show; it moves quickly.
VG: It’s very entertaining and explosive.