Monday 27 October 2014

So You Think You Can Dance Tour's outstanding Montreal stop; I talk to Ricky and Valerie

The Crowd Goes Wild
The  Bell Centre was rocking on October 27, as the energetic So You Think You Can Dance season 11 tour hit Montreal for a second year in a row. The show, which airs on Fox and CTV, has won 11  Primetime Emmy® Awards and sparked America’s fascination with dance. Montreal is one of an incredible 70 cities on the tour. The Season 11 tour lineup  includes winner  Ricky Ubeda, runnerup.Valerie Rockey and the other top 10 finalists Emilio Dosal, Tanisha Belnap,  Jessica Richens, Zack Everhart, Bridget Whitman, Casey Askew, Jacque LeWarne and  Rudy Abreu.

This is a magnificent presentation, with amazing numbers, multiple costume changes and  some superb props.  The show began with executive producer and judge Nigel Lythgoe shown on a giant video screen. His pre-taped message is full of pep and set the right tone for the evening. After the top 10 entered the stage –along with four extra dancers – for an opening number, the voice of Lythgoe brought them back for formal introductions and the crowd went wild.

I must say that this one remarkable show to be in the audience for. It is so fast paced and quite extraordinary to see the dancers, complete unknowns only a few months ago, treated like “idols.” The program consists of a series of group numbers, duets and solos. It is so well choreographed and ends on such a high, you just know that everyone in the crowd will be back next year if the organizers decide to grace our city.

The show took place in  a slimmed down version of the Bell Centre, with the higher levels blocked off and many other sections closed to accommodate the large stage. There were long lineups entering the arena, with security stepped up after the violent incidents in Ottawa and St. Jean last week. Some 3,500 fans were on hand, less than last year. I cannot understand why. Perhaps because it was a Monday rather than a Sunday night.

Ricky and Valerie from So You Think You Can Dance share a moment with me backstage.

Prior to the afternoon rehearsal I got to meet Emilio and Tanisha, whom I had interviewed by phone a few weeks ago. As well, I sat down with Ricky and Valerie for a private chat. Ricky had been to Montreal once before. For Valerie, this marked her first trip to Canada.

Ricky,  the 18 year old winner, was the favorite to take it all early on this season.  For winning tip honours  he  appeared on the cover of Dance Spirit magazine,  took  home  $250,000 and will  join the Broadway cast of On the Town in the spring. 

“This all feels like a dream, like I put my life on pause” Ricky said.  “Winning was like the craziest thing ever. I still don’t believe it sometimes. I am so grateful. I just graduated from high school in May. I have never lived by myself and I am going to move to New York City.”

“I’ll come visit,” chimed in Valerie, who considers Ricky like a brother.

Valerie, 20,  left her hometown in Indianapolis, Indiana a year ago to pursue a career in dance. Then she succeeded with the SYTYCD auditions, setting the stage for lots of new opportunities after the tour ends.

“I honestly have no idea what I will do next,” she said.  “I'm going to wait and see what comes my way and what opportunities are presented to me. I don't know where I'm going to be after the tour. I just want to dance. But I also want to take acting classes”

Ricky, who received a thunderous ovation after his solo, said he is enjoying the tour. “It has been awesome,” he said, “but kind of exhausting living on a bus  and doing a show almost every night. This is our 21st stop out of 77. It is a once in a lifetime experience.”

While Valerie agrees that the tour schedule is exhausting, there is a lot less pressure than the television show. “We still get to do what we did in the show, but without the pressures of voting and judges comments,” she says. “We are just having fun.”

And what about their new found fame? “It was just another audition for me,” she said. “Then one round after another I kept getting further and further. The next thing you know I am the runner up on the show. It still does not feel real. I thought it would by now, then I catch myself signing autographs. Who would have thought three and a half months ago I’d be doing this.”

“I am thrilled with the spectacular, fresh talent we have discovered this season,” stated Nigel Lythgoe, judge, executive producer and co-creator of the hit FOX series. “I believe these dancers have inspired the choreographers to create remarkable dance numbers each week. I am excited for your favorite dancers to bring their inspiration and routines to even more cities throughout the nation on this year’s tour.”

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