Popular dance competition reality show “So You Think You Can Dance” will be leaping, pirouetting and sashaying onto the Township Auditorium stage Saturday. The top 10 contestants from the show’s 11th season will perform fan favorite dances of all genres and showcase their own areas of expertise.
The tour’s stop in Columbia is one in a series of more than 70 performances across the country that stretch until February 2015. The dancers have been on the road since October, following the show’s September finale, in which Rick Ubeda was named this season’s winner.
This is the first time on the road for many of the dancers, including Casey Askew, 19, and Jessica Richens, 20, who finished in the top six and top four, respectively. Before competing on the show, both were studying dance – Askew at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., and Richens as a member of professional dance companies. While life on the road is a drastic change, both have enjoyed the journey.
“It’s so much fun,” Richens said. “We wake up in a different city every morning and do the same show every night with the dancers that we love.”
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The reception from fans around the country has been warm, Askew said. The show received nearly 4 million viewers each week this past season, peaking at 5.33 million for its season premiere in May. Audiences are especially enthusiastic about dance routines they’ve seen on the show, Askew said.
“In certain cities, the audience will be super loud and crazy,” Askew said. “It’s really cool to see so many people coming out to see us.”
Many fans engage with their favorite dancers on social media, and the tour provides an opportunity for them to interact in person.
“I love traveling and meeting our fans. They’re the ones that supported us all throughout the show,” Richens said. “It’s cool actually conversing with them and not only talking to them over social media.”
The transition from performing on a television show to large live venues requires some adjustments as a dancer, Askew said. Connecting to the audience through the screen is much different than reaching viewers in the nosebleed section.
“You have to use that much more energy,” Askew said. “You have to project outwards.”
The young dancers never expected to be touring the country at this point in their career, or even to have made it as far as they did on the competitive dance show. Richens described her experience as a “dream,” while Askew said he never expected to make it as far as the top 6 dancers.
When the tour is done, Askew will return to Chapman and finish his degree in dance while performing professionally when possible, due to his school’s proximity to Los Angeles. Richens, a native of Yorba Linda, Calif., also near Los Angeles, will return to Southern California to work as a commercial dancer. Both said that the connections, exposure and experience they gained from the reality show will help them go forward with careers in the dance world.
“The show is a platform for dancers who want to work in the industry,” Richens said.