So You Think You Can Dance

Tom began dancing aged 16 and is open about the fact that he started in order to meet girls!

Although Tom feels he is strong in multiple styles of dance, he entered the competition as a tapper to show viewers that Tap dancing can be cool and to raise the genre’s profile.

Tom loves Gene Kelly because “he dances like a man”. He is also a fan of Tom Jones and “can’t help feeling elated” when he hears Sex Bomb.

At 19, Tom joined Laines Theatre Arts where he studied contemporary dance, musical theatre, singing and drama. Whilst at Laines, Tom performed at The Royal Variety Show, dancing with Meatloaf and Jamelia.

Tom is in the process of setting up a dance college called Next Generation Performing Arts in Leicester with his friend. They plan on running singing and dancing workshops for children.

Tom is never normally without his trademark flat cap, which he wears everyday, even when dancing. He describes himself as a “lad’s lad who isn’t afraid to follow dreams”.

Latin dancer Stephanie began dancing aged four. She is very close to her parents and describes them as “incredible, encouraging and have sacrificed a lot” in order for her and her siblings to pursue their careers.

Stephanie entered the competition to expand her vocabulary of dance by working with great choreographers. She says “I am so excited just to be a part of SYTYCD; it’s going to be one amazing experience!”

Stephanie began dancing Latin and Ballroom competitively aged 12 but she stopped entering competitions in order to finish her A-Levels. Stephanie then gained a place at Bird College.

The Dorset native’s first dance job was in Strictly Ballroom with Lionel Blair, which was later known as Simply Ballroom. She appeared in two tours before moving to Las Vegas with them, which she describes as a “surreal experience of working and partying hard; 10 months was enough”.

Stephanie has since worked as dance captain and swing in Dirty Dancing in London’s West End, as a backing dancer for Cheryl Cole and most recently as Cha Cha in Grease at the Piccadilly Theatre, London.

Outside of dance, Stephanie has completed a beauty thearpy course and also enjoys yoga.

At 6’4″, Contemporary ‘Aussie’ dancer Shane is the tallest dancer in the competition. Shane is from Perth, Australia but left at the age of 18. He moved to London last year and hopes SYTYCD is his big break.

In the first round of auditions, Shane found it hard to hear the judges’ comments due to the high pitched screams of adoration coming from the girls in the audience! Reflecting on his audition, Shane says “I felt vulnerable putting myself out there to be judged in a public place; it took a lot of courage.”

Shane was a gymnast when he was younger but was told he was too tall so he went to dance lessons instead. From the age of 16, Shane trained at Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts.

His first job was a Can-Can soloist at the Moulin Rouge in Paris and a career high for him was performing on a float at the Rio de Janeiro carnival. He said the experience was emotional as there were so many people who were extremely passionate and he felt overwhelmed.

Looking towards the live shows, Shane is worried he is “too tall for hip hop” but hopes the public have a soft spot for an Aussie!

Contemporary dancer and fashion conscious Ryan likes to have his own style and not follow the latest trends. He currently helps out at fashion shows which he thinks of as another creative output.

Ryan uses dance to release his emotions having lost both his mother and brother to cancer. He cites his strengths as his “artistry and emotion that he puts into every performance”.

Ryan trained at Bird College and straight after was cast in Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake. He went on to be a swing in Grease and was later invited back to be dance captain. He has also worked on the film adaptation of Phantom of the Opera, as a ribbon dancer in Wicked and as Rudy in Cabaret.

As well as dancing, Ryan teaches at Stella Mann and has just finished choreographing a show entitled Discotivity.

Ryan initially entered the competition for exposure, but he has now learnt that the show is going to help him be a stronger person and after everything that’s happened, dreams and good things still happen.

Having been taunted at school for having a “flat nose”, Ryan has had surgery twice and says “nothing this pretty could be real”!

Brazilian Hip Hop dancer Rithy lived in Sao Paolo until she was 10 years old, she moved to be with her mother who had already emigrated to Zurich. Her grandparents helped raise her and she is still very close to them.

Rithy feels that her passion for dance is innate as all Brazilians love music and dance! When she started, Rithy was the youngest member of dance group Culture Shock and they have since taken part in competitions all over the world.

Rithy is Assistant Director at The American School of Dance, teaching a group called ID8 and she also manages a group called Legacy. Most recently Rithy has been working on the Natalia meets Anastasia tour as a dancer.

At Choreography Camp, Rithy was well aware of the fact that she couldn’t dance properly in heels and hopes she has practiced enough in preparation for the show. Rithy says “I am excited about being the only female hip hop dancer and I am in the show to win it.”

Rithy describes herself as a chameleon as she adapts depending on who she is with and has “an annoying trait” where she starts to act like that person.

Disco dancing champion Paige lives with her mother and sister. Her mother is her biggest fan and accompanies her wherever she goes, so coming down to perform on SYTYCD in London is a daunting and exciting prospect for Paige.

Paige says “I can be very shy but I come out of myself when I dance so I will hopefully be the dark horse of the competition.”

Although she began Disco dancing aged 7, SYTYCD was the first major audition for Paige who has never worked professionally. She is currently studying a BTEC at Walsall College and would ideally like to do a degree so she can teach in education.

Paige has many titles to her name including European Champion in Disco Freestyle and Rock and Roll, British Isles Champion and the all-England Champion amongst others.

Paige knows the standard is very high this year, she “couldn’t believe the talent that went out in the first round” and hopes to rely on her passion to get her through. She has been practising dancing in heels as she realises this was a weakness of hers in Choreography Camp.

Tap dancer Matt is originally from Scarborough but moved to London aged 16. Matt attended a street dance class and then, whilst playing a scarecrow in a school production of Wizard of Oz, he snuck into the girls’ changing rooms – he then knew dance was for him!

“Growing up, I was a talented footballer but chose to follow a career in dance. I still enjoy watching it and also playing tennis, badminton and going scuba diving.”

Matt attended Laines Theatre Arts, and luckily worked straight after graduating on a production of Beauty and the Beast. Since then, Matt has regularly appeared in the West End and his career highlight was appearing alongside Patrick Swayze in Guys and Dolls. Matt also teaches Tap and Jazz at various schools in London.

Matt explains his reason for appearing SYTYCD: “I want to bring Tap back and make it accessible to everyone by infusing old fashioned Tap dancing with tricks and Break dancing.”

Having only had supporting roles so far, Matt feels it is his time to “step into the spotlight and be the star of the show”.

Matt’s friends describe him as “energetic and a bit of a prankster who has a massive heart and is inspiringly motivated”.

Jazz dancer Luke started dancing aged 11 when he was the only boy in class. As he was shy, he used to keep his dancing a secret from pupils at school. Luke says “I’m laid back and down-to-earth but more focused on the show than anything in ages, I can be shy but not when performing.”

After studying at Laines Theatre Arts, Luke’s first job was in the ensemble of Saturday Night Fever. Following that, he performed in Copa Cabana in Denmark and then the West End show Phantom of the Opera. Other jobs include being ensemble in Cats and swing and dance captain in Grease. He has recently finished being swing in Priscilla Queen of the Desert.

Luke feels as though he spent too much time being complacent rather than pushing himself, he has always been in chorus parts but now feels it is his chance to shine.

Luke didn’t enter SYTYCD last year because he was too scared of the rejection, this year he thought “I’ll go for it”. He is also quite apprehensive about the prospect of using props while performing as he is afraid they may hinder his performance.

Hip Hop dancer Lee is known as Reckless Lee for his crazy break dancing moves.

As a B-Boy (Break dancer), Lee says that everything is a battle so he hopes he can “battle and win SYTYCD” and he is ready for anything. Lee admits “my weakness is my lack of experience but I can be moulded whereas other dancers can’t easily change.”

Growing up, Lee competed as a trampolinist at national level and then started break dancing aged 13.

Lee has worked with Hip Hop dance troupe Boy Blue but is also part of a crew in Wales called Soul Mavericks. Career highs for Lee include performing at the MTV awards and performing with pop star Lemar on Series One of SYTYCD.

Over the years, Lee has injured himself many times including knocking himself out, breaking his leg whilst trampolining, as well as whiplash and concussion from landing the wrong way over a garden fence. He says “people worry I will injure myself when I’m dancing but I’m always in control.”

When Lee was younger, he loved super heroes such as Batman and likes to believe he is a super hero who can fly when he is break dancing.

Jazz dancer Lee describes himself as “androgynous and artistic” and says “because of my look, people don’t know where to place me and won’t use me in a line up of dancers, I hope SYTYCD will prove that it’s OK to be an individual, have your own style, that you can stand out and succeed.”

Lee loved it when Arlene stuck up for him at Choreography Camp by calling him “David Bowie” which he took as a huge compliment. He realises the importance of being a versatile dancer and wants to show that he can take whatever is thrown at him.

After training at Italia Conti in London from 12 years old, he bagged himself an agent and went straight into ensemble for Wicked in the West End. Since then, Lee has done various jobs including dancing in Goldfrapp’s Alive music video and modelling for fashion magazines, including British Vogue.

Lee says “I can’t function without black coffee first thing in the morning, it’s best to stay out of my way if I haven’t had one!”

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