In entertainment, an awful lot happens behind closed doors, from canceling TV shows to organizing music festival lineups. While the public sees the end product on TVs, movie screens, or radio dials, they don’t see what it took to get there. In Expert Witness, The A.V. Club talks to industry insiders about the actual business of entertainment in hopes of shedding some light on how the pop-culture sausage gets made.
Since its inception in 2005, Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance has been a standout of reality television, showcasing extraordinary dancers across a range of musical genres and dancing styles for 11 straight seasons (the 12th debuts June 1). Like American Idol, its vocal-based equivalent, the show begins with an opening casting call where hundreds of applicants are winnowed down into a top 20. Through viewer-based voting, an eventual winner is crowned “American’s Favorite Dancer,” taking home a hefty cash prize to boot.
Evan Kasprzak, one of the show’s first contestants with musical theater training, competed in the show’s fifth season along with his brother Ryan, who also served as Evan’s choreographer for solo numbers. While Ryan was cut just outside the top 20, Evan went on and eventually placed third. The A.V. Club sat down with both brothers to discuss their strategies and experiences on the show in all the seasons they tried out for, as well as what it’s like to have an intimate sibling relationship broadcast to a national audience.
The A.V. Club: You both auditioned for the show in multiple seasons.
Evan Kasprzak: I auditioned for season four on my own and made it all the way through the Vegas Week, when I got cut right before the top 20. Then I went back and auditioned for season five with Ryan. We both made it through Vegas and had the last-spot drama where the two of us were up for the last spot. I got it and made it to the finale and finished third.
AVC: And then you tried out again the subsequent season.
Ryan Kasprzak: He tried out for seasons four and five, and I did five and six. Season five was on in the summer, but they were going to move it to the fall after that, so they started doing auditions for six while they were still shooting five. Basically they split us for the spot in the top 20, and three weeks later I was auditioning again. It was that quick.
EK: You auditioned in L.A. because you were already out there supporting me.
RK: I think it was only the first or second week of shooting for you. This is the only time this has happened, because after season six didn’t do as well as they had hoped in the fall, they moved it back to the summer.
EK: We wrapped season five, and literally the day after the finale was the start of Vegas Week for season six.
RK: I was there but didn’t do so well. They cut me pretty quickly that time.
AVC: Did you approach each audition differently?
EK: When I auditioned for season four I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I auditioned on a complete whim. I was in college at Illinois Wesleyan University, studying musical theater, and a friend mentioned that the show was auditioning in Milwaukee during our spring break. He asked if we wanted to go together and I figured we had nothing to lose. So I resurrected an old dance solo that Ry had choreographed for me, tossed on some jazz shoes and went to the audition.
It was crazy. There were a thousand people there and you had to wait out in the cold until they brought you in. I had no idea what I was doing. The second year, I kind of knew what the game was. I was much more prepared, and I knew that the biggest thing was that you don’t want to go in trying to be what you think the judges want you to be. You have to go in and be you, be something unique. That’s kind of what we did. Since we were auditioning together, we kind of branded ourselves as the “Broadway Brothers” and ran with it.
RK: When Evan went in season four, he did very well, but I remember telling him at the time that while he was a great dancer, he didn’t have a great story. When he was going to go back a second year, we decided that our relationship would be the story. “Broadway Brothers” was deliberately our gimmick; we were going to have this kind of classic throwback MGM style, wear outfits that were sort of matching. I knew Evan was a great dancer, but I wasn’t very sure about my own skills. Still, I knew that if we went together, that would make for a better story, and if I get cut right away, who cares? And then I thought, if I’m going to get cut right away, I’m going to do something really ridiculous in my 15 seconds so they’ll air me. So that’s how I came up with the idea to do the whoopee cushion tap dance. That was the most ridiculous concept I could think of, and I figured that even if they hated it, they’d show it. As far as I know, no one has ever tap danced with a whoopee cushion before.
The whole premise went a lot further than we ever thought it would. We thought it would be interesting, but I don’t think we ever anticipated that it would blow up like it did. Season five was one of the most-watched seasons, so if we were going to have our story told, I guess we picked the right season. Or if we’re feeling good about ourselves, that was the reason it was so well watched.
EK: It wasn’t a put on. It is us. We are very classically minded guys. It may have been a little enhanced for television, but that is the way we act, it’s what we do.
RK: This is what we had been doing for years. Evan was my guinea pig when I began choreographing. The first solo I did for you, you were 11 or 12 or something?
EK: Yeah. Maybe 13, tops.
RK: I would set new work on him. And as I started choreographing more seriously and got better, Evan got better. And the style that we sort of created together happened organically over 10 years. The show was the culmination of that in the sense that it was what we had been doing on our own in studios for years. And now suddenly it was on this bigger stage. That was the best thing about it, to see people really take to it. The best comment we got was, “Oh, I love your style!”
AVC: So you were studying musical theater. Ryan, what was your training?
RK: I have a BFA in acting from Marymount Manhattan College. So I didn’t officially study musical theater but I did musicals while I was there. I got a lot of my dance training at the Broadway Theater Project, which is an organization founded by Ann Reinking, who was a Fosse dancer. A lot of our style—this kind of classic Broadway style—we picked up there. I started there as a student when I was 17, and then started teaching there a few years later. Evan started going there when—
EK: I was 14, I think? That’s where I got exposed to this classic set of Broadway things. There was a lot of jazz and tap and lyrical work. I learned to tumble. It wasn’t too centered around the classics, though. I got that training from Ryan.
RK: We got to train with Ann Reinking, with Gwen Verdon—another huge Broadway dancer—with Gregory Hines. My first job out of college was on the international tour of Fosse, so even though I wasn’t dancing much at school, six days after graduation I started rehearsals for the tour. I remember showing up the first day thinking that everyone would out me as an impostor. I spent two years on that tour, and the style really became embedded in what we do. At the time, I was starting to choreograph more, and I was really force-feeding that style into Evan, who was all of 15 at the time. As I became more unique and found my own voice as a choreographer, he found his as a dancer. It became a style that was really ours, a shared language that we had.
EK: As I got older, we built a rapport where I felt more comfortable speaking up and putting in my own choreographic ideas instead of just being the canvas. We became a team.
RK: It was a collaboration. And when we went to do the show, we really felt like a unit. Everything we did—between our banter, our numbers, our solos—we were one unit. The worst thing was when I went back in season six and I was by myself, because I really felt like I was on an island without a paddle. When we went together, it was far beyond our expectations. Even in the first audition in Memphis, the first reaction we had was so positive. All through Vegas Week we were building momentum and had this success. Even when they split us for the top 20 it still felt great. Evan was going to do the show, I was going to do some choreography, and season six was just a couple weeks away.
But when I got to Vegas Week in season six it was a whole different situation. I really felt alone and isolated. It was difficult and didn’t go well. Everything the judges had liked about me they didn’t like anymore. That’s how it goes.
AVC: All your auditions were choreographed by Ryan?
EK: Not only that, but every solo I did on the show was choreographed by Ryan.
AVC: Were they choreographed for the show or were they numbers you had already been working on?
EK: Season four I auditioned with an old solo because I did it on a whim and we didn’t have time to hop in a studio. Everything in season five, from the audition solo to everything I did on the show, was created for the show. All the 30-second solos and the silly So You Think You Can Dance tags, he created. My old high school dance teacher gave us a key to his studio and told us we could use it whenever we wanted. We’d just go in and work for a couple hours.
RK: We finished Vegas Week, Evan was in the show, I was training for season six and we went back to Michigan and basically got in a studio for two or three days. I was working on stuff for my audition, and for Evan we had a song list that we banged through for solos.
EK: They give you a list of cleared songs and you can also submit songs for them to try and get the rights to. When we sent our dream list of seven or eight songs, I think they said they couldn’t get three.
AVC: How much time passed between your going on the show and the season finale?
EK: The first performance week is week one and the finale is week 10. I was in L.A., on the show, for that full 10 weeks.
AVC: How much were you sequestered from the outside world?
EK: We’re fairly isolated because of our time requirements. Our week started Friday, basically. The show aired Wednesday and Thursday. Thursday was the results show, someone goes home, everyone’s sad—that’s a real thing; everyone always asks if it was really cutthroat or if there was a lot of back-stabbing, but there was none of that on our season; we were really like a family. Because it’s such a unique experience the only people who know what it’s like are the other contestants.
Then on Friday you start for the next week. You go into the studio and have an hour and a half per number to prepare. So, assuming it’s a single-dance week, which the early weeks are because there are so many people, you get an hour and a half in front of the camera with the choreographer. The packages they always show before the number, those were filmed in the first hour and a half, when we don’t know the routine, which is why we’re always falling on our faces or kicking each other, all that good TV. There’s a pre- and post-interview that you also do on Friday.
On Saturday you have three hours with no cameras, which is when the real nitty-gritty work gets done. A lot of choreographers will try to teach the whole routine in the first hour and a half, so even if it’s sloppy you have it in your head so you can try and digest it. But on Saturday you put your nose to the grindstone. Sunday was our day off, which usually consisted of sleeping and practicing in the hallways with your partner. Occasionally you would walk down the street and go shopping, but I would mainly sleep.
Monday you’d get one more hour, your final hour, with the choreographer. You get 30 minutes onstage to block and set up spacing—because obviously the stage is different than the studio—then another 30 minutes in a studio at the sound stage. That’s it. We’d do a dress rehearsal Tuesday then shoot Tuesday night. Our show was taped “as live,” so it might as well have been live, but airing it the next day gave them extra time to edit in case the judging went long. Because we were “as live,” any of our mistakes would make it to air, unfortunately for us.
Wednesday, we would usually start around 6 or 7 in the morning. We’d learn the entire group number in one day and shoot it first thing Thursday morning. Then, the results show that night.
AVC: Is that the first time you see the judges?
EK: They’ll sit at their stations on Tuesday because they need to be there while they set up camera angles and such, so they’ll watch our dress rehearsal, but they’re not offering comments, which is always a bummer: “Please tell me something!” I’m sure they’re planning their comments.
RK: As far as him being sequestered, while Evan was on the show I was there the first and second week, and then I was there for the finale. I think that was about it.
EK: Maybe one other week? I know you were there for my birthday.
RK: Yeah, maybe. But my family would barely see him. Maybe for a half-hour after the show. I feel like there was a dinner or something in the first week for contestant families. I saw you there, but that was it. And as far as our practicing together, the solos we set in Michigan were as is. We talked on the phone, but it wasn’t like we had rehearsal time.
EK: I remember you saying you could see the progression of the solos you created. I wasn’t really running them because I didn’t really have time, and you said you could see very gentle changes in specific style things, small stuff that was different from what we decided.
RK: While Evan was on the show he was doing all these other styles, and I could see those styles influence him. As a choreographer I was kind of standing in the background going, “Get back to our style! Your shoulder needs to be here! Your hip needs to go out there! Don’t miss that accent!” I wanted him to get back to what I thought of as the core of our style, something that wasn’t as influenced by these other ones. But again, that was just the stuff I was saying in our five-minute phone conversations, it wasn’t like we could rehearse to really change those things.
We didn’t really know what kind of run Evan was going to have. I think we only did three or four solos?
AVC: I got your schedule off Wikipedia.
EK: Look at that! Wow, they really have everything on Wikipedia!
RK: This is the freakiest break-down ever.
EK: I was lucky because I was never in the bottom three, and at the start, if you’re in the bottom then you need do a solo. Once you’re in the top 10, everybody does a solo every week, so I didn’t start doing solos until the sixth performance show, which was “Zing!” [Rufus Wainwright’s “Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart.”] That was my favorite. [Reads the list.] “Old Devil Moon,” I remember that one. “Lady Is A Tramp,” that was good.
I ended up doing a makeshift version of my audition solo for the finale, a 30-second version that we didn’t really get to talk about. It was not my strongest solo.
RK: We had banked on saving the Sinatra solo for the finale, so when it didn’t get cleared we were short one. At the time, I was doing another gig in Florida, but I told Evan that I’d get into a studio, video something, and send it to him to learn. I started putting stuff together, but he was just so swamped for time because by the finale they’re doing all the numbers they had done during the course of the season.
EK: In the finale we’re doing three dances each. If you remember the schedule I talked about before, on Friday you’re not just doing an hour and a half, you’re doing three times that, which is…?
RK: Four and a half.
EK: Four and a half hours of dancing, which doesn’t include the pre- and post-interviews, which are about a half-hour each. That’s a six-hour day. Saturday is now a nine-hour day of dancing, and by the end of it your brain is just mush. And this is week 10, so I had bruises just everywhere.
RK: I saw him after the finale and he had these softball-sized bruises on his arm.
EK: A golf-ball-sized bruise on my wrist from something. The back of my leg had a string of bruises from the bottom of my butt to the middle of my calf from the previous week, which I think I got from jumping on a box. All the contestants were just destroyed. Because you only have to get through these numbers once, you just suffer through. You can survive almost anything one time. That’s kind of where my head was at. You just do it.
AVC: How long does it take to memorize a solo piece?
EK: These 30-second solos are pretty easy to memorize. And the duets on the show are 90 seconds. I consider learning dance to be a muscle; the more you learn, the better you get at it. After the three hours on Saturday, you know it front and back.
AVC: If you had all these solos prepared ahead of time, was there ever a risk of your forgetting a step or confusing one routine with another?
EK: We had everything videotaped so I could review it. I’d take it one week at a time so I wouldn’t overload my brain. I’d pick the solo I was going to do and review it to bring it back up to the front of my mind.
RK: I bet that if you had to go back and do those solos, it wouldn’t take long for you to figure it out. Maybe in an hour or two you’d be good to go. I think even creating these solos took just a couple of hours. That’s starting from scratch, working out the phrases and the musicality of the song, figuring out what the story might be. These solos are pretty quick. You’re just trying to give the judges a flash of something.
AVC: The songs you wanted, were they just songs you liked or did they lend themselves to a particular style or story?
RK: I had picked out most of the songs and had a big playlist. What I was looking for was a song with big horn sections, because that really lends itself to our style. If you know you’re only going to get 30 seconds you can really bank on those. We also tried to find ones where we could put just a hint of story in the number, something very simple. Evan’s audition solo was basically, he’s just fallen in love and is walking through the park thinking about this girl and he just spontaneously starts to dance because it feels good. It’s a similar premise as to what you’d find in those MGM films. What causes Gene Kelly to dance in Singin’ In The Rain?
AVC: Don Lockwood realizes he’s in love with Kathy Selden.
RK: I love that you know their names.
EK: It’s a pretty thin premise, but it’s so important. People love seeing impressive technique, but good technique can only draw someone in so far, whereas moderate technique can really grab someone if you have a story.
RK: What’s great about the songs we looked for—these old jazz or musical theater numbers—is that they’re written with a story in mind. “Old Devil Moon” has great lyrics—they’re saying something. Our job is trying to put a little bit of that out in 30 seconds. It’s tough, in 30 seconds. Even now, when I’m choreographing, I’m looking for some kind of rhythm in the music to base a story off of. I’m really drawn to the horns. I believe that the essence of musical theater storytelling is in the horns, and that the horn section lives in your belly when you dance. If something great happens and the horns blow out, it comes from your gut. And if something sad happens, that’s also in the horns: wah-wah.
AVC: Evan, you were the first Broadway dancer on the show.
EK: Yes, I believe so.
AVC: Does that lend itself to storytelling more than a different style might?
EK: On the surface it does, but if you look at some of these fantastic hip-hop choreographers, their success comes because they’re good storytellers. Story is the basis of their choreography as well. On the surface, yeah, Broadway is about the story, but the best choreography is about communicating something. All the best numbers, in all the seasons, were ones that told a kind of story. In our season, Tyce [Diorio] had a number about cancer that told a story. A lot of hip-hop choreography is about owning the space, B-boys, a kind of street mentality, so it’s a little tougher to get there, but it’s definitely doable.
RK: In truth, Broadway is not a style. What the show referred to as Broadway is really classical jazz. It is traditional jazz dance, set to jazz music. Our style was “Broadway,” but we didn’t use one song from a Broadway show. Because really, what is Broadway? There are hip-hop shows on Broadway, African dance shows, Bombay Dreams’ Bollywood style. You can’t define “Broadway” as a style, because what’s become known as Broadway dance started out of the jazz legends who did jazz choreography onstage: Fosse and Jerome Robbins and Michael Kidd. So because it isn’t a style, we kind of made it up. But Evan is right—other styles are flashier, like hip-hop or contemporary, but what makes them all really good is the moment when it is less about showing off, and more about showing you, the dancer. That’s what people really respond to, when they see who you really are. And I think that’s what we really showed up with, was a lot of heart.
EK: A lot of heart. Not much head.
AVC: Was there any style where you felt out of your element?
EK: All the Latin ballroom stuff. I don’t want to say that stuff is unnatural, but it wasn’t natural for me because it wasn’t something I had really done. I didn’t have the vocabulary and the feel for the movement. I’m sure with more time I could’ve figured it out, but that’s what I struggled the most with. A lot of traditional ballroom stuff, like the waltz or foxtrot, kind of feels like our classical jazz.
RK: I remember the episode you did, I think the rumba?
EK: Oh, God, the rumba.
RK: I was in New York, sitting on my couch, and I remember him coming out in this low-cut leopard print outfit, and I remember thinking to myself, “I don’t know that I need to be in the top 20 right now. America doesn’t want to see me in a low-cut leopard V-neck.”
EK: No one wanted to see me in it either.
RK: They’d rather see you than me. I just didn’t need to be on television in a leopard print. That was the one moment were I was like, “I’m okay being here on the couch.”
EK: It was not my finest moment. And if you feel uncomfortable, like I did, that translates to your dancing.
AVC: Are these skills learnable?
EK: Yeah, I think so. Maybe not within these time limits; no one is going to become an expert in one and a half hours. That’s not going to happen. We kind of had the shotgun method of learning dance.
AVC: Is it different moves or is it a different way of thinking?
EK: We all had our own sets of technique for learning new styles. You basically try and break it down into terms you can understand based on your own personal vocabulary. It’s kind of like learning a new language. In a few hours you can fake a couple words, but you won’t be able to have a nice fluent conversation, and someone who does speak it fluently will be able to pick that out. If a judge is an expert in a particular style, they will know how well you’re faking it.
AVC: If you had a good week or bad week on the show, was that dependent on the partner you had or the choreographer or was it just luck?
EK: There were a lot of factors. Having a partner that you connect with and can communicate with is definitely important. Picking a style that you’re comfortable with or can at least figure out is good, and having a piece of good choreography is important. The judges try not to judge you too harshly based on what the choreography is, because not every piece is going to be an Emmy-winning piece. But your confidence in the choreography definitely plays into it.
AVC: Did you ever feel the judging was unfair or too harsh?
EK: People have said I was the most picked-on contestant, and when you’re in the throngs of it, it definitely feels that way: “Everyone is being so hard on me!” But the judges have their own—for lack of a better word—agenda, and after watching us week after week they develop their own feelings about the different contestants. At the time I felt picked on, but now I feel okay about the way they critiqued me.
RK: I’ll field this one. As an observer, I think that one of the things that’s difficult about So You Think You Can Dance is that the judges really do get behind different dancers and advocate for them. And I imagine that some or all of them are seeing the polling results. I don’t know that for sure, but I’m sure they all know how things are going, so they advocate. It’s like an unofficial version of The Voice, where there are coaches for the different singers and they’re actively campaigning for their team. On So You Think You Can Dance, that all comes via their comments. There’s nothing wrong with that—you’d expect the hip-hop coaches to advocate for the hip-hop dancers—but I think they make some decisions ahead of time. With hindsight, Evan and I walked in as a team of brothers, and as soon as they saw us, the producers were salivating over the opportunity to split us up. I don’t know that for sure, but it makes for great television. I was the sacrificial lamb.
I’ll give you another example. At the finale, we’re at the Kodak Theater—or what was the Kodak at the time—and [judge] Nigel [Lythgoe] just goes on and on criticizing Evan. Then, during the commercial break, he comes across the front of the theater and—I wouldn’t say he apologizes—but he has a word with my family. In a very nice way he says, “Evan is a wonderful dancer, I just had to give those comments.” Mostly he was saying it to our 90-year-old Yaya, who is there and does not understand the way reality television works. There are a lot of things that happen off camera that are not the same as what happens on camera. The judges have a certain persona that they have to present as well.
EK: [Judge] Mary Murphy is definitely much crazier on camera. She’s enthusiastic, but she’s not, like, “waaaaaa.” That’s a heightened version of herself. They actually told us, the contestants, that at the end of the day, they’re making a television show. And it is a reality show, so someone does go home and the hat picks and partner picks are real. We don’t know any of that ahead of time. There’s even a woman there from Standards And Practices who is watching every week when we pick out of the hat. But their goal is to make good TV.
RK: The thing you learn early on is that they have the power to make you look really good or really bad with the edit. We were lucky to be on the positive end of that. They made us out to be not something other than what we are, but we came across looking warm and confident and having a great relationship with each other. And we do! That is us.
EK: Best friends.
RK: Pretty much best friends. We had a heartwarming story that became even stronger in the edit. But someone else who has a little streak of aggression or negativity, they can spin that person into being the villain pretty easily.
EK: As an audience member, you only see these slivers of people. It is tough to know anyone as an audience member, but people formulate opinions really quickly. I do the same thing when I watch reality TV. You form snap judgments.
RK: We’re both really grateful for the way they edited us. I like to think we gave them the footage, though. The way we joked with each other on-camera was the same as how we joked off camera, same as we had done forever. We’re both creative people, and one of the things we said to each other was, “We can do this, we’re good television.” That became our mantra. You have to remind yourself that, as much as being a good dancer is part of the show, you also want to be good television. If you want to come off well in the edit, you have to give them something to work with.
EK: People responded to it. One time I came across this pre-BuzzFeed site that was a list of reality show Halloween costumes, and there was one of the two of us. “Trick or treat as the Kasprzak brothers!”
AVC: That’s real fame.
EK: We like to say we’re fame-ish.
RK: I think one of the costumes had my bowtie.
EK: The people who know us are really excited when they see us, but 99 percent of people have no idea. Nor should they.
AVC: There’s a third Kasprzak brother, right?
RK: Yes, Ian. He’s not in the arts. He’s a computer programmer for Google and he’s very, very smart. He came to see us whatever week it was that you were on and I was auditioning for season six. He was such a good sport about it. He was with me when I was auditioning, which was so great because it was such a wonderful triumphant moment. I came off, and he was there; that was the moment that he was the brother I was hugging and crying with and was on camera with. It was really special, for us. Then he and I went to go see Evan on the show.
That was another thing that was really crazy, and I think it’s the only time this has ever happened. Because I had been cut from the show already but was still involved with season six, when I would go to the shows as an audience member, it was like a whole other world. People would be there screaming and high-fiving me. When the season five tour was going, I knew I had been cut, but because season six hadn’t aired yet, the general public at the tapings didn’t know that. I went to some of the stadium tours, and after the show I was swarmed. As far as they knew, I would be part of the season six story. Security grabbed me and pulled me back with the season five dancers. For me it was great, like if you went to a concert and instead of the band people just wanted photos with you. It was a unique experience. I was getting as much attention as much as other contestants.
It’s interesting to be a reality show “star” because everyone gets their shows mixed up.
EK: “You’re the guy from Dancing With The Stars!”
RK: At least we weren’t confused as being on Real Housewives. Do you remember when we were walking down 34th Street, and [choreographer] Al Blackstone was with us, and those two girls ran up and were like, “Oh my God it’s the two brothers from American Idol!”
EK: If you’re watching all of them, they probably bleed together. Oddly, after the show ended we were never really recognized unless we were together.
AVC: Were you aware of the voting as it came in?
EK: We were pretty much in the dark. We knew how many votes were coming in, because that would be announced. “This week 20 million votes!” or something crazy like that. I think we had 24 million on the finale, which is just insane. Four people in the finale, and together we garnered millions of votes. That’s just crazy. But otherwise we don’t know how close it is, or who ranks where. We only know who is in the bottom three and maybe how many votes there are.
AVC: Were the results of the finale surprising?
EK: No. You get a sense. I remember standing backstage with [contestant] Brandon [Bryant], watching the monitor while Jeanine [Mason] did her final solo and he turns to me and says, “She’s going to win.” You get a sense through the way the audience is reacting and the way everyone is dancing. Jeanine is an amazing dancer and a wonderful person, but she also peaked at the right time, which is important. She got better every week, and her final solo was mind-blowing.
RK: So good. She slayed it.
EK: She was so on that night. She did a triple—no, five—five pirouettes and held it there for one second, just so you would know she was that on. Just being part of the audience, you could feel where the crowd was going. Obviously I wanted to win, but I never thought I would make it all 10 weeks. I was happy to make it through Vegas. Heck, I was happy to get passed onto Vegas. I was ecstatic to make it to the top 10, and then to make it to the finale.
AVC: Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
RK: Leopard print.
EK: I’m sure there are things I could have done that might’ve done better, but there’s no big flashing mistake. At the end of the day, everyone was at the top of their game. It was just how we stacked out. I’m so grateful I got the experience. It was the single most stressful thing I’ve ever done. I learned a lot. I made a lot of friends.
RK: On my second time around I got cut and I got a lot of bad comments. “Should’ve done this more, that more.” For a while I really bought into all those comments. It took a while to release that and be okay with the idea that I was never going to make it through that Vegas Week. At some point, if you do something like this, you need to release yourself from the idea that you could’ve done something differently, because you will never really know what could’ve happened. In hindsight, I wouldn’t change a thing. I was really lucky, because the only things about me that aired were my successes. It was the things I do well, my choreography, which was what I really wanted to highlight in the first place. When we went as a team, the idea was that if Evan went on, I’d be able to showcase my choreography, which is what I really care about, and hopefully people would see some of that. And I got way further than I ever thought with my whoopee cushion solo.
EK: That was good stuff, though.
RK: I’m so thankful the edit made me look good, that no one ever had to see me in a leopard-print rumba outfit. I would’ve tanked if I had had to do that. I have a lot of skills and style, but I am not the dancer Evan is. If I had made it into the top 20, I would’ve inevitably run into something that I would’ve looked really bad at, whether it was a salsa routine or something else. I was lucky that I was spared that. The only record that exists of my So You Think You Can Dance life is what I’m good at and two really great solos. Of course I had a slew of other great solos that were worked up that no one will ever get to see, but in the long run I’m happy with how it worked out.
AVC: Does it comes up with your post-show career?
RK: I have some of Evan’s stuff on my reel as a choreographer, but I’ve actually been filtering that out. I did some choreography on Smash, but I didn’t get that because of So You Think You Can Dance. One of the things the show does for all of the dancers is that it provides amazing exposure, which creates teaching opportunities. Nowadays, if you haven’t been on the show, it is hard to get some of those opportunities. Young dancers, understandably, want to learn the styles they see on television. It has really provided a lot more teaching opportunities for me.
EK: For me, the show never corresponded to getting a performance job, but it does set you apart in a room. If you walk into an audition and someone recognizes you, that little thing can set you apart because they’ll at least remember you and that’s part of the battle. That was really helpful when I first moved to New York.
I went in for Promises, Promises, and I was not right for the part. As a 5-foot-6 guy I had the wrong build, but after I finished, Tara Rubin, the casting director, came out and gave me a big hug and introduced herself, saying she watched the show and was a big fan. That was one of my first experiences in New York and it really meant a lot. That’s what this thing, this entity, has done. I don’t know how much you know about acting, but generally you don’t have the casting director come up and give you a hug after you get cut.
RK: When I was on the show six years ago I was 29. I think the average age was 21 or 22. So now I, flatteringly, get lumped in with the So You Think You Can Dance kids. A while ago I was at an audition and they called for us to freestyle, basically to give them all of our biggest tricks and pirouettes and spins, and I just don’t have that in my bag. It shows you how well I came off in the edit that they think I can or ever could.
EK: You can do it, you’ve just been hiding it.
RK: Maybe 10 years ago I could’ve. But people don’t acknowledge that maybe I got by on my personality more than my technique.
AVC: Evan, I understand you’re in Hail, Caesar!, the new Coen brothers movie. Can you talk about that?
EK: I’m not sure. I can tell you I’m in it as a dancer, not an actor. I’m in a really fun dancing sailor sequence with Channing Tatum that was choreographed by Christopher Gattelli, who did Newsies, which I was in on Broadway. The part I’m in is a fun MGM-style sequence. It was an awesome, awesome experience.
AVC: Do you still watch So You Think You Can Dance?
EK: No, it just brings back all these stressful memories. I wouldn’t have a problem watching other dancing shows, but honestly that’s not really what I’m into; I’d rather watch Breaking Bad or Game Of Thrones or something. With So You Think You Can Dance I’m like a war veteran having flashbacks.