On Oct. 19, Fox television’s hit show “So You Think You Can Dance” will leap off the screen and onto the stage of the Saenger Theatre for its Season 12 Tour.
Just last month, tap-dancing 19-year-old Gaby Diaz was crowned America’s Favorite Dancer on the season 12 finale of the 13-time Emmy Award-winning show created by “American Idol” producers Simon Fuller and Nigel Lythgoe.
Diaz said she barely had time to celebrate, however, as practices for the annual tour began almost immediately.
“After winning, I flew straight to New York for a day for some press stuff and then caught a flight that night home to Miami,” Diaz said. “I had three days with my family before rehearsals started for the tour.”
The top 10 finalists from the show were given two weeks to prepare for the North American tour that started Oct. 13 in Grand Prairie, Texas.
New Orleans is the fifth city on the 70-city schedule.
“We’ve been working hard,” Diaz said. “This season the show debuted a new format — Stage vs. Street. In the past, it was individuals competing, but this year they broke dancers into two teams — stage, or classically trained, and street, or hip hop. Individually, however, we still received a lot of mentoring and one-on-one work.”
The only tap dancer on Season 12, Diaz said it’s the relative rarity of her art form that drew her to it.
“It’s a really underrated style and a difficult style to learn,” she said, “I really want to do what I can to keep it on the forefront of people’s minds.”
Diaz said the new format also changed the makeup of the contestants. “In the past, it’s really been mostly stage-style dancers,” she said. “This was a great chance to showcase more hip hop dancers.”
One of the hip hop street dancers on the tour is Virgil Gadson, a 27-year-old from Philadelphia.
“I can do anything, really, any style,” Gadson said, “but hip hop has been always been a force in my life. It’s part of my family, my culture, who I am.”
Gadson said he’s excited for the tour.
“You’re going to see a bit of everything, some things you may recognize from the show, plus a lot of new surprises thrown in.”
When the “So You Think You Can Dance” tour ends in Montreal at the end of January, both Diaz and Gadson plan to continue pursuing their dreams. For Diaz, that means a move to Los Angeles to chase a professional dance career, while Gadson hopes to parlay his recent accomplishments into furthering his work as an actor and choreographer.
“The highlight for me of this whole experience has to be that the new format of the show created a real family like community,” Gadson said. “I’m walking away knowing I’ve created some real and lasting relationships, and not just with the dancers, but the production team, the choreographers — we all formed this never ending bond.”