Good, or even great, won’t cut it on So You Think You Can Dance. That was proven this week when Karla Garcia and Vitolio Jeune were cut from the competition despite stellar critiques from the judges the night prior. Both dancers lost their original partners the week before, and set out to prove they earned their place to stay, but in the end, the competition proved just too fierce. That, and perhaps their quick step routine this week really does live up to it’s nickname, “kiss of death.” You’d think so, but when Fancast spoke to the couple earlier today, there were no hard feelings for what they’ve re-dubbed, “kiss of joy.” Read on for that and more on their time on the show, which included three bouts in the bottom three for both dancers, and how dancing “saved” Vitolio’s life.
What’s your thought process when you’re in the bottom three several times and required to “dance for your life” in the solos?
I think I definitely learned after each time doing it that you have to construct it really well with a beginning, middle, and end to your 30 seconds because it’s not a lot of time to tell a story plus show technique, and good performance quality and show your personality. I think by the third time I was kind of at peace with doing my 30 seconds and accepted I’m going to do it again tonight and I approached it a lot differently and I was very happy with my final solo performance.
What was your week with Vitolio like? Did you feel being such a new couple was a hinderance to your performance?
It was really hard because after Jonathan got eliminated I was really emotional just because I got really attached over the past few weeks, and then all of a sudden, I had to be with a brand new partner, and we had to find that connection and chemistry in very little time. Plus, there’s the added layer of having the hardest dance style ever on the show that we had to work with. So it was a challenge but I think we are both professionals and have that motivation to show America we can attack this kiss of death and that’s what we shared together and it’s what brought us together I think and that made it easier.
Why is the quick step so hard and referred to as the kiss of death?
When we opened that card and it said quick step I think I was already practicing my solo especially when everyone else around us had a genre in their comfort zone! I felt defeated but it was also motivation to attack this hard dance style. The real blessing was having Jean Marc Genereux as choreographer because they can really make or break your experience, and he was very involved and invested in us and knew it would be a difficult task. The quick step was very hard to learn and you have to stay close in contact, your hips have to stay together, your feet have to move very fast, and you have to work very intimately with your partner, and that was hard because Vitolio and I had never worked together. There were just so many layers to having this “kiss of death.” But Jean Marc guided us a lot, he’s very fun loving with all the analogies, he used them to help us with frame and finding connections physically, and the entertainment quality of it. I think he gave us a great routine choreographically but there were also other things to focus on like the acting part, and conceptual part.
What was going through your head during some of the judges harsher critiques? This week, guest judge Mia Michaels told you that you looked scared at times. Did you in fact feel that way?
Honestly, it’s so funny, because when the judges are giving you comments, I don’t even really remember them all the time because you’re just up there overwhelmed by everything they’re saying. But I think Mia was just trying to tell me to let loose a little bit. And it’s the quick step; we didn’t want to trip over each other, and sometimes in rehearsals it wouldn’t go well, and there were some times when I would get a little scared and maybe it showed on my face. I also think sometimes the frustrations of the competition were getting to me and it didn’t allow some of my personality to really show because I was just getting really stressed with a lot of factors you can’t control on the show. And the judges are professionals and they know most of time what the truth is.
Which routine that you performed during the competition stands out as the most fun to you?
The most rewarding, most exhilarating piece I did on that show, was Stacey Tookey’s contemporary piece with Jonathan. I felt like that was my shining moment and I was really blessed to have such wonderful choreography by Stacey, especially because she guided us a lot that week, and wanted us to shine. She knew we were underdogs that didn’t get as much camera time, and she wanted to showcase our techniques and personalities and chemistry. It was such a joy to do that in front of millions of people.
Were there any styles or choreographers you were hoping to be able to work with?
I would have loved to work with Napolean and Tabitha. I would have loved to do one of their hip hop duets. I think their use of isolations and storytelling and musicality showcases their dancers in a great light and they know how to to tell a story and entertain an audience. And they’re such positive people to with with; I worked with them for a group number two weeks ago, and I think it would have been awesome to work with them one on one and I’m sad that I couldn’t.
Did it feel like you were at unfair odds and that the judges were promoting certain dancers over others?
Yeah, there was a lot of factors that you can’t control coming into the competition and I didn’t actually grasp that until I was in the flow of things. Coming into it we were already being called the underdogs and had barely done any dancing yet. I think it’s just the way they edit the show and you don’t have much control over how much camera time you get or what stories they focus in on in the beginning. Out of all the footage they use 2% of it and you don’t know what they want America to see and some are luckier than others. There’s only so much you can control and all I can do is dance my hardest when I get that moment to shine.
How much are you thinking about how your perceived in addition to how well you dance?
I definitely think we all think about that. We all become really self conscious about how you’re standing, how you’re looking, because you don’t know how you’re going to be perceived from the outside. I think most everyone on the show is very grounded and you just try to stay true to yourself and that’s what I learned on the show. I didn’t try to be someone I wasn’t, and I don’t know if that helped or not, but I just wanted to stay grounded because that was the most important thing to me.
What’s next for you?
I’m just relaxing and going to be spending time with my family. I got a few offers the day after my elimination to teach, and perform, and I got an offer from the Radio City Rockette show in New York and I think I’m going to do that this year and start working professionally again like I was before the show and maybe start getting into acting and branching out and trying new things.
You mentioned several times that dancing saved your life. How has it affected your life?
I met dance at an early age after I saw a Michael Jackson video and at that time I was still in an orphanage. And then after I left the orphanage, dance was a way for me to survive in the street in Haiti and make some money, and take care of my grandmother and myself at same time.
Given the fact that Michael Jackson was such an inspiration to you, how were you impacted by the news of his death, given that you were still on the show at the time?
When I found out Michael Jackson died I was getting ready to go on stage and it was really a big disappointment for me and I couldn’t stop crying. I had received a text from a friend telling me Michael Jackson died, and was thinking, ‘is somebody trying to prank me or something?’ And then when I saw it on the news, it was oh my God, this is real, and I couldn’t stop crying and it affected me really hard. It was tough, but at the same time, it gave me inspiration to really go up there and do my thing. I found out probably about ten minutes before.
Which video was it that you first saw that inspired you so much?
I think it was Thriller and he’s great entertainer. Whatever he does, he has a certain way of bringing you into his world. I liked the way he dances and sings and pulls it together, that kind of trapped me into falling in love with him.
What was going through your mind when you found yourself in the bottom three for a third time?
I was a little bit surprised because the night before we had an awesome quick step and the judges loved it. So I wasn’t expecting to be in the bottom three. I knew America already had their favorites, and that they were not going to put their favorites in the bottom, but at the same time I was still time hoping for a miracle because I knew we did really well in the quickstep. I was disappointed but it wasn’t that much of a big surprise for me.
What was your favorite dance you did this season?
The waltz and the quick step. When I actually picked quick step out of the hat, I was like, ‘oh my God, this is going to be a disaster, but the choreographer, Jean Marc is very kind and fun to be around, so he really helped us out a lot, and my partner Karla; we went over the steps and were rehearsing every day and every single minute we had and I think we put it together pretty well and we changed it from the kiss of death to the kiss of joy, I think.
What goes through your head in putting together your solo once you know you’re in the bottom?
The first time wasn’t a surprise for me because I knew that Broadway wasn’t as exciting to America and that we would be in the bottom three. So I had already put my solo together and was just trying to impress the judges to have them keep me in the show and I did my best and I didn’t want to go. The second time I was in the bottom three was a little surprising, because we did jazz, but I did my best as well. But the third time, I tried to do even better than the last two times, even though I remember the week prior to that, Nigel said to me that that was my last week if I got in the bottom three again. So I was thinking do I dance for my life or just go home and pack? But I just went there and I think I did my best.
Did you change your strategy at all with the different solos?
The first two solos I did I was pretty much showing technique and there was a lot of jumping in there. The last two I did I was trying to connect with myself and just go out there and get more in touch with myself and enjoy myself because I knew that was probably going to be my last time on that stage try and I really wanted to enjoy those last moments.
What’s next for you?
I’m back in Miami and I’m looking for agent back in LA and plan on moving back to LA and will keep on dancing, choreographing, and hopefully getting into acting and modeling. And I’m thinking about writing a book about my life story.