So You Think You Can Dance's ninth season declared female dancer Eliana and male dancer Chehon "America's favorite dancers" based upon home viewer votes cast following last Tuesday night's final performance show, which had featured the Top 4 dancers each performing five times for So You Think You Can Dance judges Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy and guest judge Rob Marshall.
As the season's champions, Eliana, a 21-year-old contemporary ballet dancer from West Palm Beach, FL, and Chehon, a 23-year-old ballet dancer from Zurich, Switzerland, will each receive a $125,000 cash prize and a cover appearance on Dance Spirit magazine. Eliana bested fellow female finalist Tiffany to win the competition, while Chehon beat out fellow male finalist Cyrus Spencer -- who had never once landed in the bottom group of dancers -- for the So You Think You Can Dance title.
During a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, Eliana talked to Reality TV World about her So You Think You Can Dance victory and experience -- including whether her ecstatic reaction was one of just happiness or pure shock that she had won, what she set out to show viewers about ballet dancers and the classic style of dance in general, and why she admitted having Cyrus as a partner throughout most of the competition held her back a little.
Below is the first half of Eliana's call. Check back with Reality TV World soon for the concluding portion. To begin reading our interview with Chehon, click here.
Reality TV World: You seemed absolutely ecstatic once host Cat Deeley announced you were the female winner of the competition. Was your reaction one of just pure joy or was it one of shock? Did you think Tiffany was going to win over you despite how Nigel Lythgoe had called you his favorite dancer of the season and everything?
Eliana Girard: I absolutely thought Tiffany was going to win. I think she's absolutely beautiful and just such an amazing person, and I was prepared for that. Yeah, it was shock and ecstatic -- it was everything, honestly. It was a whirlwind. (Laughs)
Reality TV World: In your final words, you said you went on the show not to prove anything but rather to simply give ballet a good reputation. Could you talk a little bit about what you meant by that? Do you think ballet had a bad reputation or a negative stereotype you wanted to change or did you just want people to see a different side to the style?
Eliana Girard: I think I just wanted people to see a different side of it... I just think ballet is under-appreciated within the show. I think it has a lot more to offer and I just wanted people to see it the way that Chehon and I see it.
Reality TV World: Do you think it was just a coincidence that you and Chehon were both ballet dancers and ended up winning the competition or no? Do you think that might've been a sign that you succeeded in wanting your viewers to enjoy ballet just as you enjoy it?
Eliana Girard: I think it was just a coincidence because it's about who America relates to and enjoys and connects with. I think it's such a huge honor that we both are the ballet representatives, and I think people got to see a new side of it and see what it has to offer. Ballet is such a great foundation to have as a dancer because it's amazing how you can go off and do other styles from it. And yeah! (Laughs)
Reality TV World: Cyrus was obviously a fan-favorite this season but he was also known as the dancer who needed the most work in the majority of dance styles. So since you were his partner, that seems like it might've worked in your benefit from the fans standpoint but also that it might've held you back a little bit in terms of choreography. So what are your thoughts on that? Do you think they sort of had to dumb down the choreography a bit at times to bring out his strengths in your routines -- and maybe therefore you weren't able to show off everything you could do?
Eliana Girard: I hate to say it, but yes. Cyrus is so sweet and he is such a hard worker. I remember in our first rehearsal, he never said, "No," or gave, "I can't do it," as an answer. He worked so hard because he knew what he was getting himself into and he wanted to work to get on the same caliber, because he doesn't have the years of experience and technique that we do.
So, it was difficult at points because he doesn't have the same partnering skills as Chehon, for instance, so it's been like teaching him how to know where to put me on my legs, but that's been an incredible blessing as well because it's been a huge learning experience for me to get to see someone grow and help them out. So it is a dual dynamic where you have to kind of water down the choreography, but I think it was still worth it. It really was.
Reality TV World: How did being paired with Alex Wong afterwards affect your dancing or change you as a dancer in general?
Eliana Girard: Oh, it just opened up so many doors. Partnering with Alex was absolutely amazing, because I'm such a huge fan of his to begin with. And then to be able to have such an experience with him, it's incredible. He's such an amazing person and being able to -- we understood each other's minds because we both came from the same background.
So we understood how we both approached movement, and we got to learn from each other a lot. That's a partnership I really hope will continue after the show.
Reality TV World: What do you plan to do with your winnings?
Eliana Girard: (Laughs) Pay bills! That's No. 1. (Laughs) I'm going to buy a bird! (Laughs) I'm a huge animal lover and I definitely would like to have a bird. And then, I want to help my mom out because she's given so much to me, and I really want to give back to her.
Above is the first half of Eliana's call. Check back with Reality TV World soon for the concluding portion. To begin reading Chehon's interview, click here.