Makenzie, along with Nico Greetham, an 18-year-old contemporary dancer from Woodbridge, VA, were eliminated by So You Think You Can Dance judges Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy as well as guest judge Debbie Allen after they found themselves in last week's bottom-four dancers based on home viewer votes cast for the Top 10 finalists.
During a recent conference call with reporters, Makenzie talked to Reality TV World about her So You Think You Can Dance experience.
Reality TV World: You were a clear frontrunner throughout the competition in the minds of the judges and choreographers, but you repeatedly landed in the bottom six and, this week, the bottom four. Were you surprised to see yourself in that bottom spot each week and was it also a surprise that Jenna Johnson was in your same shoes most of the time?
Makenzie Dustman: Once you land in the bottom -- the first time landing in the bottom of course is frightening, but once you kind of repeatedly land in the bottom, not that you get used to it, but you're not afraid of it and you kind of expect it every week just so you're ready for it. And that's how I felt I was.
I was always ready to do my solo, and I think it's good to be open-minded and ready for that position to dance your solo. Every single person, including Jenna, she's absolutely incredible. I don't think anyone deserves to be in the bottom, but the show has to go on. There's always going to be a bottom six or four. I don't think anyone deserves to be in the bottom.
Everyone now left in the show could like win the show, but it's the nature of it that one has to go every week. Of course I didn't want to go, but it has to happen, and I made Top 10 and I'm so happy that I made it this far. So, you just kind of have to go with the flow of the show.
Reality TV World: Do you have any insight as to why you kept landing in the bottom? I didn't know whether you thought maybe his pattern of gushing about you each week almost hurt you in a way in that America tends to root for the underdog or the person they think really NEEDS the votes.
Makenzie Dustman: You really never know how people perceive you or see you. Maybe I landed in the bottom because people just didn't feel like they connected with me on a personal level.
Because when I watched the show, I would vote for people not just for dancing but for people that personality-wise I would just kind of connect with. So, maybe people just never felt like they had a connection with me on a personal level.
I don't know. I feel like I really did my best every week, and I was so lucky to have [Paul Karmiryan] as a partner because he was the reason behind us both doing so well. But having a good dance isn't enough. You have to do something else that intrigues an audience.
Reality TV World: Since Jenna and yourself kept getting saved by the judges each week, that meant a female dancer would go home in your place, and I know in Malece Miller's situation for example, she had never landed in the bottom six, but the week she did, she got eliminated. Did the judges almost indirectly put a little guilt on your shoulders? Was there ever a moment when you thought, "Oh man, I really don't want to be saved again because it will be unfair to the others?"
Makenzie Dustman: I guess I never thought of it that way, that I was replacing someone else. I mean, it has to happen. We've been saying it's the nature of the show. Someone has to leave.
I was so thankful that the judges -- because I have landed in the bottom so many times that they did save me and saw something in me and wanted to see me in upcoming weeks. Of course it is an awful feeling, because it's bittersweet because you want to stay then. I've gotten to stay then.
Malece is one of my best friends, my roommates, and seeing her go, you have to see someone go every week and it's heart-wrenching no matter what. And of course you are so happy for yourself that you are staying, but there's a part of you that just goes out to the person that's leaving because you want them to be a part of it too. So, I wouldn't say guilt, but it's bittersweet and it's so hard seeing someone go.
Reality TV World: I know you don't want to sit here and toot your own horn, but obviously it was a big deal that you were Nigel's favorite dancer and he kept saying that America was clearly missing something. Did Nigel ever explain to you why you became his favorite dancer and do you have any idea why the choreographers grew to love you as well? I'm wondering what you think might've set you apart from the group.
Makenzie Dustman: I don't want to sound, just like you said, tooting my own horn or anything, but it was amazing that Nigel did see something in me. When I first auditioned, I was so surprised that all of them saw something in me, and I didn't know what they did see in me, but as the weeks went on, I think all of us have an amazing work ethic.
And [although] I'm young, I feel like I was really mature and I was different professionally in the rehearsal room, and I wasn't afraid to try anything. And I think choreographers want to work with someone like that, someone that's open-minded, and all of us were like that. That's what was so amazing. Everyone had that quality, but it was great that Nigel saw that in me.
Reality TV World: Why did you originally audition forSo You Think You Can Dance and how many times did you try out before making it into the Top 20?
Makenzie Dustman: I actually wasn't planning on trying out for So You Think You Can Dance. It was a completely different direction than I wanted to go in my dance career actually, but my mom and I have always watched the show and she really, really wanted me to try out.
And it was my first time trying out. I turned 18 a week before the LA audition, so it just kind of worked out, and I didn't want to regret it if I didn't try out. So I really did it for my mom because she's a huge fan of the show, so I was just like, "Okay, why not." I just went for it.
Below are some additional highlights from Makenzie's call with reporters.
Every season, the dancers form a tight bond and are very close, but it seems like there's something about this season in particular. I was wondering if you could talk about your relationship with the other dancers on the show.
Makenzie Dustman: I completely agree with you. I think this season, we're all around the same age. We're all younger around 18 and 20, and so, I think all of us, we kind of were at the same stage in our life when we came together as a group, and we all have definitely created such an amazing bond... [We became a] family and that's the hardest thing about leaving the competition, is leaving my family.
Even though it's tough to leave the competition, what does it mean to you to make the tour? Because that has to be so exciting and quite an accomplishment.
Makenzie Dustman: Yes. I think that that is everyone's goal kind of when you make Top 20. Once you make Top 20, I go, "Hey, I want to make the Top 10." And now being able to go on tour, it's an amazing feeling, because even though we are eliminated, we know that we're not done with our journey onSo You Think You Can Dance and it's going to start right back up in a couple of weeks from now.
We're going to be back at the finale and then we're on the road with everyone for two months. So, it's an amazing feeling... but we're going to be back onstage with them really soon, so that's amazing.
What are your plans now that you're off the show? What are your plans for the future after the tour?
Makenzie Dustman: I am planning on moving to LA, and of course, I'm wanting to become a working dancer. But [in addition] to that, I'm really interested in becoming an actress and going towards the acting field and doing on-camera movie things, because now being a part of the show and doing on-camera stuff, it's a really -- I kind of have fallen in love with it, so I think I want to go in the acting direction. Why not?
Making it into the Top 10 is quite an accomplishment not only because you get to go on the tour but also you made it to the all-stars part of the competition. Tell us a little bit about what it was like getting to dance with Jakob Karr.
Makenzie Dustman: Oh my gosh, it was literally the most incredible experience working with all-stars who've all gone through what we've gone through. They've been in the position that we've been in on the show, and since then, they've done even more and all of their careers have taken off because of the show.
So, them coming back -- they come back with us and they have so much to teach us, and I think I've learned so much in a week's worth because of the all-stars. They're so encouraging and so loving. It was literally the most incredible experience working with all of them.
Last night, how frustrating was it to be eliminated without having had the chance to "dance for your life" by doing your solo?
Makenzie Dustman: At that point, I would have loved to do my solo to show everyone what I do. The only chance where you get to do your style is when you do your solo, because every week, you're given something different. So, I would have loved to show what I do and be able to dance for my life, but [Nico and I] didn't get the chance.
I wouldn't say I was frustrated, just because in that moment, you just have to be professional about it and you have to -- it's because I could just focus on my duet with Jakob and put all my energy to that. But I would have loved to be able to share my solo.
How much did it mean to you for Nigel to note that he voted to save you because you were his favorite on the show yet he was outvoted?
Makenzie Dustman: That's the most incredible thing that I've ever gotten said to me on the show, and that will definitely stick with me. I just feel so humbled to have him even say that about me, because the show has had the most incredible talented dancers that I've ever seen, and for him to put me in that same category, it's definitely lifted my spirits.
And for him to be on my side with the whole -- just... and saving me, it like, it made the experience amazing knowing that he thought I was so capable of going all the way. And it definitely lifted my spirits up and I was lucky to have him on my side.
Check back with Reality TV World on Tuesday for Nico's interview.