Ashleigh and Ryan’s dance together at the final So You Think You Can Dance performance show was the highlight of the season for me, and my favorite reality television moment this year.
When they’re with other partners, they may not have been America’s favorite dancers. Ryan is more reserved than most of his fellow dancers. Even though he’s from Utah he hearkens back to iconic characteristics of Russian ballroom dancers. Ashleigh sparkles, but in a classy, refined way that’s less TV friendly than Mollee’s girlishness.
I still defy anyone not to get a lump in their throat watching them when they danced together on So You Think You Can Dance. They played, they mimicked each other, they touched each other softly, and at the end they cried together.
When I spoke to them backstage after the finale they finished each other’s sentences, and she beamed while he told me the story of how they met. We got into dance styles and great dancers that they admire, and they clearly study their craft with the obsession of someone who has truly found an art form that’s as natural to them as breathing. They’re not America’s favorite dancers, but they’re mine.
Q: Ryan, what was it like dancing with Ashleigh?
Ryan: We’ve been dancing since we got married five years ago, but for sure this would have to be my favorite time to dance with her.
Q: Do you think that part of the reason you got into the finale was because America really wanted to see you guys dance together?
Ryan: Possibly. Ashleigh wasn’t in the bottom once the whole season. She definitely held her own. I was the bottom many times so maybe that helped me; but I’m sure America did want to see us dance together.
Q: Ashleigh, was it hard dancing with other guys knowing that Ryan was watching?
Asheigh: Never. Actually, what’s helpful is that being ballroom dancers we’re used to partnering with many people. We grew up dancing with other people. We competed against each other while we dated. We understand. It’s part of what we do. Actually, we talked about how much we enjoyed the experience. We’ve been together so long we never really got to watch each other on stage. Taking this opportunity to watch each other dance has just been amazing.
Ryan: We can appreciate each other’s dancing even more!
Ashleigh: We loved it!
Q: When you get done with the choreographers and you get to see each other, do you want to help each other get even better, or do you want to escape from dance?
Ryan: Throughout the competition, we’ve just helped each other with our partners, Jakob and Ellenore especially. We rented a rehearsal studio. We watched each other’s routines and gave each other feedback and tried to support each other.
Ashleigh: We were here throughout this whole journey to help each other. Not just us. The cast as a whole [helped each other.] Depending on what genres we had, we would go to the person who was the strength in that. We really were a team. Everyone wanted everyone to have a successful night. That was the really amazing part of this whole journey. We all talked about how whoever won tonight deserved it, and we were so happy. We honestly feel that way.
Q: How did you guys first meet?
Ryan: We met at a dance studio. She was –
Ashleigh: We had a mutual friend, but didn’t know each other. He came to a visit a friend and –
Ryan: At the studio. I walked in, saw her dancing and I said to my friend, “Who is that? Because she’s gorgeous!” [Ashleigh beams.] We met after the class. After she got through the class. We went out that night and –
Ashleigh: Started dating right away.
Ryan: Right away. Right off the bat. We clicked.
Q: Which was more emotional, dancing at your wedding or dancing last night?
Ryan: Probably the other night.
Ashleigh: I’d say the other night. It was hard. I had to focus. There was a moment it became so overwhelming I just wanted to sit on the stage and cry. And I thought, “Wait! I have to keep dancing! Focus!” It was a very special moment for us. The beautiful piece that Travis gave us spoke volumes about how we feel. To communicate how we feel about each other through dance was –
Ryan: Especially through a different style.
Ashleigh: It was as good as it gets.
Q: Many of the alumni from this show have gone on to Dancing with the Stars. Do you guys aspire to that?
Ryan: A lot of those guys are close friends of ours and we would love to join them if that opportunity came up.
Q: Are there professional dancers who you look up to?
Ryan: Many! One of my favorite dancers currently in the Latin ballroom professional circuit is Ricardo Cocchi. He’s an amazing dancer.
Ashleigh: What’s Yulia’s last name?
Ryan: I don’t know. [Editor: It’s Zagoruychenko. I don’t blame you, Ryan. That’s a toughie.]Ashleigh: Yulia is my favorite dancer. There are so many. That’s part of the journey that’s been amazing – having so many amazing choreographers. You can learn something new from everyone. I’d like to work with everyone because at the end of the day everyone has something new to offer.
Ryan: We’ve been so blessed to work with some of the most amazing choreographers in the world already.
Q: Would you incorporate some of the other styles you learned into your ballroom dancing routines?
Ryan: Those styles have definitely made us better dancers. Using different aspects and flexibility that you start to develop from the contemporary helped me in my performances for sure.
Ashleigh: Oh yeah. Learning new ways to move your body that you otherwise never would have. It’s all just added onto each other. We talked about that. People have been saying, “You’re not just ballroom dancers. You’re a dancer.” I think that’s true of everyone in this competition. We can no longer be classified as just one style because we’ve all been stretched beyond our breadth.
Ryan: You get a true appreciation for everyone else’s style because you have to do it in front of all these people. It’s great.
–Henry Jenkins, BuddyTV Guest Columnist
(Image Courtesy of FOX)