Gotta Dance – Interview with Aaron Turner – So You Think You Can Dance Top 4 Contestant

Aaron and Kate Sept 2013

Well, you’ve seen him on this season of So You Think You Can Dance, rise to the top 4 – the first tapper to get this far in the competition to date! Aaron Turner is as warm and charming in person as he is on stage. I’ve had the pleasure of having Aaron as a body work client this season, and he so graciously accepted to share his experiences with us in this interview.


KF: On the show you have to perform in so many different styles of dance, what do you have to say about the importance of being a versatile dancer?
AT: I think that that’s probably the most important aspect of the show that you are adjudicated on. I have seen some of the best dancers in their certain style get cut early on because of that exact thing. They only give you the first week to do your own style and after that it’s all about whatever card you draw. But literally for this show – probably the most important aspect of the entire thing is being a versatile dancer – there’s nothing more important.

KF: Do you feel versatility comes from taking a variety of classes or something more?
AT: Yes. Training, classes, having an open mind. Some of the stuff you just really can’t prepare for. On the other hand I think training and how seriously you’ve taken a world dance form in comparison to just your own style makes a difference. Definitely getting in there and taking classes and being open to styles of dance that you normally wouldn’t see yourself in.


KF: Let’s take a look at what the daily/weekly life was during the show. Can you share that with us?
AT: We would have Wednesday off because Tuesday was the show. Thursday we would start learning our duet or duets in the first day – that’s the day they taped. So we got three hours – one and a half in front of the camera and then one and half hours for interviews after. You literally have to learn your dances in an hour and a half no matter how many you have to do. The weeks of the finale or the top 4, I had six numbers. We had to do 5 of them in front of the camera for an hour and a half. Then the next day the duets are supposed to get a five-hour block. If it’s a regular duet you get a five-hour rehearsal. If it’s a duet with an all-star, you get a four hour rehearsal, an hour break, and then a two hour rehearsal with just the all-star. When it was the week of the top 4, we got three-hour rehearsals for all of our numbers. Those were the days when I would go from 6am to 10pm. That’s Thursday to Friday. Saturday to Sunday we learned group numbers, either multiple group numbers or most importantly the opening of the show. That’s a 9am-6pm day on Saturday, on Sunday its 9am -2pm. On Monday we had camera tech, walking – you do the whole show on the stage. That’s an all day thing. Usually 9am-6pm or 9am-8pm but sometimes earlier. Tuesday is the hardest. You have to wake up at 4:15 in the morning and get taken to the studio at 5am for hair and make up. You prerecord your opening number at 7:30am. After that you run your solos and after that you go back into camera blocking and you have full dress rehearsal at 2:30 -4:30pm. Then you get a 30-minute break before the whole show starts at 5pm.

KF: Wow! When you do warm up and take care of yourself before you start?
AT: Warm up? That’s a joke. On Monday you get a group warm-up with Jess. Every other day you are required to get there 15 minutes early before your call time so it’s very difficult. Keeping warm and warming up your body and your that muscles that are necessary is the most difficult thing on the show and it’s the number one thing that leads to injury on the show. You don’t have time for it; it’s just the way the game goes.

KF: What good habits do you have that made it possible for you to give your best performance each week and keep up with such a rigorous schedule?
AT: Mental resilience I feel. Every week, throwing away everything that happened – whether it was good or bad – you had to let it all go and restart, literally reset your mind. Determination too – it became hard for everybody on the show. I am a quick learner, I’ve always been a quick learner even back when I was just taking classes at conventions so that was very helpful. And also Jasmine and I, we are perfectionists, so we had a formula of how we wanted our numbers to look and I think the formula we created was what enabled us to do so well. We used it week after week. That helped. We were very open with each other – we had no problem telling each other what was wrong or what was right. We would rehearse in our rooms; we would rehearse sometimes in the streets. Outside rehearsals we would watch ourselves on videotape and view it critically. We did it for every dance, every time, and we did it together. I think that type of honesty helped.

KF: Now a little bit about the performance side: you played such a variety of characters with each performance. What is your process behind your acting and expressivity? What can you share with other dancers about the balance between technique and theatricality?
AT: I feel like I am a stronger performer than I am a technician. You always want to sell yourself in this competition so [I did that] by always taking the character that I needed to play very seriously. First and foremost, that was very important. So the instant that I stepped onto the side of the stage to walking onto the stage prior to the dance, I was already in character and I would never break. And for the balance, I’d say, mostly true to this competition, is that personality wins over somebody who can do 15 pirouettes. I mean both of the guys in the finals were a tap dancer and a street dancer and you have somebody like Tucker who went to Julliard. So I think it was pretty obvious that the character wins over the hearts of the voters and the performance is then relatable in comparison to showing technique that is so incredible it almost seems impossible.


KF: What advice do you have for dancers about working with so many different choreographers?
AT: The thing you have to be able to do is you have to be able to adapt. I can’t dance like Aaron, you can’t dance like you. That’s not what they want, unfortunately. I mean that is initially what they want, but once it’s their turn to put their work on you, it’s very important that you learn to adapt. You need to be someone different every time. I think that by far is the most important thing that I learned.

KF: What past experiences did you hearken back to that helped you the most through this season?
AT: When I felt like giving up, I would always remember when I got cut both times and I think that definitely kept me going. When performing I would think about my dad and the way he performed and the way he could captivate an audience. I think for different instances I would pull from different past experiences. I know that there was one dance that I dedicated to my mom because it was from a story that my mom used to read to me. Anytime I tap, I like to pull from a mixture of Gregory Hines and the hoofing of Savion Glover. Being older and being more mature I have more experiences and I pulled from as many as I possibly could all throughout my life depending on what the dance asked for.

KF: Now that the show is done, you and the cast are rehearsing and about to start the North American SYTYCD Live tour. What are you inspired and excited to do once the tour is over?
AT: Sleep! I am excited to seize other opportunities to see how far I can take them and see how well I can do with them considering I did well on the show and I didn’t necessarily anticipate that.

Thank you Aaron for your hard work and inspiration! We are all excited to see what you do next!