Last night’s So You Think You Can Dance eliminations may have been the most shocking this season. Janette Manrara and Jason Glover were the latest to be cut from the competition and the judges were none too pleased with America’s decision. Nigel Lythgoe went as far as to say that Janette was his personal favorite, and her elimination was enough to ruin the 100th episode celebration for him that night (though he looked pretty pleased eating cake during the credits. Just sayin’). Guest judge Mia Michaels echoed those sentiments calling Janette her favorite dancer this season, and even host Cat Deeley seemed stunned, calling the news the “shock of the season.” Likewise, Jason wowed Wednesday night with a zombie hip hop routine and performed one of the best solos earlier this season. Did we mention he’s also just all around adorable? It was truly a bittersweet send-off for the 100th episode marker which featured an (over?) hyped song and dance number by Katie Holmes, the return of past contestants, and was preceded on Wednesday night with guest judge Ellen DeGeneres. Fancast spoke to Janette and Jason all about it; read on for their insight on the competition, and whether or not Janette plans to return to her 9-5 banking job.
Your elimination was such a shock last night; you were even declared the flat out favorite to win from the judges – does it make it harder to go home knowing that?
It actually makes it easier to go home. When Mia said I was her favorite last night I was completely shocked and couldn’t believe that she felt that way about me, given me not being a contemporary dancer and her being a contemporary choreographer. It just made me feel very accomplished. It sucks that I couldn’t achieve what Mia and Nigel wanted me to achieve, but at the same time, I do go home with the sense of still winning. I still accomplished something great and reached a goal a lot of other dancers would love to reach. So it’s very bittersweet to know that they feel that way. It definitely did make it easier to go home when Nigel said he wanted me to win this year. Hard and easy, both at the same time! And because it was the 100th episode, it felt more like an accomplishment, and it’s only the beginning of other amazing things, hopefully to come. So I tried to give a very positive approach to everything, because at the end, it is sad to leave, but so many great come out of show, I hope, that I can’t be sad right now.
What about the star power we had this week with Ellen DeGeneres and Katie Holmes – did you get to interact with them? What were your impressions?
I am a huge, huge Ellen DeGeneres fan. I’ve liked her for a really long time and when I found out she was going to come be one of the guest judges, I jumped for joy. I was star-struck and so excited. We actually did get to meet her for a little bit after the show and I definitely expressed to her how much of a fan I was. And she said she had loved watching me dance and had seen my other performances throughout the season, so it was very surreal to know that Ellen, this woman I adored as a comedian and talk show host, had actually been watching me on television and knew who I was! It was amazing. And we didn’t get to meet Katie Holmes. We saw her around a couple of times but I was very, very impressed with her performance, with her singing and dancing capabilities. It was very cool and we were all kind of star-struck with the whole situation.
Who from the show were you inspired by?
That’s a tough one, I really enjoyed working with Sonia. She has such a positive energy and pushed me to my limits in a positive way and was always by your side trying to get the best out of you. And then there’s Wade Robson, he was just amazing to work with as well. He’s just a creative genius with quirky, cool, different ideas and he choreographs and works the same way, he changes things and goes back and forth but the end product always works out really well. Mia Michaels is awe inspiring to just be standing next to because she’s done so much for the dance community. I didn’t get to work with her on a duet level, but we did do two group 2 numbers with her and she was just phenomenal. She’s very tough and pushed us to limits as well, but is extremely talented with her creativity and her ideas and is just amazing. It was very surreal to be there with such amazing people.
Who was your biggest competition?
I don’t know; I think all of the girls this season were really, really good, and talented in different ways. I wouldn’t be able to pick out one. I’ve heard, because we don’t get to read blogs or anything, that a lot of people were saying that it would end up being between Jeanine, Kayla, and myself, but Melissa is also huge competition because she’s so talented and genuine and so very real. She’s a great person and not having Randi around made me sad, and she’s also a powerhouse dancer, so I wouldn’t be able to say there was one particular girl that I was like, ‘she’s the one I need to look out for.’
You worked at a bank prior to the show, how different was the corporate world for you versus the dancing world? Did people at work try to get you to dance?
At the office I played music all day and was moving around my desk at all times, I can’t sit still. I really got into dancing a little too late unfortunately. I realized how much I loved it when I was 19, and had already started working full time at the bank and it was very difficult to make that transition. I had to quit my job and leave everything I had known to come and be on the show. It was a major risk, but a risk worth taking. It’s such a different life and it feels more like home to be on stage dancing and getting ready in hair and makeup than sitting behind a desk and filling out paperwork for other people. We had luncheons and corporate events and holidays and they would always be like, ‘Janette, please dance for us,’ and I was like I can’t do that in a suit! I started when I was 18, almost 19, and I’m going to be 26 soon, so I was in banking for seven years almost. I was a senior loan processor with Northern Trust Bank which is nationwide, so I dealt with customers all over, and helped people get houses and businesses. I had a pretty solid position and was doing very, very well, so it was tough to leave it, because it was very secure. I had a steady salary with benefits and I had an apartment and had everything going for me so it was scary to take that jump and come into this completely different career of dancing and TV. But I think it was worth it. I always kind of doubted myself because I felt that because I had started so late I wouldn’t be able to make it that far, but the show made me realize that I can. I can do this even at 25 and make a career and something of myself in this artistic world of dancing and acting.
I take it you’re not going to return to banking then?
I am not! If I have to, I will, it is a good paycheck, but it’s not like I hate it either. I hope I don’t have to, and good things come my way, and I can dance and do movies and just be a performer and not have to go back to sitting behind a desk in a 9-5 job. I can do it, I did it for seven years, but I hope it doesn’t come down to that because my heart is in this and in performing.
Is there a dance that you and Brandon hope will make the tour?
We both really want the tango and cha cha to make tour. The cha cha, because we had so much fun, and it was such an uplifting, happy song, by the Pussycat Dolls, and the tango, because we were both just so proud of getting that standing ovation and Nigel said that night that it was the closest he’s seen to perfection on the stage. With comments like that, how could you not want to dance it again?
Did you feel at a disadvantage for solos because your style is geared towards partners?
I think so. I think my first solo was stronger than my second solo and I tried to go a different route. Us ballroom and salsa dancers have to take risks because there’s only so much that you can do without a partner and you have to play around with choreography and ideas and I was scared to go out and not be able to do my lifts and partnering work but I had to. You have to play around that way, because if not, America is going to get bored with the same salsa and cha cha steps every week. If I had stayed next week maybe I would have brought a mannequin or inflatable man. But yeah, we are at a disadvantage. It’s tough because when it comes down to individual voting and solos we do struggle more than the rest of the dancing because we have less to work with when it comes to solo time.
Looking back, do wish the Bollywood routine came later, instead of first, since it was so strong?
You never know, the hat is a little bit tricky. I think Bollywood could have gone both ways. It was nice to start off the competition with that right out of the gates with Caitlin; I think we performed it really well, but on the other hand, had that come at a later stage, I think it would have given people a chance to see a different side of us. They saw us be very different right away and they didn’t get to get to get used to our style right away like some of the other dancers. But it was nice to come out right out of the gates with that. But you just never know with this program and what’s going to happen next. You just have to hope and pray and cross your fingers that you’ll pick something that suits you out of that hat. I think at this point we all hate the hat.
Do you think there’s anything you could have done different this week to stay or are you satisfied?
I don’t think that I could have done anything better. I think that certain things could have been done differently performance wise with certain dance routines, but I was pleased with the whole process. It did stink being in the bottom as many times as I was, but I think that just proves how much I wanted to stay, fighting every week to stay in the competition. So, overall it’s been a great experience and I couldn’t have asked for more. I didn’t even think I would get to this point so I’m just really happy right now.
Last week, one of the eliminated dancers said that a huge weight is lifted once you make it to the top ten because everyone does solos and the whole format changes. Do you agree or do you find it challenging to adapt to new partners every week?
I think that for me I definitely liked the challenge of having different partners every week. Because I think if you’re with the same partner, and this isn’t everyone, but some people tend to sit and get comfortable with the partner that they’re with, and that performances, and chemistry, and everything starts to drag. So for me, I was very excited. As much as I loved being with Caitlin, I was very excited switching partners. I think it’s good the show does that because it shows that dancers need to be able to adapt to every environment that they’re thrown into. And as far as all dancers this week, the two duets, and solos, and two group routines, it was extremely hard on our bodies and our minds, but I had a great time with it.
You were pretty emotional last night. How big of a surprise was it, especially since the good reviews you got the night before?
To be honest, as good as I felt performing my routines the other night, I was not shocked. I was at peace with it. I got emotional because of what I had accomplished up until that point. I didn’t think I would even get there. And of course, watching those videos doesn’t help in the tear department, but I was happy. I was not expecting it; I was prepared, because all of the performance were really strong and I think that the piece that everybody will remember from that night was obviously Ade and Melissa’s piece. I think that piece definitely stole the night and overshadowed all the other pieces and was absolutely amazing and I think that it kind of threw everyone through everyone for a loop because I don’t think people were expecting to see something that amazing.
Did you feel at a disadvantage having to follow Melissa and Ade’s emotional piece with a light-hearted zombie hip-hop routine?
Before me and Kayla danced, and we saw that, and everybody was so shocked, we were standing backstage, like, ‘oh crap. We have to follow that up? Awesome.‘ They’re doing a piece about breast cancer and now we’re doing a piece on death – not fun! But we just went out there and had fun with it. You can’t think of those things before you step on stage, because if you do, it will mess you up, and show in your performance, and it’s not going to end up well. I’m very happy for Melissa and Ade, that they got to dance a piece like that together on the show and change a lot of lives and affect a lot of people. I’m very proud of them for being able to do that. The zombie piece was definitely fun. I don’t think anybody was at a disadvantage, I think that definitely Melissa and Ade’s piece was the strongest of the night and it overshadowed a lot of the other pieces. But like I said, you can’t worry about that stuff, you gotta go out and do your best. What me and Kayla did with hip hop, Nigel said it was on one of the best hip hop routines he had seen, and Mia said it was Shane’s best routine on the show all of the seasons he’s been with the program, so that was really special.
For better or worse, we saw a lot of your solos, and you got some really great comments. What went into preparing for those?
First of all, the comment Nigel made about me having the best solo he’s ever seen on five season of the show, that was, wow, I didn’t expect to hear that at all. But from week to week you just have to be prepared. The viewers are very wishy washy and you have to be prepared to dance for you life every week, and I was doing that especially after the comments that were made about Shane’s piece the second week. And I’m a bit of a worry worm and thought every week I was going home and was always prepared with a solo.
Were you able to talk to some of the dancers who came back for the 100th episode?
It was definitely nice. Me and Janette were talking back stage and if we were to go any go any night, tonight would be the night. Because it wasn’t a goodbye, it was celebration, because you are celebrating going home, and the 100th episode, and we did talk to a lot of the other dancers, and we’re all a family, everyone knows each other and it was very personable. Everybody was great and welcoming and I’m glad we were sent off in such stylish way.
What do you hope to accomplish next?
As long as I’m dancing that’s the only thing that’s important to me. Later down the road I’d like to get into choreography. Maybe, hopefully, the show might bring me back and have me do a duet, that would be amazing. You never know, me and Janette were talking about maybe choreographing together. That would be really cool.