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<I>So You Think You Can Dance</I>: Phillip and Caitlin Q&A

Last Thursday on So You Think You Can Dance, Phillip Chbeeb and Caitlin Kinney were eliminated from the competition, just missing out on being among the Top 10 dancers. So much for their gig on the tour. Or not. Nigel and co. decided to give these two deserving dancers a spot on the tour, despite the fact that they were part of the Top 12, not Top 10. During a conference call with reporters, Phillip and Caitlin gave their take on the judges' decision, alien costumes and getting emotional.

First up, Phillip

You're actually an engineering and physics major as well as a dancer. Have you always had a nerdy science side and this really cool hip-hop side?
Phillip: Engineering, the major itself, is so stressful that I really needed an outlet of some sort and I feel like dance has provided that easily whenever engineering gets too stressful. But at the same time, it held me [back] in my dance because my dance was more mathematical-minded than human emotion-driven. So yes, it's been a really interesting relationship between the science and the dancing.

Your speech was really moving and really emotional. What was going through your head when you were standing up there trying to figure out what to say in that moment?
Phillip: You're never really prepared to get cut so, always, it's kind of a shock and you're standing there and all of a sudden, wow, the microphone is up to your face and you have to say those final words before you're off the stage. I think really I just went down to the basis of why I wanted to be on the show in the first place, and that was purely to prove that there are so many people who aren't given the same opportunities as others, all over the world, not just here. And I really wanted to show that you could find something within that can really take you places and you don't necessarily need to have the money, or know the right people, or all those things, that sometimes if you just find the talent that's within, or the passion that's within you, you can make things happen. And I feel like that was my main goal of being on the show.

When you found out that you were going home but you also were still going on the tour, did you have mixed emotions? Phillip: Oh yes. You don't know whether to be happy or sad but at the same time, I definitely can guarantee this is one of the best seasons this show has ever had and to be a part of this group, especially such a well-trained group, everyone here has been pretty much bred for this type of competition. It's almost incredible. So just to be a part of the same group and still have my own place that I feel like is my own in the group of the top twenty, has been amazing. Regardless if it's my time to go, it's my time to go and the fact that I'm on tour makes it all worth it.

What's your plan now that you are going to be going on tour as far as schooling goes?
Phillip: Well, I'm taking a little bit of time off and surprisingly, this worked out perfectly because I was going through a lot of money issues before the show happened. And it's amazing how things work out. It's a blessing. The minute money problems got in the way of my college education I got on the show and get on tour. So I'm hopefully going to save up with this tour and I'll be back in school within a semester of that, well, whenever the tour ends, so that will be great. I've already spoken, seen my school and they're excited to have me back.

Was there a particular routine or moment that stands out for you?
Phillip: I think that the greatest experience on stage I had was during "Love Lockdown," the piece for week four, mostly because the disaster that that piece was leading up to that day was hilarious. The chain broke. We slipped. We fell. We tore our body apart trying to make that dance work, because I know it looks pretty easy on camera when there isn't a mess up, but the amount of problems that you could have when you have your ankles attached to each other is insane. Getting through that was a great day.

Was there anything that when you got on the show, really surprised you?
Phillip: Oh, everything. Well, granted when I first got on the Top 20, I was almost dreading it because I knew I was going to be fighting an uphill battle the whole time. But mostly just because I know that my lack of training in those styles, and especially because all the styles on the show are focused around a technique that they almost center around the exact same things. All standard ballroom has the same arm positions as a balletic background, so all the trained dancers had a lot of familiarity with the technique that was going on there and I wasn't, so I knew it was going to be pretty difficult. But when I got on the show, it was definitely a battle the whole way.

Next up, Caitlin

You started dancing a little bit later than some people because you were also real busy in athletics? Is that right?
Caitlin: Yes, I did start later. I was a gymnast for a long time and then I think when I was in fifth grade I started doing acrobatic dance at a dance studio and then a year later took jazz and some lyrical classes. And then did some competitions and my sophomore year of high school I auditioned for the Baltimore School for the Arts and that's where I started my classical ballet training. So from sophomore, junior, senior year is when I really got into ballet.

What's both the advantage and disadvantage of doing your career the way you've done it?
Caitlin: Well I look at the glass half-full most of the time so I would say the advantages are the acrobatics, obviously, and I had great training in how to blend my gymnastics skills in with dance at the studio I started with. And I think a lot of dancers, they start when they're three and that's all they know in their life. They dance because that is what they've always done and so they don't know anything else. And for me, I started because it's what I have to do. It's not what I know how to do; it's what I have to do. So my passion for it has never wavered or dwindled and I'm still going strong. But the disadvantage obviously is I haven't trained in a lot of the styles that other people have, and so I don't have that solid background taking so many different styles and classes. But at the same time, I wouldn't have it any other way.

What was going through your head hen you found out you were going on tour?
Caitlin: It was such an overwhelming night, just such excitement, I think. I think from the whole group. We had a big dinner afterwards and it was more of a congratulations dinner and a celebration, because we just as a group, we've meshed and we've bonded. And they've never announced, I don't think, on the show before who will be going on tour with the Top 10. So I think for Phillip and I that was something really special because it's not like -- oh, the Top 10 and two extra dancers. It's at this point the Top 12 going on tour. And I think that was really touching for us to have them have that kind of faith in us and know right away that we add something to the group and that they really want us on tour.

You and Jason drew a mixed bag of styles over the weeks. And I'm wondering if there are any that particularly stood out to you?

Caitlin: Yes, Jason and I definitely of all the couples got the most insane styles, hands down. It was an ongoing joke between the contestants to go, "God, what are Caitlin and Jason going to get his week?" But I think the Bollywood for us was... that was so hard that first week. Oh my God, to come into the competition doing something so foreign and so out there was really hard, but I think it paid off.

And the alien piece, I think I thought Brian was joking when he first told me what it was he was expecting us to do with the storyline, what the piece was. But at the end of the day, we really did have fun with it. And honestly, I feel like hip-hop would have been more in my comfort zone than aliens, but it was just a chance for me to completely break out of every thing that is so opposite of who I am as a dancer, and what I've done before.

So for me to get out there on national TV, dress up, as Nigel so lovely put it, "as a dancing condom," and dance like a crazy alien, it was like breaking out of my shell. And I did, I had a blast with it. At the end of the day, I think Jason and I both knew the judges were going to either love it or hate it, or think it was crazy, and weird and out there. So we're just thinking, let's just have fun with this. It's a crazy, insane, off-the-wall piece so let's just do it and have a good time.

You were in the Bottom 3 three times. Did that change your outlook or perspective on a week-to-week basis, as far as how you competed on the show?
Caitlin: Do you want to know what? Honestly, it didn't. I felt so blessed every week to even be there. Every week, you can ask anyone, I would be like, 'Guys, it's my last week. Not that I was pessimistic, but for me, getting that confidence that a lot of these contestants have has been my struggle and my fight. I think some of the best advice that I got on the show was that never doubt yourself. Always question yourself, but never doubt yourself. Every week, I think I improved a little bit in that. And I was like the bottom three champ. I was like the mom of the bottom three. I got back up and was like, 'All right, girls, we have 3.4 minutes to warm up. Here we go on crutches.' So I loved every second of being on that show, bottom three, not bottom three, whatever. I got to dance more.

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