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'So You Think You Can Dance's' Chehon Wespi-Tschopp talks tour

By Kristina Dorsey

Publication: The Day

Published November 15. 2012 4:00AM
Chehon Wespi-Tschopp

A lot of viewers expected Cyrus Spencer - the popping/animating performer with no formal training - to end up as America's favorite male dancer on "So You Think You Can Dance."

Including fellow competitor Chehon Wespi-Tschopp.

After all, Cyrus had never ended up in the bottom of the public vote, while Chehon had to be saved by the judges along the way.

But when host Cat Deeley announced the results on September's finale, the winner was Chehon.

He and fellow ballet dancer Eliana Girard, who took top honors among female dancers, drew the most votes from the public. Now, they and eight more finalists are on tour, with a performance Saturday at MGM Grand at Foxwoods.

Wespi-Tschopp, now 23, was born in Chicago but raised in Australia and Switzerland. He started doing ballet when he was 13 years old. A year later, he began training at London's Royal Ballet School. He joined the Los Angeles Ballet and toured with Twyla Tharp's Come Fly Away" before trying out for "So You Think You Can Dance."

Chehon spoke about all things dance during a tour stop in Buffalo last week.

Chehon dances in 18 numbers on the tour. He has fun in the group pieces. He loves the emotional, Holocaust-inspired "Suitcase" number, although he says that performing it right after another duo does the humorous "Butt Dance" is a big mood shift. His favorite piece, though, is probably the Argentine tango.

"I think it's because it contrasted a lot of the other pieces I did on the show. I didn't have a lot of dances that suited my personality or the dancer that I am. I would have liked to have done more dark dances or more strong dances. I did love stories or romantic (dances). ... For the Argentine tango, at the first rehearsal, I was like, oh my God, that's going to be terrible because at first it seemed so mellow - the music and everything. It was the same with Anya (his partner for the number). She was kind of nervous, too. We had no idea what it was going to look like. For some reason, once we got onstage with the lights, it turned into such a great piece."

Judge Nigel Lythgoe used to tell Chehon to enjoy his performances more. Finally, in a breakthrough, he did.

"You obviously feel different from what the judges tell you at some points. I could never really judge what my performance came across as. No matter what, I always tried to take onboard what they told me. I think the moment when it really changed for me is when I definitely thought I was going home. I didn't care so much anymore about competing. I just wanted to finish a really strong week and make it my most memorable one. I felt like that pressure was gone. ... For some reason, that was my breakthrough week. It was so weird because that was the week I cared the least about being perfect or having to live up to something. From then on, I tried to stick with that feeling, and each week I tried not to add too much pressure."

Chehon admits he was surprised that he won the male title on "So You Think You Can Dance."

"I was in such a strange place in my head that it was such a shock. I didn't know how to react because all week long, I prepared myself to be really happy with the runner-up spot. I know the runner-up spot is actually quite a great spot in the show because some of the best contestants have been runners-up - Travis Wall, tWitch, Danny Tidwell. No matter what, I made it through the finale, and that's all I hoped for. It was actually more (than I hoped for). ... (Onstage at the end of the finale) I was just focusing on how I would congratulate Cyrus, and then she called my name. I was like, 'What?!" It was crazy."

Chehon has a learning disability that proved challenging each week on "So You Think You Can Dance":

"When I learned routines, it was so hard for my brain to pick it up straightaway because I learn so differently - I don't know how to explain it. It was hell trying to learn routines in such a quick time and trying to learn a new style - horrible."

How he managed:

"I stayed up all night, didn't get in any sleep, came in the next day for the second rehearsal and the choreographer would always be surprised (at the improvement)."

"So You Think You Can Dance" Tour, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, MGM Grand at Foxwoods; $45-$65; 1-800-200-2882.

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