He's So Much More Than Dancing
Photos by Cory Sorenson
"My motto is: if you don't come big, don't come at all."
When I first saw him I knew. He had that unmistakable, intangible, somethin' somethin' that you can't quite put your finger on. Hot shot producer Simon Cowell said seldom does this quality come along, but clearly he spotted it in Leona Lewis and Carrie Underwood and, more recently, in Adam Lambert. The IT factor that is wonderfully mysterious and uncommonly grand. All I know is he had it.
The kid, thick and sturdy, with the do-rag and grill-like braces, looked anything but the part of a typical dancer. The belief that maybe, just maybe, he could deliver the goods was enthusiastically written all over his face. He hit and popped and moved and leaped his way right off the screen and into my heart. That certain, special feeling that shows up unexpectedly like a thunderbolt that strikes with such force you are forced to stop and take notice. You have no choice. Ballroom expert, Judge Mary Murphy was bowled over, too. In that now memorable Dallas audition, she couldn't help but declare, "Joshua, I just fell in love . . . with your dancing." I, on the other hand, just fell in love with him, with his passion, with his spirit. I could see it in his eyes, feel it in his soul. That's not language that we often use to refer to a popper, but, in this case, it applied. He represented my message of inspiration. His enthusiasm and drive and strength and talent,crazy talent, couldn't be denied. All this wrapped in an iron-man package of gratitude and humility.
This was Season 4 of So You Think You Can Dance, and although I had never fully paid attention, other than being familiar with standouts like Danny and Travis and Benji and Lacey, I was drawn in this time around. Not because I was suddenly so taken with the show, but because of him. I was interested in him. From the audition, even before he made the Top 20, I knew he would win. It was a given, an absolute, something you'd bet the farm on if you could. It didn't matter that he wasn't well-versed in standard ballroom or classic contemporary or ballet by Baryshnikov. It didn't matter that a myriad of other dancers were better or more elegant or more trained or more knowledgeable. None of that mattered.
I also knew I'd be writing this story. I was just as certain about that inevitability, too.
We're now into Season 5, and Joshua Allen's reign as champion will soon be coming to a close. So here we are just like I predicted. With Joshua the winner and me the interviewer, now you get to come along and learn just a little bit more about this rising star through my eyes. I did just sit down with him in Hollywood. The timing couldn't be more perfect. We're going to take a look back at his journey, at his time on the show, on how he got there, and on the thrills and experience of becoming America's Favorite Dancer. We'll get a glimpse into life after the show and see where his hopes and dreams will take him next.
On growing up in Fort Worth
Growing up in Fort Worth, Texas wasn't always easy for Joshua. His mom, Lisa Allen, was his primary influence and the ever-present rock that nurtured him throughout his young life. From a small child, Joshua excelled in two things: sports and dance. He began each morning with the sound of Michael Jackson and the moonwalk became a part of his being like eating and breathing. Although he would 'always dance all the time,' he was pushed more towards sports where his strength and speed were the perfect winning combination. Older brother, Eddie Powell, was "the man" at Mansfield High, and Joshua eagerly followed in the star running back's footsteps. He even wore the same #22 jersey during his time at South Hills where he also broke the 100 meter dash record in track and field. After things started to deteriorate, Joshua's mom made the decision to send her son elsewhere, and Joshua finished his high school career at North Crowley. He eventually put his football and track days behind him and began to concentrate, much to the chagrin of his former coaches, more on his other love, dancing. Even when those closest to him didn't believe in his dream, he believed in himself. The road was a bumpy one, but he had his goals clearly mapped out and wouldn't be deterred.
On his Audition
When it was announced that auditions for the popular show So You Think You Can Dance were being held as close as Dallas he knew he had to try. Right there in his back yard, he made the discovery a mere week before. He couldn't pass up the chance. His friend, Comfort Fedoke, another hip hop phenom, would join him in the tryouts. They were going to represent for hip hop and for their home state. After waiting in long lines in what was the coldest day Dallas had ever seen, #9756 wowed the panel and won his ticket to Las Vegas. His gal pal, Comfort, got through the process, too. Once in Vegas, Joshua faced his greatest dancing challenge thus far, but managed, again, to impress the judges and get a ticket to the big show and a coveted spot in the Top 20. He was on his way.
On his partners: Three Women plus Twitch
For those unfamiliar with the format of the show, the judges narrow the field of contenders down and pick a Top 20 (10 male/10 female) based upon the auditions held nationwide, similar to the American Idol process. Then, the producers pair up the couples, and you dance with that partner the first five weeks of the show, unless, of course, you are booted off. After that everything changes. Due to the luck of the draw, destiny, and the way the season unfolded, Joshua had only three partners on the show: Katee Shean, Courtney Galiano, and Chelsie Hightower. All three women brought something unique and different to the pairing and Joshua benefited from his time with each of these stunning dancers.
Joshua + Katee= Katua
The longest partnership was with contemporary dancer Katee Shean. The two became one as avid fans melded their names into Katua. They danced everything from Lyrical Hip Hop to Broadway to Samba to Contemporary to Viennese Waltz to Paso Doble and more as their bond with each other and popularity with the viewers grew. They performed the first Bollywood routine in the history of the show, way ahead of the Slumdog Millionaire rage, and were the only couple to have the honor of working with superstar choreographer Wade Robson. Katee finished the season as the top girl and was given a surprising cash prize of $50,000. When asked about his time with Katee, Joshua got serious and reflective. He described her in sincere, glowing terms.
"Katee was a beast at the beginning. She didn't know what she could do. I remember when I first got paired with her, before No Air. We sat down and I was like, 'alright, tell me everything about you.' You really have to get to know each other. I think that's why we got so close because we were forced. I was so thankful I got a partner that was understanding and talented as heck and she trusted me. She knew I wouldn't drop her. That was my word to her. When she danced she wanted everything to be perfect and was the hardest worker. She lacked a little bit in confidence at first, but we had to be open to get into the character of the dance. It was like being in a relationship. We got really, really close on the show and after the show on tour, too. We both pushed each other to be great, to greatness. Katee can be a little quirky but is a beautiful person."
Joshua and Courtney Galiano
The week Joshua danced with partner Courtney was one of his most enjoyable. It included him spanking her in one routine and pressing her up over his shoulders in the other. The former Knicks City Dancer was a good match and a fun and supportive partner. With Courtney, he had such a giving way of encouraging her with the Dave Scott hip hop routine. Then, with the Rumba, they were asked by Jean-Marc Genereux to create an instant sensual attraction to pull off the essence of that number. Having just come off weeks of dancing with his beloved Katee, and Courtney with her partner Gev, this was no small task. The fans had come to love the pairings, and when the couples were split up each dancer was now being voted on and judged individually. The two really pulled it off, and Joshua has miles of smiles when he speaks of his partnership with Courtney.
"Courtney is a spitfire like a firecracker. She would always count and was hard on herself. When we were learning the Dave Scott routine she was really trippin' over the material. She was so mad that her pants were too tight, and she couldn't lift her leg all the way. The Rumba was a little tough at first because Jean-Marc wanted us to create this instant chemistry so it didn't look fake. We got good responses. I think we went out and gave it our all, and the judges thought our chemistry was there."
Joshua and Chelise Hightower
The week Joshua danced with partner Chelsie was perhaps the most challenging overall. The Argentine Tango and Disco were the dance styles the two were given to perform. No two numbers could be any more difficult or further away from Joshua's knowledge base and comfort zone. Chelsie, a ballroom dynamo, with legs that should be registered as lethal weapons, is an expert in her genre and proved to be a total asset to the pairing. Aside from her fabulous skills, however, Chelsie and Joshua had what they referred to as a love/hate relationship. It made it interesting for the choreographers, as Dmitry Chaplin had to settle them down to focus in on his tough, tough tango. Dorian Sanchez' Disco number had lifts that no one had ever been able to execute. Joshua's strength enabled the choreography to, at times, go a little overboard. The unlikely pair put their joking and jabbing aside and nailed the numbers. As temperamental as their off stage relationship appeared, their on screen performances never suffered. They were superb. (Chelsie has recently gone on to join the pros on the hit show Dancing with the Stars.)
"Chelsie's like a little boy. She can fight. I mean, I love her and I love to hate her. We could get on each other's nerves, but it was all good. The dances with her were ridiculously hard and the disco was tiring, I was spent, dead, gone. Chelsie's an expert in Ballroom, and I was glad to have her as a partner on those two dances I knew nothing about. Mary Murphy thought our tango was better and sexier than the one Chelsie had done earlier in the show and that made me feel so good. But she is fun and bubbly and an all around good person.
Joshua and Twitch
By the end of the season Joshua and Stephen, Twitch, Boss had made it to the Top 4 and were the only two guys left standing. Now was the time in the show when the two finalists, who by now had become fast friends, had to go head-to-head for a chance to win the competition. Both being hip hop specialists, the audience assumed their routine together would be a Dave Scott or Lil C or Shane Sparks-type killer number. Instead, they performed another first on the show, a Russian Trepak choreographed by Youri Nelzine. This over-the-top Russian street dance was jammed packed with insane moves showcasing each dancer's strength and talent. The reaction from the audience was a standing O, and the number was deemed by the judges to be a smash hit immortalizing the two popular dancers in the SYTYCD hall of fame for evermore. Since the show and the tour, Joshua has come to know Twitch, who is now his neighbor in L.A., on a deeper and more personal level. He speaks of him with respect and admiration and raves about the qualities that he has come to know.
"When Cat announced my name as the winner I was expecting her to say Twitch. He was happier for me than if he would have won. He really meant it. He hugged me and was screaming like he won and he and Will put me up on their shoulder. That's a good friend to have. Living in L.A. is a lot different. If you're not doing something each day or ON IT, especially right after the show, I kind of get down and I'd talk to Twitch a lot. He's an amazing guy. He's a good man. He's a good brother. He's awesome. Me and Twitch actually got our tattoo in the same place. (the IVREAL slogan on their wrist). He's the real deal."