Tampa-area dancer Ricky Jaime poised to reach finals on Fox's So You Think You Can Dance
LOS ANGELES – The first thing you notice, when watching Ricky Jaime work the media line after finishing a nail-biting episode of So You Think You Can Dance, is the energy.
Jaime, a blue pullover jacket and sweats pulled over his thin frame, emerges from the show’s surprisingly small studios at CBS’ Television City complex in Hollywood with a smile and boundless enthusiasm – facing the cameras like he’s just been named homecoming king at the world’s coolest high school.
You’d never know the 19-year-old dancer from Riverview was hours away from sealing the deal on a dream he’s had since middle school – or facing elimination from the hit TV show that has spread his name and dance talent to a nationwide audience. The program’s top four dancers, chosen by audience vote from a field of six, will be revealed at 8 tonight on WTVT-Ch. 13.
“I really don’t want to think about it,” said Jaime, who has landed in the show’s bottom three or four among dance competitors four separate times since the program named its final 20 in June. “I’ve just learned just to be open. You really have to be open and just kill it – dance for your life, no matter what.”
On Wednesday, that meant tackling three different dances, including one duet with former contestant Jaime Goodwin that required him to hold a pair of sticks while lifting Goodwin around the stage.
Later, he’d team up with fellow contestant Sasha Mallory for a dance based on the Los Angeles-bred style called “waacking” – basically an advanced form of the “Pop and Lock” form of street dancing made famous on shows such as Soul Train.
“They just took it to a whole other level…really breaking their necks and moving every body part from the chest up,” said Jaime, who had days to learn the complex moves well enough to impress a national audience. “It was really tough…I’m still sore, but it was the best experience ever.”
With the show’s finals slated for next week, the program’s judges have become a mostly supportive chorus, with each dancer among the remaining six earning effusive praise for most every move.
But guest judge Christina Applegate, an actress (Married...With Children, Anchorman) with dance training and Broadway roles in her past, offered some constructive criticism for Jaime, who she called a “beautiful technical dancer” that may still be overshadowed a bit by the street-flavored “grit” of other competitors.
“This is gonna sound wrong…but you could have waacked it a little harder,” Applegate told him on camera Wednesday. After the broadcast, she offered more detail: “I told him to dance with a little bit more intention. He needs to know why his hand is going where his hand is going. And I think that connection will change him as a dancer… But there’s so much joy that comes out of him – he’s a pleasure to watch.”
Told about Applegate’s comments, Jaime nodded with the energy of an eager pupil – a curious reaction for a dancer who has spent much of his time on the program fighting to stay in the competition.
“This is why we’re on the show; to grow and expand our talents,” he explained. “(The judges) provide a whole different view. Because America can’t tell us what to fix so they’re here to tell us.”
Thanks to Twitter and Facebook, he’s also aware of all the folks pulling for him back in the Tampa Bay area, from the fans holding up signs of support at Tampa Bay Rays games to the supporters at the Carrollwood dance school where he teaches, the Centerstage Dance Academy, who gather at the nearby Burrito Bowl restaurant to watch the broadcasts.
Raised in Miami, Jaime came to Riverview as a teen, eventually becoming the first male cheerleader at Newsome High School. A fan of So You Think You Can Dance for years, he’s at least assured of appearing in the show’s 30-city live tour, which kicks off Sept. 17 at Amway Center in Orlando.
As his mother Doris Davila watched from the audience Wednesday, Jaime mostly focused on bringing his best dance moves in the moment, admitting that he has no strategy for winning other than working hard, staying positive and trying to learn as much as possible before he leaves the show.
“My mom has always told me to stay humble and stay grounded – which is why I feel like I’ve been growing as a person and a dancer,” he said. “It’s so difficult to explain; we have no time to learn but we also grow so much, which is the most confusing thing ever.”
And Jaime is really looking forward to bringing his new knowledge back to the Centerstage academy. “I’m very excited to go home and teach my girls a whole new style of dance,” he said. “Cause So You Think You Can Dance keeps pushing new styles on us. I could take waacking back home…Wouldn’t that be cool?”