Tonight Fox favorite So You Think You Can Dance reveals the Top 20 competitors who will vie for the title of "America's favorite dancer," and this time around the Valley has someone to root for. Dareian Kujawa, a Minnesota transplant residing in Boulder City, danced his way into the elite group after initially auditioning in nearby Salt Lake City. While the former Strip production performer was training for tonight's Top 20 show he took the time to discuss his dancing roots, how he made his way to Las Vegas and more.
How did you start dancing?
I was around 3 years old and my mom took me to go see my sisters dancing. … I was always at the studio growing up and when I was about 4 she asked me, “Do you want to dance?” She went ahead and put me into a little baby class. Then from there, I just grew up dancing at Larkin Dance Studio.
What kind of dance were you learning?
I started in the baby tap class at first, and then I think I did baby ballet and then baby jazz.
Have you branched out into other styles of dance?
Yeah, totally. I started out with tap, jazz, ballet, and I grew up doing that until I was about 9 or so, and then I started doing hip-hop and contemporary. Let’s see, what have I done so far? Tap, ballet, jazz, hip-hop, contemporary; I did a little bit of modern when I was in high school because I went to a performing arts school. Yeah, I think that’s about it.
What high school did you go to?
I actually grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota. … I went to the Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists … We had a difficult time growing up; we never had money, really. My mom was out of a job for a little bit, and when I was a freshman in high school she ended up moving to Arizona because she got a job opportunity there. So, all my high school years I ended up switching schools a lot. I ended up graduating from the Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists.
What brought you to Boulder City?
When I was 18 I did a dance competition out here in Vegas—the West Coast Dance Explosion—and I didn’t really have any plans on what to do. … I knew I wanted to move out of Minnesota and get a career in dance. … I met up with somebody who graduated from Larkin a long time before I did, and he was already working in Vegas, and he said, “You know, if you want to move in with me and then I can show you the ropes and you can get your career started.” I went ahead and moved in with him with 200 bucks and a suitcase full of clothes. Did my first gig two weeks after I moved down here.
Where was that first gig?
It was at MGM, it was actually a B-boy gig with Missy Cochran.
What made you want to audition for So You Think You Can Dance?
It was actually an English assignment. We had to write down a list of goals that we wanted to accomplish after we graduated high school. And on those goals, it was like, become a part of a Cirque show and audition for So You Think You Can Dance or be on So You Think You Can Dance. … I was always busy trying to make enough money to survive and whatever out here. … And then recently the audition in Salt Lake City came up, and I saw it and I had just made a little bit of money, so I was like, “Okay, I’ll go out and audition for this and just see what happens.”
You mentioned Cirque. Is that still on your list of goals?
No, I actually was on-call at Mystere before I did So You Think You Can Dance. I mean, I wasn’t permanent, but I was in Mystere, the residential show here in Vegas, for about a year.
Tell me about the So You Think You Can Dance audition process.
The audition process, it was nuts. … I prepared a solo for about two weeks, and I was super nervous sitting there and watching everybody audition. It was a long process, and it was, like, really draining, but super exciting, especially when the judges came in—Nigel, Mary and Adam Shankman … I get up and I do my solo for them, and it was the most incredible experience I’ve ever had. I get done and I stand up and the judges are all smiling, and Nigel says something about my nipples. (laughs) That was weird; I didn’t know what to say back to that … but then he said how amazing it was and my musicality and everything was so great. Mary told me that I have so much heart when I dance, it doesn’t even matter about the feet because I have a lot of things other dancers don’t have. That’s like that real, like raw emotion when you perform that a lot of people often stage when they’re dancing, and so that was crazy to hear from her.
What has been your most memorable moment out of the So You Think You Can Dance experience?
There are so many different moments that are amazing. … I think after the first performance on the stage that we did as a group, the Stacey Tookey piece, it went so smoothly, and just to be up on the stage dancing with the Top 20 … We got a standing ovation from the judges, and that feeling … I felt like my chest was about to explode, you know what I mean? It was pretty insane. I’d say that’s the most memorable moment so far.
What’s one reason people should watch the show?
I would say they should watch that show just because it’ll be live. So who knows what’s going to happen.
What are you doing until the live show?
Right now I’m just training; I’m getting my body ready. Staying in shape and getting ready to go back and do the live show.