Natalie and Ivan Dance Off into the Sunset
Natalie Fotopoulos and Ivan Koumaev, So You Think You Can Dance
The latest castoffs from Fox's So You Think You Can Dance
(tonight at 9 pm, the winner is announced Aug. 16 at 8 pm/ET) acted positively cheery when they were sent home last week: Natalie Fotopoulos
let out a big fat Greek "Oopah!" while Ivan Koumaev
playfully pinched Benji Schwimmer
on the butt. The day after their dismissal, TVGuide.com caught up with the "Nativan" (as the 22-year-old jazz dancer and 18-year-old hip-hopper have taken to calling themselves) to find out how making it to the final six has affected them personally and professionally, and where we might see them next.
TVGuide.com: Had you planned that "Oopah!" before you got kicked off?
Natalie Fotopoulos: As I was standing there, [host] Cat Deeley was opening the card, and I knew it was me. I don't know what came over me. Oopah means "the highest of highs, celebrate" in Greek. For me it was a relief, and I was celebrating.
TVGuide.com: You and Ivan seem to have such a positive attitude about leaving. How did you keep that up?
Natalie: You form special bonds with people on the show, but since Day 1 Ivan and I have been close. Last night after everything went down, Ivan said to me, "There's nobody else I'd rather be kicked off with than you." I said, "Hell, yeah!" When you're dancing seven days a week with barely any sleep, you don't have time to stop and go to the bathroom, you're stressed and there's pressure on you, it's really hard to maintain a positive attitude. If I didn't have Ivan there, I think I probably would have cracked and would be in psychiatric care right now.
TVGuide.com: What happened to your knee?
Natalie: [It's] bruised cartilage that needs to just heal, but when you're dancing and slamming yourself around, it can't heal. It needs rest.
TVGuide.com: Are you going to have downtime before the tour?
Natalie: After the finale, I think we have two weeks to rest before we get back and start doing rehearsals. Everybody can't wait to get in there and get back together. It's so hard to see your friends leave. With reality shows, everyone wants to think, "Oooh, they don't like each other and there's drama." There's no drama on this show — we are family, all of the top 20 of us.
TVGuide.com: What's the living situation like during the competition?
Natalie: It's kind of like Friends: We live in apartments, and the girls are in one, guys are in another. Honestly, the grand excitement of the day is everybody going home and taking a shower! We're not really sequestered, so we can watch television and make phone calls, and that kept us a little more sane. We formed a little group called "The Circle of Trust," taken from Meet the Fockers. It was Dmitry, Ryan, me, Allison, Ivan and Travis, and we all had matching yellow bracelets. Ultimately, everybody was in the circle; it was just kind of a really dorky thing we did. Some nights we'd dress up like pirates and play Pirates of the Caribbean Monopoly and just dork out together.
TVGuide.com: Were you surprised that Allison went before you?
Natalie: [Sighs deeply] [She's] my best friend, so that was the hardest blow. You might as well have just run me over with a thousand cars when they took her home, because Allison is a genius. She's everything that dance is about.
TVGuide.com: What did you feel when your partner, Musa, left?
Natalie: That was really hard for me because we had a very professional partnership. It was frustrating at times because Musa was not a trained dancer, and I have to say there were a lot of tears behind closed doors for me because it was so stressful. [But] I always knew that no matter what, Musa and I were going to come alive and sparkle on stage together. America loved us together. When he left, my sparkle went to kind of a spark.
TVGuide.com: What was your career plan if you didn't get on the show?
Natalie: Since I was little I've always felt that I [should be] acting on television. To be quite honest with you, my goal is to get on Saturday Night Live spoofing [Dance choreographer] Mary Murphy. This audition fell in my lap at the last minute, and I came to this competition with the last words of a close friend who recently passed away ringing in my head: "Don't be a waste of talent." After he passed away, it really made me realize that I've got some things to prove.
Now heeere's Ivan....
TVGuide.com: Did you plan on winning this competition?
Ivan Koumaev: I definitely was not planning on winning! And I definitely wasn't planning on being in the top 20. I wasn't planning on being in the top 10, and I for sure wasn't planning on being in the top six! So all my plans were shattered.
TVGuide.com: Why the low expectations?
Ivan: They said it over and over again that I'm not a trained dancer, so I didn't think I belonged. I just tried to take as much out of it every week as possible, because I knew the next week could be the week I went home.
TVGuide.com: What got you into dancing in the first place?
Ivan: About seven years ago I watched a movie called Breakin', and I fell in love with what they were doing. My mom and I took my little sister to the dance studio to sign her up for ballet classes, and I asked them if they had breaking and they said, "No, but we have hip-hop." I hated it for the first couple of months, but I kept at it because my mom wouldn't let me leave. Then I fell in love with it.
TVGuide.com: That's really the only type of class you've ever taken?
Ivan: Well, I've taken a little bit of jazz, a long time ago, and a couple of other classes, but the majority of my classes have always been hip-hop.
TVGuide.com: Do you think it's unfair that they choose street dancers to be in the top 20 — and then stack the odds against you for the rest of the competition?
Ivan: It's entertainment. If it were just Travises and Benjis on the show, it would be too much. Everyone would be too great. But then when you put in me and Musa and Ashlee, it shows a new style. They put hip-hop on the same level as the other styles. That's amazing for the hip-hop community, because it's now considered a real dance style, not just something from the street.
TVGuide.com: Has the show inspired you to take up other styles?
Ivan: As far as pursuing a career in dance, I'll probably do hip-hop, because it's what's popular. But I definitely want to pursue contemporary dance and really learn how to do it right. That's kind of my goal by next year, to become a contemporary dancer.
TVGuide.com: Which was your favorite performance on the show?
Ivan: The contemporary "Why" routine I did with Allison, and our first tango.
TVGuide.com: Can you explain to us non-dancers what this "chemistry" thing is all about?
Ivan: Chemistry is acting. Like in the contemporary piece with Allison, I really had to pretend that I was in love with her, like she was the one girl I've been waiting for my whole life, so I could get that emotion in there, and feel like every single time I touch her is priceless. Allison and I had a lot of time together and we worked on it. After the first week, we sat down and were like, "Hey, we need to make it seem like we're a couple, because that's what people want to see." And we worked our butt off to portray that. So when I get people asking me, "Are you and Allison hooking up?" I know I've hit my goal. We're proud of that.
TVGuide.com: Is that a danger to your personal life?
Ivan: It is and it isn't, because people who are close to me know the truth, they all know I have a girlfriend and I'm in love with her. And she knows that it's all TV.
TVGuide.com: What was the whole story about your dad calling you after that tango performance?
Ivan: The show slightly blew it out of proportion, but I know that it was for a good cause. So much of the dance community is guys who don't have support from their fathers, because fathers don't look at dance as something manly to do. They used [my dad's call] to show the guys out there, "It's OK, it'll happen someday." My dad was never really a big dance fan — he just didn't think I would go very far with it — but he called me one morning and was like "Hey, it was cool to see you on TV. I'm proud of you." It was awesome.
TVGuide.com: Do you talk to the judges off stage?
Ivan: We get to see the judges a lot, but we never discuss the show because it's in our contracts that we're not allowed to. All of the judges are really cool people. I was really shocked. I had this image of Nigel [Lythgoe] being really mean, Mia being uptight and Mary being crazy. But meeting them all, they're all so nice and such cool people.
TVGuide.com: The judges had been praising you so much, and then they pulled back last week. What does that feel like?
Ivan: It kind of showed me that it's my time to go. Nigel said something really important: Now that it's the top six, he can finally see where I'm held back because of my lack of training. It's true — I don't have training, I can't kick to my ear, I can't leap, and I can't turn. That stuff is going to come to me later, it's what I'm working on now.
TVGuide.com: I heard you've been wearing a back brace. What's wrong?
Ivan: I came on the show with back injuries — the lower part of my vertebrae are squeezing nerves — and they were just getting better, but it started getting worse in the last two weeks. In Mia's contemporary piece, I almost fell on stage because my back gave out. I'm glad I got out when I did because I don't think I would be able to do another week. I'm going to a chiropractor for the next three weeks.
TVGuide.com: What else are you going to do in your downtime before the tour?
Ivan: Nothing! For the first time in my life I actually have nothing to do.
TVGuide.com: Your girlfriend must be happy about that!
Ivan: I'm going to see her so much. It's going to be amazing!
For the latest twists and terminations from your favorite unscripted shows, read TV Guide's Summer Reality Check column.
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