Last Thursday pop-locker Ashlee Nino, 21, and break-dancer Musa Cooper, 28, weren't surprised that they were dismissed from Fox's So You Think You Can Dance (Wednesdays at 8/Thursdays at 9 pm/ET). The two street-style dancers didn't have much formal training under their belts, and thus struggled to stay afloat during difficult contemporary and ballroom routines. So when TVGuide.com rang each of them up, neither sounded particularly disappointed that they'd lost their chance at $100,000 and a gig with Celine Dion's Las Vegas revue. Rather, they were content with the chance to showcase their unique style. (The job offers that have already started pouring in must be soothing the blow, too!)
Ladies first. [Imagine Cat Deeley's enthusiastic intro] Here's Ashlee!
TVGuide.com: Ashlee, do you feel the odds were stacked against you as a pop-locker?
Ashlee Nino: I didn't even think I was going to make it this far, being a street dancer and not having the training some of the other contestants have. I think [Musa and I] brought a lot of originality to the show, so I can't complain. My main objective was to put popping out there and give it the respect it deserves.
TVGuide.com: How many bowler hats do you actually own?
Ashlee: I think I have, like, seven. I've always loved hats. I went through the whole trucker-hat phase like everyone in the world did. Actually poppers, like funk stylists, wear a lot of derby hats. It was just kind of the style that was made in the '70s, and I twisted it around and made it my own.
TVGuide.com: According to your Fox bio, you've taken up clogging?
Ashlee: Yeah, actually I started out clogging when I was 4. Then I took tap and Irish step and competed in that, so I've done a lot of footwork. I never really got into the ballet/jazz side of things.
TVGuide.com: Now that the show is over for you, do you have any interest in continuing to study other dance styles?
Ashlee: I do, definitely. I really want to get good at contemporary. And I think Dmitry has persuaded me to become a ballroom dancer. I want to start taking Latin dance; I think it's so sexy.
TVGuide.com: What was your favorite routine to do on the show?
Ashlee: I would say the contemporary piece by Brian [Friedman], because that was the most difficult for me. It was the most challenging, but I think it turned out amazing with the costume, the hair, the makeup and it was a fun piece to play. But I also really enjoyed the last piece because Dmitry and I were building up our connection. It was a lot of fun.
TVGuide.com: What do you think about the judges' criticism of that last pop routine? It didn't seem like they were criticizing your performance as much as Dan Karaty's choreography.
Ashlee: I think something was going on. It's hard with reality shows you can't take anything they say personally. I think they might not have been so pleased with the choreography, but I don't know.
TVGuide.com: If you had won, how would you have enjoyed being in a Celine Dion show?
Ashlee: Mia Michaels choreographs it, and I think she would have taken my style and done something amazing with it. I got to work with her in Vegas, and I was in tears after her piece. I wasn't the best at it, but the way she makes you move your body.... It's just incredible.
TVGuide.com: So what will you be doing instead?
Ashlee: I have a tour coming up with a big artist. I'm not going to disclose the artist yet, but I am so excited. This is like the biggest thing that's ever happened to me. As soon as [Nigel Lythgoe] said, "Ashlee, you're eliminated," my phone rang and they said, "We want you for this tour."
TVGuide.com: Are you going to be teaching, too?
Ashlee: I got to go to Tahiti for a thing called Tahiti Street Respect, which is a big hip-hop thing there to keep kids off drugs and alcohol. They brought in dancers from America to preach about the good of hip-hop and dance and graffiti art and all that, and they want me to come back to teach some workshops out there.
TVGuide.com: Wow. Tahiti sounds way more fun than Vegas!
And now, here's Musa!
TVGuide.com: You had auditioned for Season 1 and didn't make it because you couldn't pick up the choreography. What classes did you take before this season?
Musa Cooper: Basically more hip-hop and jazz. I was trying to go to first grade again to try to learn how to count steps.... My goal was to show America how diverse my style is. I'm not just going to stay in my comfort zone and do a whole bunch of backflips on the stage.
TVGuide.com: Did you still feel like the odds were stacked against you?
Musa: Definitely. I knew I wasn't going to come out of nowhere and be an excellent ballroom dancer in a couple of weeks, and I wasn't going to be a contemporary dancer, either.
TVGuide.com: What was your favorite routine?
Musa: Definitely the contemporary. I felt that piece. It was very sensual, a smooth piece. It definitely helped out my modeling and acting career. If they want me to be smooth and sexy, OK, I already have some training [from this show].
TVGuide.com: What does your wife, Teesha, think about the on-stage chemistry you had with your partner, Natalie?
Musa: She definitely understands. I'm an actor, too; most of my roles have been in small-budget films and of a sexual nature. She understands that sex sells, and that it probably kept me on the show. We always joke about it.
TVGuide.com: What was the hardest part of the competition for you?
Musa: Definitely learning the [quick step], or getting on my partner's nerves. I'd want to train constantly all day long, but my partner couldn't do that. She needed time to relax and not get frustrated with me. It was a hard process. You only have like two days to learn it.
TVGuide.com: Why only two days? Aren't there six days between shows?
Musa: After you get the results on Thursday night, you get Day 1, which is an hour and a half with our choreographer. The next day is three hours with the same choreographer. Day 3, you have to perform it in front of the producers, so they can see what you're doing and make sure it's not too vulgar or raunchy for TV. Day 4, Monday, we tape the show. Day 5, we start rehearsing for the group routine for Thursday's live show. Day 6, we rehearse again for eight hours for the group opening act. Day 7 is Thursday's live show.
TVGuide.com: What got you dancing in the first place? Your bio says you didn't start until you were 19.
Musa: I would go to clubs in college and people were like, "You're a good dancer." So I was going to clubs, like, every day of the week. One day, I heard about the Beyoncé audition [for the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards], and I went to it and made it. Then I actually took it a little bit seriously.
TVGuide.com: What's next for you?
Musa: Bigger things. I dance at bar mitzvahs, corporate events, Sweet 16s, so I can now raise my rates so I don't have to work as much, and so I can spend more time with my family.
TVGuide.com: Are you going back to the street corners to perform again?
Musa: Definitely, because I'm a workaholic. If it's a weekend where I'm not doing anything, I'll go into New York City where I have friends with licenses to perform, and dance/perform. It's not necessarily for the money, it's for the exposure. I get a lot of work. I'll be performing in subways, doing what I do, and they say, "This guy is great, we gotta have him on our show." It's a live commercial. The money's good, too!
Are you hooked on everyday folk looking for their reality-TV break? Watch for next week's TV Guide and a big story on America's Got Talent.
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