The results of Tuesday night's So You Think You Can Dance's Season 9 votes not only surprised the contestants, but the judges as well. Although most people expected Eliana Girard to win it for the girls, few supporters of fellow ballet dancer Chehon Wespi-Tschopp thought he could beat out fan favorite Cyrus Spencer to take home the title for the guys.
"I think we all are a little bit surprised because we felt that with Cyrus not ever falling down [to the Bottom 2 or 3], it was going to go to Cyrus," judge Mary Murphy told TVGuide.com following the finale. "I was happy because I felt that Chehon had grown and by far has superior technique. He's one of the best dancers, I think, in So You Think You Can Dance history. He was just lacking in his emotional performance, but halfway through the show, it finally happened and he was able to do that the rest of the season."
Judge and series creator Nigel Lythgoe agrees. "I love Cyrus. If it were just an out-and-out personality competition, he would have won hands down," Lythgoe said. "He celebrates dance. He is the epitome of the American dream for me. ... I think what America did with their votes there was say, 'OK, it's favorite dancer, and Chehon is more of a complete dancer.' So You Think You Can Dance has always been about, 'You're good at this style, but can you do all of these styles?'"
Murphy hopes the results bode well for future seasons of So You Think You Can Dance. "Well, I'm certainly hoping that we're going to get more [ballet] people trying out for the show because it's probably 1 percent that try out from ballet as compared to contemporary," she said. "Also, I hope that young people having an appreciation for what Chehon and Eliana do will be going to the ballet. I think they get it now."
Check out our interview below with the champs themselves:
Congratulations! What were your first thoughts when you heard Cat Deeley announce you were the winner?
Eliana Girard: "What's my name? Wait, what's my name? What just happened? What...?" I didn't expect it at all. I did not believe it. It was so unreal. You watch the show and you dream about it, but you never imagine it actually happening.
Chehon Wespi-Tschopp: I was like, "Oh my God, that was my name." I didn't expect to be the winner. I would have been fine with the runner-up position too because I feel it's a special place on this show making it as far as the finals. Any runner-up on this show has been an incredible dancer.
You've had an emotional time on the show. How has it changed you?
Wespi-Tschopp: I think the show did everything to me that I had hoped. It really turned me upside-down. It definitely helped me overcome my fears that I had. I left home at quite a young age, 13 or 14. I went to a ballet school that's extremely prestigious, and it was so hard for me. I had just started ballet and everyone else had been dancing for eight years. So I had catching up to do, and I was without my family, so I had to grow up pretty quickly. It kind of caused me to shield off a lot.
What routine or genre was the most challenging for you to tackle but turned out well this season?
Wespi-Tschopp: The samba and cha-cha because it's everything that I'm not. I feel like it's flamboyant, it's danced to music that I usually don't ever dance to. I don't even dance in a club. I stand there with my phone and a drink awkwardly. You've got to have confidence when you dance those kinds of Latin ballroom styles. I'm more of a paso doble, an Argentine tango person. I gained a lot of respect for any ballroom dancer.
Girard: What was really an awesome challenge was the group piece by Mia Michaels with the straps because I'm an aerialist. I absolutely love it. It was a really hard rehearsal because you have to choreograph certain wraps and do things right. It's a hit or miss. It's so painful. You get burns, you get bruises.
And you got to do a pole dance!
Giarad: Pole is one of my favorite apps. That was so amazing, kind of like a homecoming to where I am now. A misconception about pole-dancing: It's not sexual. Yes it's been used with that connotation, but what we do is not that. It truly is an art. There's transition and it has passion and the tricks — you've got the flexible tricks and the power tricks — it really is something that's underappreciated right now.
Can you look back and remember why you tried out for the show? Were you discouraged at the beginning?
Wespi-Tschopp: I was unfulfilled trying to dance in the ballet company. It was a big risk giving up my whole career to try out.
Girard: Oh my gosh, that audition line! That was so ridiculously long. I was in one of the last groups to go. But to have two ballet dancers win: It's fantastic, it's amazing, it's incredible, it's ridiculous. What I intended and hoped was that America would enjoy ballet the way we do, and that they would get a new eye-opener to it and see how amazing it is.
You have to keep your energy up as a dancer, and now that you don't have to hold back, what's your guilty pleasure food?
Girard: Lasagna and ice cream, three scoops. My first scoop would be cake batter, then I'm going for cookie dough, and then I'd do a Rocky Road scoop.
Wespi-Tschopp: Obviously since I'm from Switzerland I eat a lot of chocolate. I also love fruit juice. I would get up at night as a kid and run down to the fridge and just chug a liter of fruit juice. Tropicana, orange juice, any kind of mixed tropical fruits.
Now that the competition is done, what will you do to relax?
Wespi-Tschopp: I'm hoping that after this So You Think You Can Dance convention in Las Vegas, I'll be able to quickly fly back home to Switzerland, see my parents and just spend some time in the Alps. I hike with my dad and my brothers a lot. It allows me to get away from everything and shut down. Switzerland is so beautiful and so relaxing.
What would you like to do with the $125,00 prize money?
Girard: On a serious note, I will pay my bills and then I would like to start foundations for dance in school. A lot of money has left the school system. Arts is the first thing to go. I think lots of kids don't get to experience it. As a personal indulgence, I'm going to get a bird. I'm going to get a hawk-headed parrot if I can find one. They're rare and they don't breed every season. They're absolutely beautiful and they're little clowns.
Both dancers will joing the other Season 9 Top 10 on a 30-city So You Think You Can Dance tour which kicks off in San Diego on Tuesday, Oct. 23.