It's Thursday night on Fox's So You Think You Can Dance as the stage manager tries to quiet the studio audience before the ax falls twice. Two of the 12 remaining hoofers have danced their last prime-time dance. "OK, settle down, everyone," she says. "Something bad is about to happen."
What happens is that Hok and Anya are sent home. And it is doubly painful for them and their fans because — as we were reminded numerous times between Wednesday's performance show and the imminent results — only the top 10 will be invited to perform in the 50-plus cities on the series' national tour.
Or so the producers would have you think. After the show, a truer picture emerges. "The two who went out today will be the alternates on the tour," says judge Mary Murphy. "We always have to have two or three alternates go along, so I don't think the fans are going to be disappointed in that department. Hok will be out there by popular demand. And I think Anya will be there, too, if they'll both sign up to do it. And I'm sure they will."
Murphy, a onetime competitive ballroom dancer herself, was not a happy camper about losing Anya, whom she considers a first-rate ballroom specialist. But she was outvoted by executive producer Nigel Lythgoe and guest judge Wade Robson. "Where are those terrible men?" asks Murphy, looking around backstage. Robson is busy explaining himself. "Anya is an amazing performer, but she's never impressed me as a soloist," he says. "Even tonight, there was no real substance. And in this competition, with the amount of versatility that you have to have to dance every style, I just don't think she's up to par."
"I'm sure Anya is really disappointed," says Murphy. "And I'm sure Pasha (Anya's longtime dance partner who made the top 10) is devastated. Every experience I've ever had with them in the ballroom world has been nothing but pleasant. And in our competitive world, which can be very tense, the competitors can be very arrogant. I never found either one of them to be like that. They're just the sweetest."
What the audience doesn't know is that Pasha, who emigrated from Russia six years ago with Anya, never wanted to try out for the show. "But Anya really wanted to do it," says Pasha. "When she asked if I wanted to participate, I said, ‘No, let me pass this time.' But I was willing to help her go through the audition process."
The reason for his initial reluctance? Pasha was seriously ill during the six months leading up to the Dance auditions in March. It all started one day last November, when Pasha felt so sick that Anya brought him to the emergency room. Only 26 years old at the time, doctors discovered a life-threatening blood clot in his neck. Since they couldn't remove it surgically, they gave him powerful drugs to help his body dissolve the clot on its own. "But I was really weak for a long time," he says. "My immune system was down and I was getting sick constantly. It was scary. And for a couple of months, I didn't dance at all."
But when one of the show's producers saw Pasha audition with Anya, he asked why the Siberian-born dancer wasn't trying out. "He said, ‘You must do it,'" says Pasha. "So I decided to try it and my doctor cleared me. I was not in the best shape. But being sick made me realize something: It just reconfirmed that I really wanted to dance."
"I told him, ‘I know you didn't even want to try out,'" says Murphy. "And he said, ‘Mary, this is the best thing that's ever happened to me in my life.' He doesn't talk about it, but you know he almost died last year. So for him to come back from that and have this experience I think is absolutely wonderful."
Even with Anya getting voted out? "I'm sure she's happy for him," says Murphy. "His No. 1 cheerleader is going to be Anya."