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Utah dancer places second among stage dancers in ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ finale

SHARE Utah dancer places second among stage dancers in ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ finale

LOS ANGELES — Roy dancer Hailee Payne placed second among the stage dancers in the second half of the "So You Think You Can Dance" season 12 finale Monday night.

The competition was split in two this season — stage vs. street. Tap dancer Gaby Diaz won the title of "America's Favorite Dancer, " also winning the crown for Team Stage. Krumper Jana "JaJa" Vankova placed second overall and first among the street dancers. Payne was the Team Stage runner-up; hip-hop dancer Virgil Gadsen placed second in Team Street.

Payne was a judge favorite this season, dazzling them with everthing from star-quality Broadway and robot-inspired hip-hop to emotion-laden contemporary and power-filled jazz.

"There is no one quite like you," executive producer Nigel Lythgoe told Payne earlier in the season. "It's not just your body; it's in your mind and your soul, too. That's why you give off such positive energy."

Shortly after Payne's debut in the "So You Think You Can Dance" top 20, she talked to DeseretNews.com about her family, dance and what motivates her. Here is some of her interview:

How did you get started in dancing?

"I was actually watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade with my dad and I saw the Radio City Rockettes and I said to my dad, 'I want to do that.' I was 4 years old.

"My dad has always wanted to be a dancer. He just never really got that opportunity. … So he just always wanted me to be the dancer.

"(My mom) totally supports it, but my mom was a softball player and volleyball player, so she wanted me to go down that path. So I actually played softball up until I was 12. … It just got down to a point where my parents couldn't financially afford both … and that's when I ended up picking dance. … I'm so glad I did now."

Can you tell me about growing up dancing?

"Growing up, (dance) kind of made me the person that I am today. I'm not going to say I was a shy kid, but (dancing) really kind of brought me out of my shell and made me the outgoing, crazy person I am today.

"And it's my solitary. … (When) my parents went through a divorce a couple of years ago, the studio was my place to go. I felt really safe there."

It sounds like your family has been really supportive. Can you tell me a bit about that?

"My family's support is unreal. … My parents, of course, are my biggest fans … and my brother as well.

"I am so blessed to have such an incredible family."

What do you do when dance gets difficult? What else, other than dance, helps you push through?

"Talking with my parents and my dance teacher Mandy (Shaw). … I talk to them.

"I also like my personal time. I love to read. So if there's a good book that I can sit down and read, I can read for hours."

Can you tell me about performing for the first time as part of the top 20?

"To hear the actual roar of the crowd was such an unforgettable feeling. … It just fuels the fire and it makes you push harder.

"This is an experience I will never forget."

This was your third time trying out for the show. How did it feel to put yourself out there again?

"I definitely was a little cautious because of the new twist — the stage versus the street — because that means they can only take 10 stage dancers. … (But) I wanted to stay optimistic about it, so I just stayed positive.

"Walking down that green mile with all those lights and then walking up to the judges … I was a nervous wreck. Just a ball of nerves. But once they told me yes, I just relaxed. I didn't even know how to handle it at first. I didn't process it."

What would you say to aspiring dancers?

"Never, ever give up. As dancers, it's so hard because we are going to get no's. We get several no's. I mean, I got two no's before I even got the yes for this show. So I definitely would say never give up and don't be too hard on yourself.

"I am a perfectionist. … It's hard on me because I think I have to be perfect. And so when I'm not, if I do something wrong, I get really down on myself, which is an obstacle I've had to overcome. So I have a quote I have to remind myself of. I'm not sure where it came from, but it's: 'Imperfection is perfection.'

"That's something I have to remind myself of often. We can strive for perfection, but we'll never get there. So we just have to realize that 'imperfection is perfection' and that we're working to get to perfect. We're always constantly working."

If you could pick one person to aspire to be, who would it be?

"If there's anyone I would aspire to be like, definitely Allison Holker for sure.

"But also, I have to go with my mentor Mandy Shaw. … I just think she is the greatest person ever. She has the best personality, she's so down to earth, she owns (Infinity Dance), she has six kids. She just does it all. She not only taught me how to dance, but she's also taught me life lessons."

What is your dream job?

"Of course I would love to dance in any way possible, but my dream job would be to go on tour with Lady GaGa."

What would you say to your family if they were sitting here right now?

"If I could say anything to my family, I would just say, thank you. Thank you for everything. Thank you for the long hours of work, thank you for constantly supporting me throughout dance.

"I just really appreciate them so much and am so glad to have them. … I love them so much."