Contemporary dancer Amy Yakima made a big name for herself this season on the TV show, “So You Think You Can Dance,” along with hip-hop partner DaShaunt “Fik-shun” Stegall.
Dubbed “Team Small” because of their short stature, the two teenage dancers were heads above the competition, crowned the season 10 winners for Fox’s primetime show earlier this month. Without even a moment to take in their $125,000 grand prize, Yakima, Fik-Shun and the remaining top 10 dancers are hitting the road for the “So You Think Can Dance” Tour 2013, which makes a stop at the Embassy Theater on Thursday.
“It’s so much more relaxed now,” Yakima, 19, says during a phone interview from Los Angeles, where she and the rest of the cast are rehearsing for the tour.
“But at the same time, the people on the tour are such amazing dancers, and they push you anyway. You want to be at your very best; you want to dance. I love to dance, and that’s what I want to share when I go on tour.”
Yakima says that fans of the show can expect to see the memorable numbers from this season, but a bevy of new changes and transitions will add some suspense to the stage.
“There’s a lot of foreshadowing. You never really know what’s going to come right after the next number,” she says. “We have added some things, and it changes how we get to do other stuff.”
The 42-city tour kicks off Tuesday at the Wharton Center in East Lansing, Mich., Yakima’s home state. The Northville, Mich.-native has been dancing since the age of 3. Even though she grew up dancing competitively for her dance school in Dearborn, Mich., Yakima says that she has never been one to rest on her laurels.
“I’ve always been about performing my very best. I always left before awards shows and never really stayed because I had already done my job, and did my very best,” she says. “If I do my very best, then that’s winning for me.”
However, on an 11-time primetime Emmy award-winning show, it’s a little more difficult to slip out the back door. Yakima says that the show’s finale was much more about absorbing the experience than the victory.
“I was just thinking whatever happens, happens. It was already decided. I was just thinking about my journey and how far I’ve come. It’s pretty cool to be standing on the stage and looking at the lights, the people – and you’re on national TV. It’s a lot to take in. You just have to think about why you auditioned and why you’re here in the first place,” she says.
Yakima says her partnership through the majority of the show with Stegall, 18, contributed to each other’s success. With Yakima’s technical experience and Stegall’s electrifying street performance skills, both contestants became sharper dancers.
“It’s not perfect, but we were able to help each other out with what we needed to work on. He helped me with my musicality and listening for little things in the music, while I helped him more with his technique and finding the counts – knowing where to be and at what time,” she says.
Although Yakima has a couple more days until the start of the tour, her mind is spinning with a list of things to do after the tour wraps in November. Relocating to Los Angeles, she plans to remain open to a number of opportunities as a professional dancer. She says her time on the show allowed her to try out different dance styles and she’s very interested in taking more ballroom dance lessons in the future.
Yakima says music videos, dance companies and touring with music artists are all viable options for her.
“I’m not trying to set anything in stone, because sometimes your life can take unexpected turns and you may end up liking that turn more than you thought you would. I think my ideas for now are coming out to L.A., get into the dance world, start auditioning and use what I’ve learned from ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’ ” she says. “Name it, I want to try it. I never know what I’m going to like unless I try it.”
The show has also announced that Fox has picked up “So You Think You Can Dance” for its 11th season. With her focus set for the future, Yakima says the best advice she can give to next season’s dancers is the same motivation she has used since childhood: Compete with yourself.
“Don’t compare yourself to others. You’re never going to dance like someone else – they dance like them. If you try to be better at what they do, you’re never going to get there,” she says. “You have to be better at what you do. I’m never going to have the longest legs in the universe. I’m a shorty. I have to use what I got. Use what you got and make it the best it can be – try to be better than yourself every day.”