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SYTYCD competitor recaps her television experience

Katie Thurber

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Janelle Issis may have said goodbye to “So You Think You Can Dance” after competing on the show for five episodes, but she isn’t ready to say goodbye to dancing just yet.

The University of Alabama graduate said she plans on staying in Los Angeles to teach and train.

“I’m doing anything and everything I can,” she said. “I love to teach and choreograph, and I want to be able to for the rest of my life.”

Issis is currently assisting different classes in the Los Angeles area and said she is soon to be working with big-name choreographer Barry Youngblood. Issis said she owes some of her success to SYTYCD.

“The show was really the best possible way to get my name out there,” she said. “New doors have opened because of it, and I feel very fortunate to have gotten to do it.”

However, for Issis, the show wasn’t just about a successful career. She said her favorite part of participating was getting to know the cast.

“We were a big family,” she said. “The show had rules about us not being at each other’s apartments, but they were a joke. All of us always hung out together.”

Even after leaving the show, Issis said she’ll still get to spend time with the cast.

“I’ll miss seeing them all the time, but they’re right down the street,” she said. “Plus, I’m still watching all of them on TV and supporting them.”

In addition to being friends, Issis said the cast served as a mentor group and support system. She said she learned the most on the show just from being around the different dancers. Issis also said the structure of the show challenged and helped her grow as a dancer.

“The show itself was very physically demanding – it brought a lot out of me,” she said. “Having Mia Michaels yell at you is pretty terrifying, but afterwards I would think, ‘Wow, I didn’t know I could do that!’”

Issis said she was especially proud of herself in Las Vegas, where she wowed the judges, despite having had the flu, strep throat and pneumonia for the two weeks leading up to her performance.

“I was still on [medicine] while I was there and sick the whole time, but I did it,” she said. “ I really proved to myself that I could work for this if I really wanted it.”

Although new to the Los Angeles dance scene, Issis is used to being challenged by choreographers, coming from UA’s dance program. Issis said that while at UA, her instructors pushed her to be her best.

“Cornelius Carter is amazing,” she said. “I walked into class freshman year and cried, but through the years, he made me confident to do anything and everything. Rita Snyder taught me how to break down music and see what could go where, which made me a better choreographer.”

Stephanie Abrams, another UA graduate who found her professional calling in Los Angeles, said the training of UA’s dance program gave her the perfect set up for success.

“After graduating from the University of Alabama’s dance program, I had the tools and correct mindframe for the big city of Los Angeles,” she said. “You don’t run into too many college graduates trying to make it as dancers out here, and I think learning and growing in college was fundamental for my success in Los Angeles.”

Issis and Abrams are both enjoying their success in Los Angeles, but Issis said she misses the comforts of being in Alabama.

“I’m a huge family person, and at first, really didn’t like being alone,” she said. “I’ve gotten more independent living here and being so busy, but I still miss my family a lot.”

Issis thinks of the show as a learning experience and feels that her elimination happened when it was supposed to.

“I think I could have been better showcased, that I’m capable of a lot more,” she said, “but that’s what it was supposed to be. I did the best I could with what I was given, and that’s all I could do.”

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SYTYCD competitor recaps her television experience