Cyrus Spencer, the 22-year-old animator/robotics dancer currently competing on "So You Think You Can Dance," has been a lightning rod for viewers this season. While some viewers have grumbled about his lack of dance skill, his adoring fan base continues to vote him through week after week. Tonight, fans will get a chance to speak (or not) for Cyrus again during the show's double-barreled competition/elimination episode starting at 8:00 p.m. on Fox. I had the chance to speak with Cyrus during the TCAs, and we hashed over why he doesn't read his own reviews, what he's hoping to convince the judges to say about him, and the good thing he wants to do once the show ends.
Are you ever tempted to read what fans are saying about you online? You have some tough critics.
I really don't have time to Google, you know, look up things and start reading, like, feedbacks and reviews, so I just don't get involved in that. Because if I see something negative it might put me down, so I just try to keep a positive aura around me and stay upbeat.
The judges have given you a lot of backhanded compliments this year, praising you for doing well despite a lack of training. How do you feel about that?
The expectations aren't as high for me as everyone else for the simple fact that I haven't been trained in any styles. I haven't been trained in anything, because I taught myself how to dance, you know, so what I'm trying to do is take that barrier away. I want to be put on the same pedestal as the other dancers. I want to be able to impress the judges, which is coming across sometimes, but not as much as I want it to. I don't want them to think, "Oh my gosh, that was good because you haven't been trained." I want them to think, "Oh my gosh, I can't believe you haven't been trained and you're that good at it!"
You have a very recognizable look. Do you think that's been helpful in getting votes?
Definitely. I think image is very important. You don't want to look average. I think unique people will have a unique look. That's how I honestly feel. People who carry something special will look a special way. I think it works for me, to really stand out from everybody.
Now that you're on the show, has it helped friends and family better understand what you do?
It's cool. People are like, ohhh, so you're doing that? That's awesome! They're giving me so much support and it makes me feel so good. I have such great people behind me. It's an amazing feeling.
You've mentioned a real love for contemporary. Why does an animator love contemporary so much?
Because the style to me is so breathtaking and so passionate, and honestly, that's how I feel about dance. I feel dancing is breathtaking and passionate, so it's something I would love to involve myself with. There's so much technique I haven't accomplished yet, so I don't want to take away from the style, but I love watching it, I love the passion behind it. I just love that feeling of greatness in it. That's what contemporary is for me. It's greatness.
Once the show ends, what are your future goals?
My goals are, honestly, just to get out there in the public as much as I can, to help people, to reach out to those who are afraid to dance or [who are] shy. I want people to become themselves, even if it's another talent that they have. If it's singing or it's acting, I just want to inspire people to be themselves. Just do what you love to do, and do it fully. I think a lot of people could be successful, but they're not because they're afraid to just be themselves. And I think that's one of the best feelings in the world to embrace.
So, you'd like to teach?
Definitely teaching. Actually, if I wasn't dancing, I would be teaching. I'm very interested in early childhood education, because that's where it starts, when you're young. It really starts growing up when you can instill positivity in the kids when they're young, it almost humbles them when they get older. I feel that's what kind of happened with me. My mom is such an amazing woman, although everyone has differences with their parents or family, just them being humble and them sharing that positivity with you, it allows you to become that person when you get older. So I think everyone should get a little bit of that growing up.
Speaking of your mom, what did she think of your look?
With the plugs, she was scared at first because I was really big into sports. So she was scared, but when I actually got them? She was like, those look so good on you, soon. Those look so good. And with the mohawk, she just thought that was something different, because I've had a haircut my whole life, so when I was like, mama, I think I'm gonna grow my hair out. And she was like, we'll see. But when she saw it, she was like you look good, boy!
As the first animator on the show, do you feel the choreographers have tried to work with your skill set?
Definitely yes. The choreographers are all amazing. They really try to highlight what I do, because as much of an honor I feel, I think they feel the same, like it's really good to work with someone different, even though I'm not capable of doing all the things other contestants can, like I also do something other contestants can't do. I feel like they really embrace that, and they use it to the best of their ability.