SYTYCD's Cyrus Spencer on Superhero Dreams, Slo-Mo Running and Nigel's Tough Comments

Cyrus “Glitch” Spencer arrived at Vegas Week for Season 9 of So You Think You Can Dance, and suddenly felt very small. “Everybody else was so good,” he explains. And while he’d wanted to take some classes in between his initial audition and the boot-camp-style callbacks, Cyrus says that deep down, he knew “it was too late in the game to learn anything seriously before Vegas.”

Yet thanks to a lot of hard work — and plenty of on-stage charisma — Cyrus beat the odds, was put through by the judges into the Season 9 Top 20, and advanced all the way to the finale, finishing as runner-up on the men’s side to Chehon Wespi-Tschopp.

TVLine caught up with Cyrus to talk about his most memorable SYTYCD routines, plus those tough comments he got from Nigel Lythgoe on the final night of voting.

TVLINE | The first choreographed piece you did for the show was in “Meet the Top 20 Week” — the baseball routine. Had you ever done anything like that before, something where it wasn’t freestyle?
That routine was so hard to learn. You’ve got to perform the routine and memorize the choreography, and [understand] the mechanics of it, like counting. I wasn’t used to having to do a [particular] move on this count and that count; I’m just a freestyler, and the only part [of that routine] I really freestyled was the beginning. The good thing was, though, that Christopher [Scott] filled the choreography with a lot of what we [already] do. That’s why he is one of the best. He makes you comfortable when you’re dancing.

TVLINE | Out of all the dances you had to do competitively on the show, which was the hardest to learn?
Jive was so hard, but then contemporary was even harder. It’s impossible to say. They were all tough, because I haven’t been technically trained. I would tell the guys how I had to worry about things they didn’t even think twice about, like lowering their shoulders or pointing their toes. It was so foreign to me.

TVLINE | I found there was a real sense of humor in your solo work. In your audition, for instance, when you leaned forward almost like you were going to fall off the stage, and there was just pure glee on your face. Is that a vital part of your style?
It is very important, because I want people to know that I enjoy doing what I do. Animation can come off so serious sometimes, and it can look dark, or because of the robotics, it can look really stale. When I add character and happiness to it, in those moments, people can really understand, “Okay, he loves doing this, that’s great.”

TVLINE | Let’s talk about the Travis Wall “apocalypse” contemporary piece that you had with Jaimie Goodwin. I’d go out on a limb and say that emotionally and style-wise, you probably couldn’t find something more opposite of what you normally do. How did you tackle it?
Emotionally, I felt like it was perfect because I always want to be the superhero or the knight in shining armor. That’s the kind of person I want to be, so it was really nice to actually fulfill that in a dance, like I’m fighting for her and we’re the last two survivors of the world. It was really epic, and I love epic-ness. Style-wise, the technique was so hard, but Jaimie is such an amazing partner and Travis is such an amazing choreographer, that they pushed me. They were like “You can do it, you can do it, you can do it, you can do it, you can do it.” That just made me really happy that they had that confidence.

TVLINE | When you finally drew dubstep with Comfort [Fedoke] as your partner, was there a sense of excitement to finally perform something closer to your wheelhouse? And how much work went into that synchronized hand motion, the sort of “Jacob’s Ladder” move?
I was so excited. “It’s dubstep! Okay, here we go!” And then I knew the song [“Cinema Skrillex Remix”] and that made me comfortable in a sense, too. The part with the hands, though, is called “cutting,” and that was so difficult because you have to create angles and you have to create lines. It’s really hard to do it by yourself, and with a partner, you have to be in sync. You have to know when to react. It takes time. The whole cutting and arms section took so long for us to nail.

TVLINE | During the performance finale, Nigel [Lythgoe] made the comment that he couldn’t vote for you. He loved you, but as a dancer he had to back Chehon. A lot of SYTYCD fans were like, “Way to rain on the guy’s parade at the last possible minute!” Did you understand where Nigel was coming from? And how did it feel to hear that comment?
Well, it was his opinion, which everyone is entitled to, but it hurt a little at first when he said “I can’t vote for you.” It was like, “Ouch.” But he said I was his favorite person, and that’s a big deal, for someone like Nigel, at his level, to say that you’re his favorite person. I was like, “Are you serious right now?” It was such an honor. Chehon is an amazing dancer, so like Nigel said, from a dancer’s perspective, you have to vote for him. It was okay. It wasn’t as bad as it seemed, I guess.

TVLINE | I can’t let you go without discussing the Christopher Scott piece from the finale, which you danced with tWitch and Comfort, and Christopher himself. My favorite part was where you’re running away from them in slo-mo. How the heck do you do that and make it look so real?
Well, for me I just literally believe in the action. I believe that I am moving that slow, that time slows down around me.

TVLINE | What was it like doing a while new routine, not one of your “greatest hits” from earlier in the season?
It was very difficult, because we literally created the entire piece in six hours. That’s all we had to create it and practice it, and it was amazing. I’m so happy with the outcome of that piece. It was so much fun and just working with all those guys, performing with all of them at one time on stage, I couldn’t ask for a better ending.

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  1. bob says:

    He’s being a good sport about Nigel’s unnecessary comment. It was rude, uncalled for, and unprofessional. I hope Cyrus’ career grows. Keep your head up.

    • EZ says:

      What was rude were all the accomplished dancers that went home before this one trick pony. Cyrus was an amazing Animator. Beyond that he shouldn’t have even made the top 20.

      • Sable says:

        That’s absolutely right. Cyrus was very good at his style, and. I also admire his drive and ambition, but he needs way more training before he’s a real dancer. He could get work doing videos for rap and hip hop singers, but no true dance company will hire him without a few years of technical dance training.

      • Very Opinionated1 says:

        I totally agree!!!

      • bob says:

        Get over your hate. Cyrus went far beause AMERICA voted for him. Get that through your thick skull.

    • fiona says:

      It was also really rude last year when he said neither of the boys had a chance.

      At least marco and bboy tadd could do other styles well.

      Cyrus is awesome and will do well in the future in his genre hell probably be in the next step up movie.

      But he wasnt good at all in other styles and the choreographers went super easy on him despite them never doing that for other contestants

  2. Jadore says:

    I was shouting at the TV every time Nigel said something negative to Cyrus. And I danced around like a kid hopped up on sugar every time Cyrus performed. He reminded me why I used to love to dance. Cyrus is a star.

  3. Liana in San Diego says:

    Do hope you continue to grow and stretch… make a name for yourself out there, Cyrus! You are a true gem!

    • allie08 says:

      exactly. I loved Cyrus and I really look forward to seeing him in films and other shows because i do believe that he has a great future in dance. He was so fun to watch and his joy was infectious. Having said that, he did NOT deserve to be in the competition longer than Cole or several other male dancers, imo. While I was a bit surprised by Nigels’s comments at the end… let’s face it. If the choreographers hadn’t adapted each piece to his talents he never would have gotten in the top ten.

      • William Shakespeare says:

        allie08 Cyrus was on the show because the judges picked him and America voted for him. IMHO that gives him a right to be there just like anybody else. I admit that Cole and Chehon were better dancers, but the judges could have easily chose another contestant and eliminated Cyrus. I don’t think it is right to give him this opportunity and tell him he doesn’t deserve to be here. Nigel threw Cyrus under the bus. If I were Cole and the others, I would have been mad at the judges not Cyrus. It was the judges decision. Cyrus wanted to win like everybody else on the show.

  4. Rachel says:

    What a great guy. I really hope he continues with dance, I think he could really have a career.

  5. Carl says:

    What worries me is now there is no need for the choreography round at auditions. If they can justify putting someone through again & again who struggled with simply counting steps, then there is no point in seeing who “can and can’t” do choreography. In the past, a kid like him would have been told to go take classes & try again next year. They told Twitch that twice before he was put through the 3rd time. Spencer Liff mentioned that the producers advised him to take out Cyrus’ single pirouette in his Broadway, because it looked so bad. He left it in & later said he realized he shouldn’t have. A SINGLE pirouette! Spencer then said the judges didn’t seem to notice that he bombed it. That was the story of Cyrus’ journey: the judges rarely noticed anything but his “heart, work ethic,, passion”, etc. Which implied that he was working harder than the other guys. Guys who at times stayed up all night perfecting their solos & routines. Those guys were shortchanged at Cyrus’ expense. Not his fault at all. It was a story Nigel wanted to tell. But it damaged the integrity of the show & may be why viewership tanked in the last few episodes. Cyrus would have gotten the same boost to his career if they had been honest in their judging. He might have gone out a little earlier, or perhaps not. He would have gotten great exposure on the tour. But because of judges’ biased comments, I know people who think he “killed every style”. That is patently ridiculous.

    • GymRat says:

      Carl, I don’t know you but I love you. This comment perfectly described how I felt about the season! Cyrus is a great guy, I’m sure, but every time someone with actual talent got booted and Cyrus–who had lots of heart but NO skill whatsoever besides his seizure tics (there are doctors for that, he really should get that checked out)–I died a little on the inside. The judging was so blatantly biased that it ignored the problem of honoring what the show is actually about: skill. It’d be like Rebecca Black making it to the finals on American Idol while Adele is sent home. I was really glad Chehon won. Cyrus has heart, yes, but nowhere NEAR the ability to be in the finals.

      • Carl says:

        Most of the commentary I see regarding Cyrus always mentions his heart. I contend that he had no more heart than the other 9 males, not as far as I could see. No less, but no more. They all came with passion & commitment. If heart was all that mattered, then Brandon, with his million dollar smile, throwing himself whole-hog into several group routines, should have gone past Cyrus. Dareian had to listen to them browbeat him for his “bad feet”. Matt was chastised for not brushing up on his “Mia’s dad” history as Nigel gave him his on-air pop quiz. Cyrus received no such treatment. Any suggestion for improvement (hold your shoulders up, Cyrus dear) was delivered with a smile & the dismissive reminder that it didn’t really matter since Cyrus was darned passionate & America loves him. At top 6, Mary reamed Chehon for his chacha, seemed actually annoyed, while Nigel’s only compliment was that he was glad Chehon at least didn’t drop his partner. That same show, Cyrus had Spencer Liff’s simplified Broadway. We listened carefully to his critiques. Not one judge, even Christina Applegate, gave him a hint of constructive critique. Every sentence was a variation of praise for how much he had grown (despite the botched single turn) or his “heart”. The difference in the standard between their expectations for Chehon-Cole (at that point) and those for Cyrus were glaring. I truly wonder how the hip-hop guy who stood with Cyrus at top 20 selection felt when he was told to go packing. From the clips shown, he looked like a real hip-hop dude, maybe more versatile than Cyrus. I’m sure dancers who were cut all along the way were wondering what was going on.
        Sorry to be so passionate. I loved this show in the past and feel it has been run down so much that we may not even get a renewal. Cat made no announcements about watching for the “SYTYCD auditions, coming to a city near you”. Not a good sign. It’s choices like the Cyrus thing that have brought viewership and interest to its lowest point.

      • William Shakespeare says:

        I will admit that Cyrus had no formal training, but the judges allowed him to be on the show. They turned away so many people in getting to the top 20. I don’t think it was right for Nigel to say what he said to Cyrus. The reason why he lasted for so long was because America voted for him: we did not care that he didn’t have formal training!.

  6. Magically Suspicious says:

    If you believe in the integrity of the voting system, then it wasn’t the judges that kept Cyrus safe week after week. I believe that, had they been given the opportunity, they would have eliminated him for all of the reasons mentioned here. But the people voting loved him enough to keep him safe from the chance of elimination.

    I loved watching Cyrus’ journey on the show and I’m glad he did well. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him.

    Lastly, someone mentioned that the integrity of the show suffered as a result of Cyrus this season. I see where that comment comes from, but I don’t think Cyrus dented the integrity any worse than the seasons past when Debbie Allen or Mia Michaels hand-picked their favorite students/employees and waltzed them through the audition process. Or when the technical training of Russell the krumper was kept under wraps because Nigel thought it gave him less ‘street cred’ and made him less loveable….less of an underdog.

    The show has always been guilty of working the angles to make things more entertaining. I’m not even sure you can say any angles were worked with Cyrus, but the result was the same….the show was more entertaining because he was there.

    • BillB. says:

      It’s all moot, since the show is over. But I do think agree with the point made above that the need for future choreography rounds have also been rendered moot. Next season, they should let in a gaggle of amazing whackers, that charismtic clogger from a few seasons ago, bot/liquid girl Pandora (who now works with LXD) who left the choreo round saying “I have such respect for people who can pick up choreography like that…I’m going to take some classes”…all of those auditioners who could only do one thing amazingly well. The show can give them puff pieces, praise them to the hilt for their hard work, then audiences will love them and come away believing they are all dancing savants who “tackle everything the judges throw at them”.

      Cyrus was a producer’s pawn, so I can’t be upset with him personally. He just wanted exposure for his style. Cyrus did well with voters because he is excellent in that style (though not exceptional…his crew was just as good) and he is such a sweetheart. Nigel didn’t make anyone vote for him. But to think that the general population isn’t influenced by what the judges repeat ad nauseum is naive. Tons of people think Melanie “killed” hiphop after that Red Riding hood atrocity last year. That is amusing. I read comments from people who still hate Katee because she “was a quitter” (Nigel’s “journey” for her), Danny is still “arrogant”, so is Jess from last season. Having met all three of these beautiful dancers, nothing can be farther from the truth. They, too, were pawns of the show.
      By the way, Russel made his training clear at audition. Debbie had the integrity to remove herself from judging during Will’s season, something Travis and others have not done when their best friends/fellow company members are in the top ten.
      Finally, someone posted a compiled grid of several polls from entertainment sites from the 3 weeks before the top 4 performed. They showed that while Cyrus was never in the bottom 3, he may not have always been the top vote getter for each week. Chehon passed up Cole at top 8, and going forward, passed up Cyrus as well. The week before top 4, Eliana and Chehon were the clear leaders on all sites, very reliable ones that predicted a blow-out for Melanie last year. I think Nigel either saw the way things were going and just wanted to make it seem like he had influenced things by making his ugly comment to Cyrus OR he just wanted to drum up drama…and votes for Cyrus. I think having a trained winner and an untrained winner would have made him very happy. Just speculation on my part though.

      • BillB. says:

        Reading over this, I realize that this sound harsh towards Cyrus and I didn’t mean for it to be. He’s obviously a fine young man with a great deal of talent and showmanship. I know he will take all the positives from this experience and mold them into a solid career. There are many people out there who appreciate his style of dance and I hope he will succeed in finding ways to reach that audience. I’m certain that he will continue to grow. Good luck, Cyrus!

        • Magically Suspicious says:

          I think you and I are agreeing. I know Russel made his training known, but Nigel chose to keep it under wraps through the season. It was only after he won and did interviews that it became clear…..Russell admitted as much in the interviews I read. He was told not to talk about his training. Debbie removed herself in Will’s season, Mia removed herself in Ryan’s season, etc. I don’t think Travis has ever been a judge, so I’m not sure he’d need to remove himself from a season where he knew a contestant. Regardless, I’m sure they all had some pull in getting their students/friends through to the show. And I really have no problem with that. As I said in my original post, it’s an entertainment show….if those dancers make things more entertaining, then bring them on. But I don’t think it’s fair to blame Cyrus for a sudden lack of integrity (which I don’t think you personally are doing). They have historically put through a few dancers that excelled in their original style….krump, tap, etc…..heap praise on them for a few weeks because the did the best they could outside of their comfort zone, and then let them go in quick order. It makes the first few weeks of eliminations much easier on the viewers.

          I personally enjoy seeing a Cyrus, or a Joshua, or a Twitch make it to the end. When I see a contemporary dancer, I assume they’ve had years of training in multiple styles. They should be better at crossing over. But when you see an obviously untrained dancer doing a decent job and having a really good time doing it, it’s so much fun to watch. You always want to root for the underdog.

          It comes down to America’s favorite dancer vs. best dancer. They are never one and the same. I was Team Eliana all season, but the last 2-3 weeks, I started seeing ego creep into her comments and actions. It’s well deserved ego….she’s an amazing dancer. But it made me pull for Tiffany to take the prize. Eliana was by far the best dancer, but she was no longer my favorite. It’s all subjective.

          • dnamara says:

            i agree with what you have said…..i always what surprises…not the trained dancers to win. shows are about surprises not prediction. someone with an inspiring story….not the obvious. i will forget all the other contestants with time…even the winners of season 9 but not Cyrus!

  7. Cleo says:

    Everyone needs to remember the name of the show, So You THINK You Can Dance. This show was never about finding the most technically perfect dancer. This is about finding someone who embodies everything heart, passion and dance.

    Cyrus is exactly what the show is about watching someone is technically beyond perfect in a very unique and difficult style of dance (yes animators are dancers) and then watch him put all that passion into learning new styles. I loved Cyrus, loved his flaws and loved his passion. Cyrus proves that no matter where you started, if you love something and you put it all on the line you can succeed.

  8. Very Opinionated1 says:

    While everyone loves Cyrus as a person, this is a dance competition!!! If it weren’t a dance competition then why do they have choreographers (or guests) judging them?!!! If their opinion did not count, why not just leave in the hands of America? Because this show, like most dance show, are here to educate us on dance! What Nigel said, may have been said at the wrong time, but, it was something that, as an expert judge, should have been said…in fact, it should have been said all along! He should have been given constructive criticism (which, I’m sure Cyrus would have taken gracefully)!!! All the other gifted one dimensional dancers were given, sometimes, rough criticism about pointing their toes, straightening their legs, spotting, etc, but, Cyrus was not! They were given advice to take some technique classes, which most of those dancers did, then came back and did very well!!! There was no such advice to Cyrus, just praise on how much heart he had! But, let us not discount the hard work that all the other trained dancers that came before him and won. They have a lot of heart also to dedicate their lives (and their families’ lives) and time to perfect their passion. Now, when you look at Cyrus’ performance in other genres/styles of dance, yes, he remembered the choreography, but, looked uncomfortable and, of course, his technique was non-existent! I noticed also that the choreography was very basic. Instead of proving that he could do these routines and show his versatility, the choreographer was forced to choreography around him!!! Sorry, in the real world he would not get the opportunity to do that!!! Notice that they had to get Christopher Scott to assist in the Lion King routine because Cyrus could not do anything that the other male dancers were asked to do. This show is a popularity contest, but, it is based on dance and how well the dancers performed the given routine. Given the simplicity of his choreo and the inability to do any of the asked technique, he failed! So, when a trained dancer/expert says Cyrus should not win because he feels that he did not have the technique then I’m going to go with him! But, I will vote for him to win on So You Think You Can Remember Simplified Choreography (if you have no technique) or So You Think You Have a Great Story to Sell!!!

  9. ABCS says:

    I’m certain that Christopher Scott will want to continue to work with Cyrus and the other members of Dragon House, who were just as good. They should make a good addition to the LXD company of dancers. Chris will also encourage Cyrus to take other types of classes, because he himself is a versatile dancer. He knows the value of out of genre training. Cyrus could use some basic hip-hop classes, too, since I noticed he was a little stiff in the routines he did with Tiffany. He seems willing to grow, so I’m sure that he will do all of those things.

    Personally, I would have preferred that George or Matthew go a little further, with Cyrus going out at around top ten, since his solos would definitely be a fun addition the tour, or top 12 to go as an alternate. I wonder how many of his “not-animation” routines will be included? I’m not sure I’d pay to see any of those. And I have no idea who can do Comfort and Twitch’s part for the two memorable routines he did have. His staying in so long really puts a kink in our decision to go to tour. Many of the routines are centered around the top 4 or 6. Or at least that is how it was in the past.
    Overall, this season had some high points, with some very good dancers. I was happy with the final results as well. Hope the series returns next season, with a better schedule.

  10. Craig says:

    Everybody worked hard on this show. They don’t make it past Vegas week without working to the point of exhaustion. Although I am so satisfied with the two winners, I can only wish the remaining two, Cyrus and Tiffany, the best of luck. All four of them will only get better in the years ahead.

  11. wow says:

    You all are rude and hate filled. Why would you come to an article about a Guy that has NOTHING to do with you if all you want to do was criticize? He didn’t even win. Your precious “technically trained” ballet dancers won, so why are you all STILL complaining? Get a life.

    • Lantana says:

      I agree, many of the comments here would be better suited to an interview with Nigel or one of the producers of the show. Cyrus had no control over how they responded to him. He was just doing the best he could with where he was at the moment. And all the dancers know that just making the top ten is a big win. The tour is a nice gig and will give all of them a nice resume’ going forward. They are all winners.

  12. TH says:

    Congrats to Cyrus for bringing his entertaining style to a broader audience. I loved seeing your friend, Bryan Gaynor again. He is a very special person and dancer. Good luck to all the dancers of Dragon House. Very talented group.

  13. William Shakespeare says:

    I believe Nigel’s comments were uncalled for and rude. He allowed Cyrus to be on the show knowing he had no formal training. I don’t think it is right to allow him to be on the show just for him to make it to the end and say, “I’m not voting for you!” America had voted, that is the reason Cyrus was never in the bottom two. We wanted to see more of him. I like the show, but I sincerely hope they do not let this happen again. Nigel threw Cyrus under the bus. I don’t want to see happen to another person what happened to Cyrus.

  14. Fi says:

    Cyrus was an inspiration to watch because this journey was difficult for him and you could see that each week yet he kept going despite all the negativity. Nigel’s comment was unprofessional and really inappropriate, I think he cost Cyrus the title. That said, I’m happy for the winners because all of them deserved to win and the two that did were lucky and they earned it. Cyrus is a star and you all know he’s going places very far. He’s far more entertaining than the usual ballet dancers because what he does and how he does it with his whole heart, is incredible. Well done Cy, I’m very proud of you. Let the haters hate

  15. Jo says:

    The fact that people are upset that Glitch remained on the show is crazy, since he wasn’t voting himself on. AMERICA voted for him! They connected with him in a way that they could not with the other dancers. They didn’t care if the others could dance they did not relate to them in the same way. Glitch has the “It” factor. Point , blank, period.

  16. Sbrnakiss says:

    I say go Cyrus!! So glad he went as far as he did. Just to be clear as far as “dubstep” dancing goes, tribal bellydancers should be the pioneers of that genre. Before dubstep transformed into Brostep and went mainstream America, TBD’s set the stage for it. Look up any vid on YouTube with Rachel Brice or Zoe Jakes before 2006 and you’ll see. Hats off to Cyrus but he didn’t invent dubstep dancing.