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.