When the top 10 finalists from Season 11 of So You Think You Can Dance hit the stage at Comerica Theatre on Sunday, January 25, Tempe-born Bridget Whitman will be among them -- performing not only for fans of Fox's hit TV show, but also friends, family, and fellow dancers from her metro Phoenix days.
Raised in Tempe and Chandler, Whitman left Arizona in 2012 to attend The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where she majors in dance and expects to complete her BFA degree in May of 2016.
Just over a year ago, she learned that So You Think You Can Dance auditions would be coming to the school. "I've watched the show since I was little," she says, "and I thought it would be cool to show the world how fun it is to dance."
Still, she didn't give the audition much thought until waking up the day of the auditions -- then deciding with a few friends that they might as well head over and give it a go. She auditioned to a Jennifer Terran cover of Doris Day's "Que Sera, Sera," which So You Think You Can Dance viewers later saw broadcast on the show.
It was especially powerful given facts she'd shared about her early life, which included her father's death following a car accident -- and his encouragement that she always follow her dance dreams.
Whitman says she was nearly 4 years old when her parents enrolled her in dance classes, and recalls competing with "a little club team" in Tempe when she was four. But her parents had her try other activities, too. For a year she played t-ball, and she did gymnastics for five.
By age 8 or so, recalls Whitman, she started taking dance training really seriously. She was dancing at Tempe Dance Academy by then, and recalls "really buckling down" to focus more on training than competitions. Her teachers there included academy owner and director Wanda Manville, Tammy Manville-Booth, Holly Manville-Cook, and Michael Cook (a principal with Ballet Arizona).
"I was definitely more of a jazz dancer," she recalls of early dance days. Today she's best known to So You Think You Can Dance fans for work in the contemporary dance genre, but she's danced everything from ballet and hip hop to disco-infused Bollywood style.
During student days at St. Mary's Catholic High School in Phoenix, she balanced AP classes and cheerleading with dancing a good forty hours each week with Tempe Dance Academy, which didn't leave time for participating in her high school's dance offerings.
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The rigorous dance training and competition schedule kept her from seeing much dance performance elsewhere, but Whitman sometimes got to attend productions of classic works from The Nutcracker to Swan Lake. She especially enjoyed watching friends perform, but never suspected she'd one day dance for them with a So You Think You Can Dance tour right here on her home turf.
Whitman has high praise for the metro Phoenix dance scene, noting our many art schools and dance studios, and adds that several Phoenix dancers have done well during previous seasons of So You Think You Can Dance. "I've seen some amazing, amazing ballet, jazz and contemporary come out of Arizona," she says.
Dancers seeking a bit of inspiration and folks who are eager to see a fun selection of duets, small group numbers and big group productions -- including plenty of favorites from the Season 11 live shows -- can visit the Fox So You Think You Can Dance website for show details and ticket information.