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Utahn a finalist on 'So You Think You Can Dance'

Published June 19, 2013 10:11 am

Television • Provo's Jenna Johnson is just 19 years old, but she's waited a long time for this.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Jenna Johnson has been preparing for "So You Think You Can Dance" for more than half her life.

OK, she just turned 19. But she's known she wanted to be on the show since it debuted in 2005. And she was named one of this season's top 20 finalists on Tuesday's episode of the Fox dancing competition.

"I knew I wanted to be on that stage," said Johnson, a Provo resident and Timpview High grad. "That's why I trained in all the styles possible — with the ultimate goal to be here one day. That's always been my mindset.

"I've watched the show faithfully and finally I turned 18 and was old enough to audition this year."

But, for the first time in four years, there were no local auditions for "SYTYCD." Johnson, a four-time national champion ballroom dancer, traveled to Memphis and impressed the judges at her first audition, quickly winning a ticket to the next round of the competition.

"Anybody got anything to say?" asked judge/producer Nigel Lythgoe.

"Not really," said judge Mary Murphy as she, Lythgoe and guest judge Wayne Brady quickly held up Johnson's ticket to the next round.

"It's so crazy watching yourself on television. It's very scary," Johnson said. "But the response that I got, I couldn't have asked for better. It was a relief, for sure."

And a validation of her focus on making it onto the show. "SYTYCD" requires contestants to perform in a variety of styles, which was part of her training at Center Stage Studio in Orem.

"I did grow up at that studio and danced there from the age of 3 until 18. It was my second home," she said with a laugh. "We were trained in all styles. So I grew up doing contemporary and jazz and ballroom and ballet, so I feel pretty confident. The only one I'm a little bit nervous about is hip-hop, just 'cause I'm a little white girl from Utah and you don't see that every day."

Johnson joins a string of other Utah ballroom dancers voicing that sentiment. She also follows a lot of other Utahns on the show. Locals have made the finals in seven of the previous nine seasons, including one each in Seasons 5 and 8, two each in Seasons 2 and 9, three in Season 6 and four in Season 4. Utahn Sabra Johnson won the title of "America's favorite dancer" in Season 3.

This year's Utah finalist follows in the footsteps of her two older sisters, who both made it to the round of "SYTYCD" auditions just before the finalists were chosen before being eliminated.

"This year, finally, third time's the charm for the Johnsons. It was finally our time!" said Johnson. "My sisters are very supportive of me. They're ecstatic."

The Utah teen has already discovered what so many have learned before — that "So You Think You Can Dance" is the equivalent of a dance boot camp with non-stop rehearsals and weekly performances.

"It's like nothing I've ever done before," Johnson said. "I mean, muscles and tendons and things I've never felt before hurt. But it's the best feeling ever. It's so rewarding working this hard for something.

"But that's the life of a dancer. And this is what I've dreamed of doing. I got myself into this so I'm going to push through it."

spierce@sltrib.com

'So You Think You Can Dance'

When • continues on Tuesday, June 25, at 7 p.m.

Where • Fox/Channel 13.