A pair of Utah teenagers could win a million dollars Wednesday night on national television, but they insist they’re not overly nervous about it.
“It doesn’t even feel real most of the time,” said Charity Anderson, who, along with her partner, Andrés Peñate, is competing in the two-hour season finale of NBC’s “World of Dance” (Wednesday, 8 p.m., Channel 5).
“We still can’t comprehend it all,” Peñate said. “It’s like — is this really happening? I have to pinch myself.”
The 18-year-olds, who just graduated from Springville High, began their improbable journey to fame — and possibly fortune — with no thoughts of winning.
“We didn't expect to get past qualifiers, in all honesty,” Anderson said. “We were just there because it was a wonderful opportunity, and it was something we always wanted to do. And so each time we advanced, it was crazy, we didn't believe it.”
Through 15 episodes, Anderson and Peñate have triumphed in the junior division — individuals or teams of up to four dancers under age 18. (They were both 17 when the competition began.)
On Wednesday, they’ll compete against the winners of the three other divisions — junior teams of five to 15 members, upper groups (up to four members, ages 18 and over) and upper teams of five to 15 dancers.
Anderson and Peñate are used to competing on the dance floor — they first became ballroom dance partners when they were just 8 years old — but “World of Dance” takes it to an entirely new level.
“I mean, we’re competitive dancers, so we’re used to that,” Peñate said. “But this competition is way different just because of the immense amount of talent that was there [and] the variety of styles. It was very different than what we’re used to.
“And also, the whole [television] production … it’s like a big beehive. That was new.”
So far this season, the Utah teens are the only dancers who received a perfect 100 score from all three of the judges — Jennifer Lopez, Ne-Yo and Utah native Derek Hough — for one of their performances.
But just hearing words of praise from Lopez blew their minds.
“I never thought I would get a compliment from Jennifer Lopez,” Peñate said. “It was such a big deal to me.”
“I grew up listening to her music and watching her movies,” Anderson said.
These teens are still getting used to seeing themselves on TV, which can be an unsettling experience.
“It bothers me so much when I look at myself,” Anderson said. “It’s really weird. I mean, my whole life I’ve always dreamed of it. But now that it’s actually here, it’s like ‘Oh my goodness. That’s what I look like?’”
“When I watch it with friends, I hide under a pillow or a blanket,” Peñate added.
“We're very critical of ourselves,” Anderson said.
“And we try not to be,” Peñate added, “because at this point, what can you do? You can’t redo anything. So we just try to be OK with what’s on TV.”
Both Utahns insisted they've given no thought to what they might do with their half of the million-dollar prize if they win.
“Oh, that's so crazy to think,” Anderson said. “We weren't expecting to win a million dollars going into this competition.”
“I never dared even think about it,” Peñate said. “I would always just focus on what I’m doing to have the best performance.”
Really? They haven’t even daydreamed about what they’d do with all that cash?
“Well, a little bit,” Anderson admitted.