Weekly Q&A

Behind the smile (and the booty shake) with ‘SYTYCD’ champ Fik-Shun

Fik-Shun is one of America’s favorite dancers, thanks to So You Think You Can Dance. Weekly can vouch for the fact that this local is as sweet as his smile.

You get the name when you see Fik-Shun’s body move, bones like liquid, feet that never quite touch the ground. It is unreal. When he’s not in the spotlight, he’s a very real 18-year-old named DuShaunt Stegall whose dance training can be traced back to spontaneous street performances on the Strip.

Dynamic, charismatic and deadly precise, he’s hot off winning So You Think You Can Dance and started touring with the show this month. Weekly caught Fik-Shun between rehearsals to talk about his roots, the Vegas talent pool and what it feels like to have Ricki Lake following him on Twitter.

You're originally from Kansas, but Las Vegas would love to claim you. How long have you been a local? I’ve lived in Vegas since I was 12. I moved out there when I was going into seventh grade, and it was just crazy because I always danced in Kansas, but nobody really dances in Kansas. So once I got here and realized there was so much more talent, it made me just want to go even harder.

You took dance at Las Vegas Academy for two years, but your skills are rooted in street performing. Who got you into it? Dyetral Fletcher, a friend who went to seventh grade with me and ended up being my street-performing partner. … To me, he was the best dancer I’d ever seen in person, so in my mind I just had a goal that I wanted to be as good as him, or better. … We weren’t really close as far as friends, but we would always dance against each other all the time. Once we both got out of high school we hit each other up and started talking again. … He’s like, “You should come out street performing with us.” I’m like, “Okay, cool. Like I can just dance in front of people to my own music, and they give you money for it? Why not?”

How old were you? I was 17 when I started street performing, right after I graduated high school. Our show was very unique. I feel like it was different from many shows you see on the Strip because a lot of them are choreographed, always the same thing. We just played songs that we liked, and we would freestyle. Each person would take turns. We would stop and bow and tell everyone, “Thank you” and if they enjoyed the show then they can put a little money into the bucket. It was a little rough at first ’cause it was our first time doing it, but the more we got in tune and got a system down, it got better and better and better. We watch each other freestyle so much that sometimes we can predict what the other person’s gonna do. So a lot of the times we would dance together and do some of the same stuff at the same time just because we both knew the music and we both knew how each other moved, so we knew what the other person was gonna hit.

Was it crazy for Dyetral to see you on So You Think You Can Dance, considering how much you looked up to him? He definitely encouraged me. He’s not letting me slack off. He is happy for me and supported me throughout the show, but he just constantly told me, “Just make sure you keep training up, ’cause when you get back we’re gonna work on some stuff.” He’s still got my back and he still wants me to be better at what I do. He told me to just take in everything that I’m gonna learn on the show, like all the different choreography and stuff, and he was like, “Just get better, and use it with what you got.”

How well can a couple of talented guys do on the street in Vegas? You can do well if you have the right equipment. At first we had no speaker of our own, and there was this huge bar truck that would just play random hip-hop songs. So we would dance and make big crowds around this bar truck. … Just build up money, build up money; make about $200 a night dancing for about five hours. We saved up and got our own speaker … then we saved up again and bought an even bigger speaker, and we started making a good $300 to $400 every three hours. ... I was using that to pay all my bills and had a little extra money to spend.

Given your fame, I’m guessing we won’t catch you on the street again. I’m really, truly in love with street performing. So there’s just no way I can keep myself off the Strip if I come back to Vegas, which I will be after tour, for a little while. So I definitely plan on going out there and dancing on the Strip just because I love it so much and I feel like I need to get back to it. ... When I’m away from it for too long, my skills get rusty. We would do it almost every night, back to back, even if we were tired, we were sore; we would dance through the pain. That was really our training for whatever we wanted to do outside of street performing, so I definitely could see myself coming back.

What about the job at Jamba Juice? Technically, I’m still employed. They told me if I ever want to come back and work some hours, I can. Who knows? I might just do it just because. I really miss Jamba Juice, to be honest. It was my first job that I’ve ever had, and it lasted a short amount of time, but I really did have fun there.

What’s your go-to order at Jamba? My favorite thing is the White Gummi, no peach juice, with lemonade and some peaches added. It’s so good.

Speaking of blenders, your dancing is like every street style smashed into one. It’s so much easier just to call myself a hip-hop dancer just because it’s so many things within one. … Popping, waving, floor work, isolations, robotics, animation—as much stuff as I can learn, I like to put it into my own mix of styles. … That way whenever I need to switch it up, I can, because I have that in my arsenal.

Fik-Shun and tWitch - from YouTube.com

One of my favorite routines you did on SYTYCD was with tWitch, who also happens to be one of my all-time favorite dancers from the show. How amazing was it to perform with such a monster talent? His personality is so genuine and so down to earth. You just wouldn’t believe he’s somebody so well known. It makes you feel better that he’s so well known and he’s so grounded, because you can talk to him about real stuff, things that happen in your life; he’ll tell you things that happen in his life. It was really cool bonding with him, and we bonded so quickly. He even told me the whole season he was waiting to dance with me, and I told him I was waiting to dance with him, too. For him to tell me that made me extremely happy. I was like, “Yeah. It’s that time.” … I felt like my journey was complete, just being able to dance with the person I wanted to dance with since I got on the show.

Was your audition for this season the first time you tried out for SYTYCD? It was my first time trying out, and honestly it was so spur of the moment because I was going to audition for something else, but I missed the deadline. I don’t know why I was thinking like this, but I was thinking I was so old, like, “I’m 18. I have to do something with my life.” SYTYCD auditions kept popping up. … I was like, “Hopefully I get to the audition round so they’ll show my solo on TV,” and that was going to be it for me.

They did show your solo on TV, and the YouTube clip has more than a million views. Any significance to the song you picked? It’s called “If You Crump Stand Up” by an artist named edIT. It’s just one of those songs where you have to know the beats and the music. It just has a lot of musicality. The two big things in my style are knowing many styles and putting them into one and then knowing your music, being very musical. That was the perfect song for me to audition to because it has so many beats to hit. It’s a challenge, and it’s fun to do at the same time.

Did you connect with any of the judges? I feel like Nigel would always give me good constructive criticism. He really made me think about, OK, I need to work harder in certain aspects that I felt like maybe were overshadowed by just me performing instead of always having the technique. It was an eye opener for me. I never want to just get by on one thing. I like to have the best of all worlds.

Any new style from the show you’d like to do more of in your own dance? I would like to just go to random classes, no matter what genre they are. If I hear about a jazz class opening up, go take that. Ballroom, to be honest, it was so stressful learning it. But once I got it down and I looked back on some of them, I was like, wow, I actually like that. I like the end result.

You know, chicks dig ballroom. In that case, ballroom classes from here on out. (laughs)

You went head to head with another dancer from Vegas in the final. Is the talent pool pretty rich here? I do feel like Vegas is rich with dancers as far as talent in general. Because Vegas is one of those places where a lot of people come from all over to see what it’s like; they bring their own talents from different states and where they’re from. Vegas is the perfect spot for versatility and if you just want to see something different. I feel like it’ll always have something where you’re like whoa, I haven’t seen that before.

As far as the SYTYCD tour goes, are there any places you’re really excited to visit? I’m excited to go to Canada because I’ve never been out of the states. That’ll be real cool. I got my passport and everything, and my passport looks so cool. I’ve never had a passport before.

Your dance name isn’t on your passport, but it is how the world knows you. What’s the story behind it? I didn’t have a dance name, and I really wanted one. … My friend made me dance, and he’s like, “Dude, when you dance some of what you do doesn’t look real, like your bones don’t look like they’re connected.” I was like, “Yeah, I’ve gotten that a lot. What should I be?” He was like, “Fiction.”

Was it weird to watch yourself on the show, with HD focus on your smallest movements? It was like no different from me making YouTube videos and watching them 100 times, just going, “I can do that better; I can do that better.” I’m really judgmental on myself, so I would go back and watch and just be like, “That wasn’t as good as I thought it was.” … And then sometimes I’m like, “Dang, how did I do that? That was really clean. I gotta keep doing that and stop doing that.” I critique myself a lot.

Have you gotten much hate on social media? All the time. Not everyone’s gonna like you. You just have to accept that. Some people take that really sensitive. … If 100 percent of the world likes you, then you must be really, really, really just something special. There were definitely people who were like, “I’ve seen better.” Or, “Other people on the show have more technique than him,” which is true. I mean, I agreed with it, some of the stuff. I don’t have the technique a lot of other people have because I haven’t trained in that as much as everyone else has hardly at all. It was funny to read it and then want to say something, but I’m like, “I’m not gonna say anything.” And then a fan would reply back to them and defend me. That was really cool, I’m not even gonna lie—I really appreciate that a lot. You just gotta let the comments be the comments. Everyone’s gonna have their opinion.

I saw you on Ellen. Any other celebs cross your path because of the show? I got to meet Ciara for a minute. Ricki Lake follows me on Twitter. She messaged me and was telling me how she’s a fan and liked what I did, and I was just like, “I’m a fan. What are you talking about? Thank you! I appreciate that.” There have been a couple of those. I never even made a Twitter until I got on the show. I got this blue checkmark, and I didn’t even know what that meant.

Would you like to follow in tWitch’s footsteps and get into making movies? I would love to do movies and stuff. That’s been my goal since the beginning when I first started dancing. I was like, I see myself on TV. I could see it. So I definitely want to do it. I just want to prove to myself that I can do it. To be honest, I feel like this SYTYCD journey is a stepping stone, and I really just want to keep going and pushing forward. I definitely am striving for more than this. This is not like, okay I did this, I accomplished what I wanted to, I’m gonna chill. It just makes me want to be out there even more.

Based on the range of characters you played in your numbers on SYTYCD, it looks like you're a natural actor. That was part of the street performance. My friend kind of helped me out with that, too. ’Cause he was big on having different characters. He basically told me, “Every song you dance to you’re gonna feel it differently, and it should be a different feeling. They’re gonna speak to you different.” It’s like meeting new people—no one’s gonna be the same, so your relationship with them is gonna be different than your relationship with someone else. And so we looked at that in music, and he always preached that to me so on the Strip I would really just become the character of the song.

Was there a particular move that got the crowds going? The crowd loves the booty shake. But you have to do it on beat, though. You have to do it on the right timing, but if you do it right, and it’s perfect, then you’ll always get a crowd reaction. That’s honestly one of my signature moves. I don’t even know why it’s a move. I don’t know why I like to shake my butt so much. It’s weird. But it just happens. I don’t even think about it. A certain part of the song will come … my butt starts to move, and then it’s over.

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