Eddie Hoyt, 19, of Boscawen, New Hampshire, was devastated when he was eliminated in the contemporary round on “So You Think You Can Dance” last year.
But when one of the show’s producers called and asked if the tap dancer was thinking of returning to the show this year, Hoyt knew he had to do it.
“I moved to Utah in November of last year, 2018, and I was like, ‘I’m going to work at a new studio and I’m going to train my butt off to get back in shape, to learn the styles of dance that I’m not comfortable with,’ ” Hoyt told the Daily Herald in a recent phone interview.
Hoyt has been teaching tap and completing ballroom and contemporary training at Center Stage Performing Arts Studio in Orem during the past year in preparation for his Season 16 return to “So You Think You Can Dance.” He said some friends from Utah who were on the show with Hoyt in Season 15 introduced him to the studio.
“Before I moved to Utah, Center Stage didn’t really have a tap program,” Hoyt said. “With the experience of just knowing how famous Center Stage is and how successful the dancers are, I was like, ‘Oh, this is my golden opportunity. This is my chance to teach what I know, yet learn what I don’t know.’ ”
With Hoyt’s help, Center Stage was recently named Studio of the Year at The Dance Awards in Las Vegas, which made tap a requirement to compete for the title this year.
“It was great to be able to come into a studio, train them, get them to where they need to be, and then also work my butt off in what they’re good at, which they’re amazing at contemporary and ballroom,” Hoyt said. “Me helping them and them helping me was the best win-win situation, and it was incredible.”
Hoyt’s previous dance background includes 10 years of jazz, hip-hop and tap training at Creative Steps, his hometown studio, as well as high school musical theater experience.
“I’ve always been a performer, so I consider myself kind of well-rounded,” Hoyt said.
Coming into the competition as a tap dancer gives Hoyt both an advantage and a disadvantage.
“Tap is very unique because it’s so complex. We have to be able to perform just as much as the others with our face and upper body, but even more with our feet because it’s so, so technical,” Hoyt said. “I can show a style of dance and an entertainment that others can’t show, but it also takes way more time to perfect the craft of tap and that I can’t use to work on the other styles.”
The dancer performed an emotional freestyle tap routine to NF’s “If You Want Love” for his “So You Think You Can Dance” judges’ audition this season. The dance prompted a standing ovation from the judges, who unanimously put Hoyt through to the next round of the competition, the Academy, which begins airing Monday at 8 p.m. on Fox.
“This was quite a different experience this year,” judge Mary Murphy told Hoyt through tears after his audition. “Last year, we fell in love with you because you were this cute little pumpkin up there tapping his heart out, and this year, you came back and put so much into it and so much emotion. I don’t think I’ve ever cried over a tap routine before.”
“It was remarkable and such great choices, and your emotions in the performance even got Dominic crying,” judge Nigel Lythgoe added. “Thank you so much for the experience.”
Judge Dominic Sandoval called Hoyt’s routine the greatest tap piece he has ever witnessed in his life.
“I have one thing to say: Greatness needs no explanation,” judge Laurieann Gibson told Hoyt.
Seeing the judges’ positive response “was so surreal” for Hoyt.
“I was thrilled that I could be able to tell my story, show my emotion, show my favorite style of tap to the judges and have them react the way they did,” Hoyt said.
Hoyt wanted to show America and the judges “a very different side of tap, a very different side of me as well” this year.
“Last year, if you reflect back or watch it, I kept getting the comment, ‘You’re too happy. You’re showing too much. You need to be more mature,’ ” Hoyt said. “The song I chose, ‘If You Want Love,’ is very close to my heart, very close to my story, and also allows me to show the mature, contemporary, I-can-show-more-than-just-a-smile emotion, and I think the judges really appreciated it, and I was so happy with the response I got from taking that risk.”
The dancer wasted no time in beginning preparations for the Academy round after his audition.
“When we flew home after the judges’ round, that night, I flew in at like 8 p.m., I went straight to the studio and started working,” Hoyt said.
The past year has been difficult for Hoyt, a Christian who came out as gay last season on “So You Think You Can Dance.”
“I didn’t intend to come out on national television,” Hoyt said. “I’ve never been ashamed of who I am or anything like that, so in interviews, when they would ask me questions, I would just always answer honest. I’m a very honest person.”
Hoyt said his jaw “dropped to the floor” when he realized this had been included on the show.
“I couldn’t believe that that’s how most of my family and friends found out,” Hoyt said. “Some people were super supportive. Some, I got very negative responses.”
But Hoyt said the amount of love he has received on social media has been “so overwhelming with people telling me that they can now do their dreams because I’m doing mine.”
“Being on the show was my goal and my dream, but I hit that, and this year, my goal was to make it further, but also to take the correction that the judges did and still connect with an audience and still show people that dreams do come true if you make them come true,” Hoyt said. “I couldn’t be happier with the place I’m at now and the opportunities I’ve been given.”
Hoyt said his message to anybody who feels different or like an outsider is “it is OK.”
“It’s more than OK,” Hoyt said. “You can make anything happen if you make what you want happen, and you can be anything you want to be if you just believe it, and you don’t need the reassurance from anybody but yourself.”