Kent Boyd hails from Wapakoneta, Ohio, the hometown of Neil Armstrong, the first human to walk on the moon. Though Boyd, 18, hasn't walked on the moon, he is walking on air since coming in second on the latest season of "So You Think You Can Dance."
"You know, the things that this show has brought me, it's really crazy," Boyd said recently in a phone interview from Virginia, where he and 11 other former contestants of the Fox TV series were on tour. Friday night you can catch them strutting their stuff at Nassau Coliseum.
The recent high-school grad with the charismatic smile and resemblance to a young Paul Newman had planned to be in New York this fall studying dance at Marymount Manhattan College. Winning a spot on the tour has precluded those plans, at least for now.
Boyd, who has been dancing since age 8, said he always knew he wanted to be a dancer. When he was in sixth grade and was asked "What do you want to be when you grow up," Boyd said, "I'd always write about being a dancer. . . . When I turned 13, I started taking it seriously. It was fun, but then I took it to the next level and I trained harder because I knew you could make a profession out of it."
A TOWN BY ANY OTHER NAME
A running gag during Boyd's audition was judge and executive producer Nigel Lythgoe's inability to pronounce Boyd's hometown, Wapakoneta. Did this teasing bother him? "No, not really," Boyd said. "I think you have to go with your story, and that was part of the story and people thought it was funny, so you just had to go with it. And it is kind of a tricky name. I mean, people do have a hard time saying it, even from Ohio, so it wasn't anything new for me . . . it's nothing I wasn't used to.
WHAT HAPPENS BEFORE VEGAS
Even though he was a front-runner all season long, surprisingly Boyd did not get an immediate ticket to the Las Vegas round when he auditioned in Chicago. The judges asked him to go through the choreography round first. "But, you know," Boyd said, I was excited to go into the choreography round. I got the chance to learn another routine. And I got the chance to meet Courtney [Galiano] for the first time and then I got to meet Jason [Glover] . . . Just to be in that environment before Vegas week, it almost gave me an advantage. I didn't go into Vegas thinking, 'Oh, man, this is going to be easy.' . . . So, it really just put my head in the right place and I was ready to take Vegas and just work hard.
THE NEW FORMAT
Boyd, "a very loyal fan" of "SYTYCD," says prior to appearing as a contestant, he not only watched the show on TV, he attended a couple of tapings in Los Angeles and went to the tour each time it played Columbus, Ohio. So how did he feel about the format change this season, that halved the number of contestants in order to pair them with "all-stars"?
"Oh, man. In Vegas, when we found out about it, I was petrified, I was so scared," Boyd said. "It was like, 'Oh, great, the year that I'm finally here they're taking 10 . . . . It's not going to happen.'"
But when he did make the cut, he said, "It was so amazing. You get to meet the best of the best on 'So You Think You Can Dance,' and you get to work with them, and you get to learn so much from them . . . and feed off the energy."
Boyd said he has more than one favorite choreographer.
"I really love Travis Wall. He's a genius with what he does. He's just an amazing person. And I really enjoyed working with Mandy Moore and Stacey Tookey. Mandy is just one of the funniest choreographers I've ever been with . . . she's so down to earth and just so refreshing to work with. And Stacey, she's got the mind of Mia Michaels because she used to work with her . . . she's just so cool to be around. And then you have all of the ballroom people. I just can't say enough good things about all the choreographers."
"I definitely have to say Nigel," Boyd said, "because he came to my house and told me the news . I feel like he was always there supporting me."
FAVORITE PIECE DANCED ON THE SHOW
"Definitely the 'Collide' piece with me and Lauren [Froderman]." He also mentions two pieces danced with Neil Haskell, "How It Ends," choreographed by Wall, who also choreographed "Collide," and "Shoeless Joe From Hannibal Mo," a Broadway piece choreographed by Tyce Diorio.
CLOSEST FRIEND FROM THE SHOW
"I'd have to say Robert [Roldan]. He became my best friend. He was my roommate."
MOVING TO A NEW BEAT
Asked about his least favorite dance, contemporary-jazz specialist Boyd said, "I think there wasn't a least favorite, but the most nervous I was always was that very first one, that cha-cha with Anya [Garnis]. I was just not prepared for it. I was . . . not in my comfort zone and I wasn't ready. I was scared to be out there and just thrown into a different style. And I didn't think really I was ready, but finally I pulled it together at the last second. And it was fun, so much fun."
Another new genre for Boyd was Broadway, which he said he'd now like to on focus more.
HERE COMES THE JUDGE
Asked whether he thought the judges' critiques influence viewer voting, Boyd said: "The judges do sway it. I think sometimes they can sway it in a positive way and sometimes they can sway it in a negative way. But I do believe what they say really does put thoughts in people's heads." He explained: "You have the fans who know who their favorites are, but then you have the fans who just love everyone. And I feel like those people - because we had a season where everyone was just so amazing - that the judges, whatever they said, they really just persuaded them."
FOR BETTER AND FOR WORSE
Season 7 was rife with contestant injuries. Two contestants were forced to leave the competition because of the seriousness of their injuries and a third missed a week of competition. Boyd escaped unscathed, but asked his thoughts on this, he said, "Because we knew that we all wanted to be here, I feel like everyone pushed to the max. And sometimes when you are pushing so hard and you're trying to impress the choreographer and you're trying to do the best and you're not holding back, things can happen like that."
The day we spoke to Boyd, the group was about to perform their 10th show. How were things going so far? "The audience and the crowd have been amazing. Just full houses, full arenas of people, and it's been crazy just to look out at all these people here for dance. . . . They're into it too, you know? They're on their feet for the dances. If you say [the name of] a piece, they're going to all start screaming because it's their favorite one. They know about us. They know where I'm from, little things, you know, from watching the show and they're into it. And they have signs and they're all standing up. They're screaming during the routines, and the energy from the crowds is just so amazing."
But isn't all that touring even more stressful than being on the TV show? "Oh, no, no, no, no, not at all, it is not, no," Boyd said emphatically. "The tour is just pure fun. We go out there and we do what we love to do and we just perform. We don't have to worry about people going home every week. We don't have to worry about what the judges say. We don't have to worry about the Bottom 3," Boyd said. "We just go out there, and we're here, all the contestants, until the end of the tour. We don't have to worry about going home early. And so it's just very carefree. And it's so much fun."
ALL WORK AND NO PLAY?
"Oh, no, no, no," Boyd said. "Sometimes we get days off and we all go to the movies or we all go walking." When the group was in Miami, some of them went Jet Skiing. "And we have some fun times when we all go out to eat. It's a great time," Boyd said, adding, "It's not all just working, we get to see America. How many 18-year-olds can say that they are doing that?"
REGRETS, HE HAS A FEW
A show piece Boyd would have liked to perform on tour was his Spencer Liff-choreographed Broadway routine with Jose Ruiz set to "From This Moment On." "I felt that was such a great number. It was so much fun to perform, but I don't think it was right [for the tour] - it was very good for television, but I don't think it'd be good live [in concert]," Boyd said. "So maybe that was one of the reasons it didn't make it. . . . Some routines are just made for television and it would look different for a crowd. . . . And also there's an order in the show, you have to find balance. You can't have all one style of dance. So there are a lot of things that go into the tour, because it's a show."
And there were people he would have liked to have worked with more or just didn't get a chance to work with at all. "I really wanted to work with tWitch [Boss] again. I really wanted a Nappytabs number, but that never happened. I think I would have loved working with Mark [Kanemura]."
COMING UP NEXT
Boyd has already taped a guest spot for "Shake It Up" a dance-driven sitcom series premiering on Disney Channel on Nov. 7 (the air date for Boyd's episode has not been announced). "I had a couple of lines, but I danced mainly. My management, they're trying to get me into more acting. . . . I'm going to start acting classes and I'm going to be branching out, because I feel you need to be a versatile performer."
After the holiday season, Boyd said he plans to head back to Los Angeles to explore his options. "I'm really just wide-eyed and bushy-tailed. . . . So right now I'm willing for anything and I'm so excited to start."
WHERE | WHEN Friday, 7:30 p.m., Nassau Coliseum
INFO 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com