After Nick Lazzarini won the first season of So You Think You Can Dance he went on to become the first person ever to appear on the cover of Dance Spirit twice. But in a lot of ways, Lazzarini's accomplishments have been overshadowed by those of later SYTYCD contestants, including his good friend, Travis Wall, who went on to become an Emmy nominated choreographer for SYTYCD and Dancing With the Stars.
Now Lazzarini and Wall have joined forces with two friends and Oxygen Network to star in the new reality series, All The Right Moves. In this exclusive interview with About.com, Lazzarini tells Diane Anderson-Minshall about his new dance company, being bullied as a gay youth and what it's like to be in Travis Wall's shadow.
You were the first winner of So You Think You Can Dance. Did you have any idea at the time how big the show would end up being?
No, at the time we were the guinea pigs for the show. They actually had a totally different format for the show with a point system. We filmed the entire first episode and at the end the producers were like, "We hate it! We're bringing you guys back in two weeks, after we reformat the show." It wasn't until the 5th or 6th show that we were being recognized when we went out. Which for dancers--who are always in the background of things--was something really special.
How have shows like SYTYCD changed the dance industry?
Before SYTYCD there wasn't a place for contemporary dance in the commercial industry. Now, because of the popularity it's gained through the show, dancers like me--who aren't hip hop dancers--have a booming career in commercial dance.
Fellow So You Think You Can Dance star Travis Wall has said that the show has been tough on gay dancers. What has your experience been like on the show and in the dance industry at large? Have you experienced homophobia?
I don't think SYTYCD has been tough on gay dancers I just think it's been tough on male dancers who dance effeminately; which is something that my dance teachers have always taught me to avoid. It has nothing to do whether you're gay or not. No one likes to watch a man dance like a woman--not even me.
Of course when I was a kid I got teased and bullied, but now I look at where I am and think, "Wow, that was such a small part of my life. Look at all the exciting things I'm doing." In fact the guy who made my life a living hell in school saw a friend of mine right after I had won SYTYCD. He was working at In-N-Out Burger and told my friend, "I used to make so much fun of that kid, and now look at him. He just kicked ass and made a bunch of money on a national television show doing what I made so much fun of him for; and I work at In-N-Out--."
I met all the boys through a number of dance competitions growing up as a kid. I only ever competed against Travis but we were really little. I was 12 and he was nine. I think Teddy and I met when he was 11 and Kyle was 12. Travis and I reconnected again when I was 19 and he was 16 and we've literally been inseparable ever since.
Why did you guys decide to start your own dance company--Shaping Sound?
Travis, Teddy, and I worked together [choreographing] Travis' first piece on Dancing With the Stars. It was a dream job. Getting to dance with your best friends, doing work that you believe so much in was a dream come true. At the party we had that night to celebrate we all thought, "We should do this every day of our lives. How could we do that? We need to start a dance company where we can hire all of our best friends and give them jobs!"
What makes Shaping Sound different from other dance companies?
I think we're the first commercial dance company out there. We aren't limited to one style of dance either. We do hip hop, jazz, contemporary, and modern. We want to do television, stage, music videos, and movies. We want to do it all. I think there's really something for every member of a Shaping Sound show's audience to love.
On the first episode of All the Right Moves someone suggests that you guys name your new dance company after Travis Wall, to capitalize on his name recognition. Is it difficult to have a friend and co-founder get more attention?
It's difficult but it's something that Teddy and I have had to deal with for a while now. Travis is the superstar choreographer and people know that. What they don't know is that we're a family and Shaping Sound is our baby and nothing will change that.
On the show you flirt a lot with one of the guys, who you call your "work boyfriend." Are you an equal opportunity flirter or is something going on there?
I wish! Kyle is my 'straight boyfriend.' He's such a good sport about it too. Poor thing. I'm kind of aggressive, but only because I know he can take it. At heart I'm a hopeless romantic.
What can viewers expect to see on All the Right Moves (other than four hot guys)?
Great dancing, lots of drama and a look behind the scenes at our lives and our careers.
Is there anything else you'd like readers to know about you and/or All the Right Moves?
Get ready for a really entertaining season. We poured our hearts into this show and we just hope everyone loves it as much as we do!
All the Right Moves airs on Oxygen Tuesdays, 10/9PM Central starting August 21, 2012.