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Meet Ricky Ubeda, the winner of TV’s “So You Think You Can Dance” who will be performing in Cleveland

Meet Ricky Ubeda, the winner of TV’s “So You Think You Can Dance” who will be performing in Cleveland

Roy Berko

(Member:  Dance Critics Association)

When the tour of “So You Think You Can Dance” comes to the Connor Palace Theatre in Cleveland on October 20, it will expose the local community to the top ten contestants and some of the other dancers who got the attention of the judges.

Since its premiere in 2005, “So You Think You Can Dance,” has been a television sensation. Created by Simon Fuller and Nigel Lythgoe, the show, which is a multi Primetime Emmy Award winner, has sparked the nation’s interest in dance and produced some top-ranked performers.  Many of the dancers have gone on to professional careers, including a number presently appearing in Broadway’s NEWSIES and hopefully in Cleveland when that show comes to town as part of the Key Bank Broadway series

A panel of dance experts select 20 dancers to appear in a competition.   They then whittle the number down to a final 10.  The jurists, plus votes by viewers, then select a winner.

The performers, who come from a variety of  dance styles including classical, contemporary, ballroom, hip-hop, street, jazz, tap and musical theatre perform all the genres on their march toward stardom.   Interestingly, two of the four 2014 finalists, were mainly tap dancers.

This year’s winner was Ricky Ubeda, who won a cash stipend of $250,000 and the offer of a part in the forthcoming Broadway production.

I interviewed Ubeda, who was in Los Angeles, during the rev-up to the national tour.  He indicated that he started hip hop dancing around age 12.  Raised by a single Cuban mother who “has always encouraged me to be myself, especially in dance, and be a leader,”  he was also “fortunate to go to Coral Reef High in South Miami.”  It has “a liberal atmosphere and advocates for being yourself.”  “There was no harassment over dancing.  In fact they had a co-ed dance team.  The attitude was, if you are talented, you were a hero. It definitely wasn’t like other schools.”

During the “So You Can Think You Can Dance” telecasts, Ubeda showed a great deal of emotion and emotional vulnerability, both as a dancer and in receiving comments from the judges.  Reminded that this is somewhat unusual for a male, he stated, “My mom was always open and vulnerable.  She taught me that it’s a beautiful thing to let the emotions show.”

Ubeda showed both amazing discipline and breath of ability in each of the dance styles.  He contends that his training helped, but that, in fact, “I was never taught half those styles.”  He contends that “having each choreographer for one and one-half hours the first day and five hours the second day, and then having the duets practice a lot on their own,” helped him hone his skills in each style.

Ricky is grateful to Miami’s Stars Dance Studio who held fundraisers and watch parties during the competition to raise money to send his mom, his siblings, his aunt and his best friend to the shows each week.

As for the competition itself, I probed whether he felt pressure since he was dubbed the potential winner by the judges from the first show on.  He stated, “it put pressure on me, but I listened to the judges’ feedback and took it as an opportunity to improve.”

What was the most difficult challenge he had during the competition?

“The physical exhaustion near the end was tremendous.  The stress and pressure added up.  There were times when we all felt that we just couldn’t keep going.  By the final four shows, we were all absolutely exhausted.” Also, since “we were a tight-knit group, and relationships formed as the competition went along, when friends were voted off it was tough.”

The top ten and some additional dancers, who were eliminated earlier, are going on a 75-city tour, which opens in New Orleans on October 1, 2014, and lasts until mid-February.  Each of the top routines will be included.  “Choreographer Mandy Moore will put the show together. All of the dancers are getting paid.”

After the tour, Ubeda has many decisions to make.  As the competition’s winner, he has have been offered a part in Broadway’s “On The Town.”  As of now, he plans to take the part.  He has already met the cast and has “an interest in getting to know Broadway.”

As for the prize money, he plans to “invest it, life’s crazy, you have to have backup.”

Ricky Ubeda is a dynamic and talented young man.  His future looks bright.

To get tickets to see Ubeda and the rest of the 2014 “So You Think You Can Dance” top ten, on Monday, October 20 at the Connor Palace (formerly the Palace Theatre), call 216-241-6000 or go to