'SYTYCD' eliminated contestant Billy Bell talks injury: 'It's better to win or lose the competition and be able to dance, than...be like, oh, great, now my knee's completely messed up.'

Billy-Thhink-DanceImage Credit: Mathieu Young/FoxHe’s been labeled a freakish dancer and an androgynous dancer, but the day after being eliminated from So You Think You Can Dance, Billy Bell, 20, seemed to simply be a satisfied dancer. Surprisingly chipper, the contemporary dancer called up EW to chat about his injury, Nigel’s criticism of his decision to sit out, and the routine he’s hoping to reprise on tour. (You’d be surprised!)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How are you feeling?
BILLY BELL
: Yeah. I think Jose and I both felt kind of — I guess “relieved” isn’t the best word. It wasn’t a sad experience. We both had no regrets leaving the competition. I think we were both satisfied with everything that we had done, and how far we had grown. It’s kind of a strange, but happy, experience.

You did make it really far!
Yeah. And, also, we’re going to be back so soon doing the finale, and back again doing the tour. So it’s not like we’re gone for too long.

Is there someone who you were really close to?
Yeah, probably Robert and Lauren were the closest for me. But all of them really. It’s such a tight family, words can’t describe it.

You were a favorite going into the season. Did you ever think you were a lock for the top 3 or top 4?
Actually, the exact opposite ran through my mind. I thought, oh, they’re probably setting me up to cut me. I probably won’t even make the show this year. I thought I was going to get cut in Vegas.

Why?
I don’t know. I felt different this season. I can’t even really explain it. I just felt like I was going to get cut. So I was kind of on pins and needles the whole time.

This has been such a long journey for you, since you were supposed to be part of season 6, before you had to leave. So I’m guessing, if anything, you feel fulfilled that you were able to be big part of season 7.
Oh, for sure. I feel like everything happens for a reason. There was a reason I was on season 6 and I got sick. And there was a reason I was on season 7. I think that if it’s meant to happen, it’s definitely going to happen. I think everything that happened was great.

This year you also had your knee injury. What happened?
I have a slightly torn [section] of my knee. Basically just soft tissue attached to ligaments. So yea. It kind of basically just messed up the tracking in my knee, and was causing me a lot of pain. So I went through a lot of physical therapy throughout the week to get it better, or a little less painful. And I wore a big old knee brace while dancing, and that helped out a lot.

Did you hurt it during a specific dance?
No. I think it was a repetitive use sort of injury. It wasn’t necessarily one specific thing.

It was a bit controversial that you decided not to dance, even though the doctor gave you the go-ahead. What was the reasoning for you sitting out?
My entire reasoning for sitting out was because I’m a huge believer in prevention. And I thought, if I feel something tearing, why am I going to continue to tear it when I can stop, let it heal, and continue in the competition? Especially because, in the grand scheme of things, the show is such a small part of someone’s career. I was just thinking ahead of time. Whether I won or lost the competition. It’s better to win or lose the competition and be able to dance, than win or lose the competition and be like, oh, great, now my knee’s completely messed up and I’ll never be able to dance.

Were you guys more aware of that this season, because of all the injuries suffered on the set?
For sure. As the show was growing, they are becoming more conscious about how their dancers are working, and all of the injuries that are taking place. They’ve been checking in on us, and they’ve been saying, “How do you feel? How is your body?” That was helping out a lot in preventing injury, rather than letting it happen.

Had there been too much dancing this season? It seems like you guys are dancing more than in previous seasons. Are you overwhelmed? Does it feel like too much?
I actually don’t think we are dancing more than any other season. I definitely feel like it is manageable. I actually think it’s just a fluke. It’s something that’s just happening this season that’s never happened in the past. As far as dancing more, I think it’s just — when you put all of your heart into something, there becomes a moment when you stop thinking about yourself, and you start thinking about what you want to do, rather than what you can do. And I think that’s when injuries start to happen, when you’re giving it your all all the time. You forget, like, oh, I guess I do have to take care of my body.

The week you did sit out, it seemed like Nigel was subtly critiquing you for doing so on results night. Did you think that was unfair?
I did feel a little bit of criticism for my decision. I don’t regret it in any way whatsoever. I feel like I made the smartest decision. I was actually kind of upset, because stepping — that was my favorite routine that I had done all season. So to have to sit in the audience and watch tWitch do it was kind of horrible for me. Not going to lie. That was my favorite dance. So that definitely was rough. And then to hear the next day Nigel almost insinuate that I was, like, faking something, was almost like, are you kidding me? But things happen. TV happens. What are you gonna do, right? There’s always certain positions where you’re helpless, and you’re like, Okay. I can’t really say anything.

You experienced a different panel shortly last season with Mary. Did you notice a general difference in mood across the board this season?
I think the difference was pretty evident this season. I feel like with Mia on panel, it kind of has a different edge for the contemporary dancers. Beforehand, you had Adam, Mary, and Nigel. And the three of them aren’t necessarily contemporary or classically trained in ballet. So it was kind of like, okay, you’re taking the criticism as an opinion. Whereas, with Mia, she can tell you something very, very specific. And that will hit home a little bit quicker. I feel like it was easier to take a correction this season.

Did it just feel more constructive?
Oh, for sure. I felt like anything that was said came with good intention. Even if it wasn’t necessarily said in the best way. But it came from somewhere. And that meant you could definitely improve on something.

Last night, Nigel called you an androgynous dancer. Do you think of yourself that way?
You know, I don’t really mind being androgynous. I think anything to set you apart is good. That’s kind of been the hot topic, I feel like. Everyone’s been on this androgynous case. I don’t really mind.

What was your favorite routine of the season, besides the stepping?
The homeless routine that I did with Ade and Stacey Tookey. That was a big moment for me. For some reason, I was just really able to get into the character, and I think it really helped in the performance.

So it was nice to go out with a bang then with that routine, right?
Going out on a high note is way better than going out on a low note. For sure. I was definitely thrilled.

And you’re definitely going on tour, right?
Yes! So excited!

Is there a dance you want to make sure to do on the tour again?
Bollywood was kind of fun. I really liked the krump. Everyone hated on me for the krump, but I really liked it! I mean, I would do the krump again. Why not?

Was there an all-star you enjoyed working with most?
That’s hard. They’re all so different. Probably Kathryn. I knew her from season 6, so I guess I’m a little biased. It was kind of like working with an old friend all over again. It was nice because we partnered in season 6 for the first week, and all of a sudden, we were partners again.

You also knew Robert before the season started. So you came in with a little family.
Yeah, Robert danced for my company, so I knew him for a little while too. I think that made it a lot easier dealing with things. As opposed to having to meet people and test it out to see who you could talk to most, we knew. Going in, we knew each other. We were like, “It will be fine. If you have a problem, come talk to me. Or I’ll come talk to you.”

Who do you think is going to win the whole thing?
It’s so hard! All four have such potential to really take it. I think AdéChiké is gaining so much momentum in the competition, whereas Kent has had it. He’s had the tween support the whole time. They love him. And then Lauren is the only girl, so she’s definitely got a huge chunk of vote right there. And Robert — I kind of think he’s a dark horse. I think he’s going to sneak up. He could take it.

What can we expect next from you after the tour?
I definitely want to start doing more of my own choreography. But at the same time, I want to make sure I have a dance career. I’m pretty much interested in anything and everything. I want to do film, I want to dance on television more. I want to do company work. I want to tour with artists. I want to tour with companies. I want to do it all. I’ll be everywhere.

Would you want to come back and choreograph for the show? Pull a Travis Wall?
Oh yeah, in a heartbeat.

Read more:
‘So You Think You Can Dance’ recap: Double trouble
‘So You Think You Can Dance’ recap: Finally, no injuries!
‘So You Think You Can Dance’ injuries: Is the show working its dancers too hard?

Comments (55 total) Add your comment
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  • Julie Anderton

    Kate, please stop writing “yea.” It’s “yeah.”

    • TruthTell

      Both are correct Joolee. Does stupid physically hurt? Or is it just something you’ve learned to live with?

      • Matt

        Well, aren’t you a delight, TruthTell? Oh, and by the way, you’re actually wrong. “Yea” is pronounced “yay” and is the opposite of “nay.” It technically means “yes,” but that’s clearly not the word used here.

        http://mw4.m-w.com/dictionary/yea

      • Fidz

        “Yea” is pronounced as “yay” and traditionally meant yes. Considering the spelling was changed to “yeah” to show the pronunciation of “yah,” it goes to show she’s not stupid. You, however, look stupid.

      • Samantha

        Thanks, Julie. I’m a spelling freak, too. It’s yeah not yea. Sorry, TruthTell.

  • Sarah El

    I would love for Billy to choreograph for SYTYCD in the future. I would love to see other dancers try to pull some of the moves he does.

    • Alia

      Agreed. He has a unique style about him, and I would love to see other dancers try to take that on and make it their own. Plus, “Billy Bell” is just an awesome name for a choreographer, don’tcha think?

  • Tarotx

    I love Billy. I want to see him dance anytime I can in anything I can.

  • JayK

    Great interview! I’ll really miss Billy, although after being in the bottom so many weeks in a row, clearly America didn’t totally connect and didn’t want to watch him anymore, so I can’t blame the judges’ decision. I absolutely loved Billy’s last two solos and I can’t wait to watch him dance again, wherever he ends up!

    • Alia

      I really love Billy — he’s an amazing dancer — but I still think it was better for him to go home, rather than, say, Robert or Adechike. While he’s probably just as good a dancer as anyone on the show overall, I feel like the others have shown more growth over the course of the season than he has. I mean, the top 5 or 6 are all tremendously talented, but someone had to go home.

      • ger

        I’m really tired of the whole “show more growth” thing. I’d much rather watch a brilliant dancer. I don’t need to see the journey. But then I’m old and cranky, so who really cares, I guess.

  • Jenn

    I love love love Billy Bell. He is such an amazing dancer who does ridiculous things with his body. I really hope in like two seasons they have him come back and choreograph, I know he would do amazingly well.

  • Marci

    Well, gee Julie, I guess she took your advice, I didn’t see a yea anywhere…? Of course, I’m not the grammer police, I was reading for content. And I think Billy is a class act, I’m so glad he didn’t push it and seriously hurt his knee.

    • Kathi

      I guess it would be a bad idea to mention that “grammer” in your post is misspelled. It is grammar. But good try.

  • Ceballos

    It’s too bad for him that he went, but at least it was, as he said, on a high note: that homeless man routine was one of the season’s best. Absolutely stunning.

    I also appreciate the fact that the, for the most part, actually provided answers to Kate’s questions about who his friends were, which routines he likes, who his favorite All-star was, instead of being alarmingly bland and PC.

  • Leigh

    Ahhh. Billy was my favorite this season. Can’t wait to see him on tour!

  • Betsy

    I love Billy, and I love his attitude about the whole season. I hope to see more of him in the future!

  • dee

    Billy did such a a great job this week. Loved his solo last night, too. I’m sorry to see him go.

  • Kevin

    When it was announced that Billy was sitting out the week even though the doctor cleared him, I thought to myself “Smart kid”. He is right – it is better to be precautious and sit out a week, risking elimination, than injuring his knee some more and ruining his hopefully life long career. I do not think Billy needs to worry about work – he proved in his time on the show what a great dancer he is and he will go very far.

  • Gabby

    I like watching Billy dance, he is unique as we witness in solos which he choreographed himself. Like any artist his style is not mainstream so its sometimes hard to appreciate, but I can not wait to see his creative dance pieces in the future.
    I also think they chose to eliminate him because they do not want to risk him re-injuring his knee. We know how demanding top four is. (S5) Josh and Twitch has to be hospitalized and they were in top form. This is a good exit for him. The interview just prove how knowledgeable and mature he is about dance and life.

  • Valley Girl

    Right on, Billy! Don’ stop believin’!

  • Allan

    He should do the stepping routine on tour.

  • strickens_girl

    I love Billy Bell. He’s unique and so amazing to watch. The homeless routine gave me serious chills. I even liked the Krumping routine. I’m glad he’s not taking the androgenous comment as an insult. You go, Billy Bell. I’m be looking for great things from you.

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