Melissa Sandvig and Ade Obayomi were partnered up for the first five weeks of So You Think You Can Dance’s fifth season. After a week with new partners when they reached the Top 10, Melissa and Ade were reunited again during the Top 8 week and performed one of the most memorable dances in So You Think You Can Dance history. Coincidentally, Melissa and Ade were eliminated at the same time. The morning after leaving the show, they each opened up about their experience on the show during a press call.
At 29 years old, Melissa Sandvig was the oldest contestant on So You Think You Can Dance, and she was also the first classical ballerina on the show. As a ballerina who hadn’t trained in other styles of dance, almost every style was out of Melissa’s comfort zone. She found the ballroom choreography to be particularly challenging, since that area of dance requires completely different technique than ballet. In regards to tackling the heart-wrenching cancer themed contemporary routine by Tyce Diorio, Melissa said, “With Tyce’s piece, ‘This Woman’s Work,’ that was so much more of an acting piece, an emotional piece, and I really connected with that, and the response that Ade and I got was amazing. So that was one of the high points of this whole process.”
With little airtime during the audition rounds, Melissa was first introduced to the audience as the “Naughty Ballerina” as she made her way into the Top 20 dancers. On breaking the ballerina mold, Melissa said, “I’ve been in this ballet world for so long and we always just kind of do what we’re told and put on a smile and make everything look easy. So it was really fun to kind of throw that away a little bit and put a little bit more personality into it all, and just not be scared of trying new things. That’s how I’ve been for a long time, and it’s pretty amazing to see what you can do when you step out of your comfort zone.”
Often times, football players and basketball stars will enroll in ballet to learn about movement. Melissa further discussed the benefits of ballet, “It requires the most discipline, every movement is so precise, and there’s not a lot of interpretation…having that discipline can take you into other styles of dance, because you know what you’re doing with your body. So working on posture, flexibility and technique in general can help with all the other styles of dance.”
Melissa and Ade made a great pair, with Melissa’s grace and lines and Ade’s strength. Since both Melissa and Ade didn’t receive much airtime during auditions, they didn’t get to know each other well until they were matched together. “He’s a really funny, laid back guy and I’m really laid back too. So our chemistry kind of worked right away. We are both technical dancers and strong dancers, so that allowed us to do a lot of the crazy lifts that we did in some of those numbers…I was very lucky to have him as a partner and I think we complemented each other very well,” Melissa said.
When Melissa isn’t dancing she enjoys spending time with her family, doing stuff outside, going to the beach, doing Pilates, and exercising. In the past, she has danced in a ballet company, so now she’s looking forward to pursuing other styles of dance, doing some work in TV and film, Broadway, and pursuing any other opportunities that arise.
Finally, Melissa would like to say that “making it to the final six has been amazing. I surprised myself and hopefully have inspired other ballet dancers to step out of their comfort zone and see what they can accomplish.”
Ade Obayomi, a 20 year old “contemporary with a hint of hip hop” dancer from Orange County, CA, showed great strength while dancing, and it was something the judges always admired. As the other half of the “This Woman’s Work” breast cancer inspired dance, Ade said, “Seeing the responses from the judges and the audience members and the people at home and all the responses we’ve gotten through e-mails and messages has been incredible and I don’t think we could ask for anything better. We are privileged to have done this piece and share it with the world and bring it to the stage…so it was great to be a part of it, and I’m happy.”
Besides dance, Ade has a passion for sound engineering and DJing. He said that dance and making music “goes hand-in-hand.” His music inspires his dance, and his dance inspires his music. They work together to create art.
Ade has no regrets about his experience on So You Think You Can Dance and wouldn’t do anything differently. “I did my best… I danced from the heart and kind of just left it on the stage that night… I’m just happy I made it this far; top six, that’s pretty good, considering all the dancers that tried out,” Ade commented.
Ade’s dance inspirations are Desmond Richardson, who performed on the show this season, and So You Think You Can Dance Season 2 runner-up Travis Wall. He considers Desmond Richardson as “probably the most incredible male dancer out there right now. His presence and technique, his execution and everything is on fire.” Meanwhile, Ade is inspired by Travis’ return as a breakthrough choreographer on this season of Dance. “He’s so young and he’s already killing [it] and he came from the show, so it’s just anything is possible and he’s one of them that kind of inspires me to dance a little harder and a little more.” Ade wouldn’t mind following in Travis’ footsteps by being a finalist-turned-choreographer for the show. “I love creating and choreographing, and Travis is definitely a prime example of that. He danced on the show and then he went on to choreography and he’s successful and everyone is loving him right now. I would definitely love to follow that path and get into that, because it’s something I like to do.”
The week before Ade was eliminated from the competition was the 100th episode, during which dancers from the first four seasons returned to the show to celebrate. Ade said, “It’s always great to see them come back, because it’s like a huge family. We saw everyone from the first season all the way up to the fourth. So when they come back and showed that they’re still dancing and they’re still killing it, we kind of look up to them, because we’ve seen the show in the past…they tell us about their experience and that they would do it again. And even though it’s hard when we’re in it, when you leave it, you miss it. So it’s nice to hear that, because we kind of get so tired and wrapped up that we forget that we had this amazing opportunity.”
Ade has advice for dancers everywhere- “When you get tired, just keep pushing through, because you might feel tired, but the reward at the end is definitely greater than anything else in the world.”