Alexis Warr Is America’s Favorite Dancer!
When Alexis Warr heard her name announced as the winner of “So You Think You Can Dance” Season 17, her knees buckled beneath her, and as she hit the ground she thought, “I can’t believe I actually did it!” For most of her life, “SYTYCD” had been at the top of her list of dance dreams, but for years her own insecurities (and then a pandemic) got in the way of her actually auditioning. Yet here she was, standing onstage in front of a live studio audience, wearing the crown that so many of her idols had worn before her.
Warr’s dance history began at 7 years old, with ballet and jazz classes at Center Stage Performing Arts Studio in Orem, Utah. By 13 she’d added ballroom to her tool kit, unlocking the style that would eventually catapult her to professional success. Not long after graduating from high school she booked “Derek Hough Live! The Tour,” followed by the “Maks & Val: Stripped Down” tour, Derek Hough’s No Limit Las Vegas residency and the “Dancing with the Stars Live” tour.
All the while, Warr heard the siren call of “SYTYCD” auditions. But for two consecutive seasons she couldn’t pull the trigger on her submission. “I was scared of putting myself out there, and worried I wouldn’t be good enough,” she says. The production pause during COVID robbed her of the opportunity to submit for a third year, so when auditions finally went up for the current season, she knew she couldn’t wait any longer. “I was on tour with ‘DWTS’ at the time, so I put on a costume and went on the stage to film a little ballroom combination,” she says. The submission was enough to get her an in-person audition, which led to an entire season of charming producers, judges and audiences alike. Although she spent two weeks in the bottom three or four, her electric stage presence, iron-clad technique, seamless movement quality and jaw-dropping acrobatics sustained her through the season until she could clinch the coveted title.
We spoke with Warr about her journey to her dreams, her favorite moments from the show and what she hopes to accomplish next.
Dance Magazine: How did it feel to finally audition in front of the judges?
Alexis Warr: It was surreal to be on that side of the screen for a change. I walked on that stage and was blown away. I chose to do the routine with my first-ever ballroom partner [and previous “SYTYCD” contestant], Ezra Sosa. I flew to L.A. and taught him the choreography the day before the audition. He’s my best friend who really understands me as both a dancer and a person, and I knew he could both help me shine and calm me down. I swear I blacked out during the actual performance, but once we got our feedback I was overwhelmed with emotion. I looked at my husband and sister in the audience and started crying.
DM: How did you approach the competition?
AW: My goal was to take things one week at a time rather than think about how far I could go. I wanted to have a different experience from my time in the competition world. In that world you are either trying to win or beat your last ranking. I didn’t want that. I wanted to enjoy my time with each choreographer and partner, and knew I would be happy with however far I went so long as I gave it my all.
DM: Which numbers from the show have left the most lasting impact on you?
AW: The first week’s performance was super-meaningful to me. It was my dream to work with Talia Favia, and dancing with Keaton [Kermode] felt like a dream. He is such a strong dancer, and despite never partnering together we were instantly in sync. The piece was emotional and personal, and before we took the stage, we had a heart-to-heart. Together we decided to trust ourselves and just enjoy the moment. I’ve done a lot of routines onstage before—hundreds, even—but that was the most magical time I’ve ever had up there.
And, of course, dancing with Carter [Williams], my lifelong best friend, was incredible. We had been dying to dance together all season, so when we finally had the chance, we were ecstatic. Not only that, but Robert [Roldan] created a safe space for us to dance about the most sensitive subjects in our lives. By the end of the experience, it felt like we had healed wounds. Connecting that piece with a personal story was a turning point for me, and it changed the way I approached every dance afterward.
DM: What was it like to be crowned America’s Favorite Dancer?
AW: Incredible! “SYTYCD” has always been my ultimate dream, but it was hard to believe I could really win. I’d had other goals in life that for one reason or another didn’t pan out. I came up short, or was just almost there. So the fact that this was my biggest dream ever, and it came true, is insane. I wish I could go back and tell little Alexis admiring the dancers on her TV that it is all so worth it.
DM: What’s next for you?
AW: I want to conquer more bucket-list dreams of mine. I would love to be on “DWTS.” I would love to come back as an All-Star on “SYTYCD.” I want to do shows and grow my art. My husband and I are moving to L.A. this month, and I’m ready to just go with the flow and make more dance memories. Mostly, though, I hope my story can touch others who might also struggle with self-confidence. I want them to see me and my journey and feel hope that they can achieve their dreams too.