After recently wowing the judges on FOX's "So You Think You Can Dance," rhythmic gymnast Rachel Girma is now moving more passionately than ever into her new career as a dancer.
Coached by Olga Putsillo at the Los Angeles School of Gymnastics in Culver City, Calif., Girma placed among the top 12 all-around at the past three U.S. Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships. She was featured in the season premiere of "So You Think You Can Dance" that aired last week on FOX, during which she earned rave reviews from judges Nigel Lythgoe, Adam Shankman and Hi Hat for her audition routine. Remarkably, the 18-year-old Girma developed her routine after only two weeks of dance training for the show.
The judging panel unanimously voted Girma a spot in the Las Vegas call-backs based on her rhythmic-influenced routine that included several intricate turns, flexibility moves and leaps.
“Incredible” and “absolutely fabulous” were among the superlatives that Lythgoe used to critique Girma’s audition routine. “I liked the music, the dynamics of your routine, the strength of it, the performance,” Lythgoe told Girma.
Although Girma was eliminated after the choreography round of the call-back episode that also aired last week, her dance life is just taking flight. In this IG Online interview, Girma describes her experience on "So You Think You Can Dance," and her plan to launch a new career that melds her rhythmic gymnastics talents with her passion for dance.
Rachel Girma was featured on FOX's "So You Think You Can Dance"
IG:With only two weeks to prepare a routine for the “So You Think You Can Dance” audition, how exactly did you decide which moves you'd perform?
RG: Because of my extensive rhythmic gymnastics training at the Los Angeles School of Gymnastics, the transition from gymnast to dancer allowed me to make a spur-of-the-moment decision. Due to impending injuries I decided to pursue the opportunity to try out for "So You Think You Can Dance" and received such great response from the judges, primarily with my rhythmic elements. I saw advertisements for the show and the level of performance, and was confident that I could successfully try out. I started attending dance classes diligently, following my decision to try out for the show, and during that time period, I put together two routines combining rhythmic gymnastics and dance.
IG: Who choreographed your routine?
RG: Most of my technical background was through my instruction with coach Olga Putsillo. However, I personally choreographed the routines, combining my knowledge of both rhythmic gymnastics and dance.
IG: All three of the judges said they were impressed with your leaps and turns, which looks as though they were from your rhythmic routines. How challenging was it for you to perform them without apparatus to handle and on a hard surface?
RG: I think the judges were surprised because they've never seen rhythmic gymnastics before. I'm just glad I had the opportunity to familiarize people with the sport! Going from spinning on a carpet to a hardwood floor was definitely a difficult transition. The fact that I didn't have to perform with apparatus made it easier.
IG: In what ways do you think rhythmic gymnasts are particularly suited for careers in dance in general, or unique opportunities such as "So You Think You Can Dance"?
RG: Rhythmic requires you to be passionate, expressive, flexible and coordinated with apparatus. Dance requires passion and expressiveness but not quite as much flexibility. The thing about rhythmic is that there are so many tricks and elements that the dance world hasn't seen. So it's interesting to mix the two and see people's reactions. The only thing about dance is that there are no rules, so you don't have to worry if you don't hold your arabesque balance long enough!
IG: Now that you have been through the audition process, what advice would you offer to gymnasts who want to audition for this or other shows?
RG: Being a rhythmic gymnast can help make dance routines so interesting because you have such a wide range of elements to choose from. I definitely learned my lesson, though. If you want to try out for "So You Think You Can Dance," take lessons for more than two weeks! The choreography on the show is very intricate and if you aren't somewhat experienced, it can get really stressful.
IG: As a gymnast you are used to performing for judges and audiences, but for this show, you also had to handle the pressure of television cameras and knowing that millions of people would be watching. How did you cope with that during your actual performance?
RG: I've always loved performing for large crowds. I would say competing internationally in rhythmic gymnastics was more nerve-wracking than being in front of the camera! How you see yourself is how others see you, so positivism and confidence are key.
IG: Based on your experience on the show, what steps will you take to further adapt your rhythmic training to other opportunities in the entertainment business?
RG: I want to try out for the show again next year! I'm going to start studying all styles of dance so that I can really be prepared for Season Eight of the show. I have considered getting into acting. For now I am just focused on dance and possibly signing with a talent agency.
IG: How have you managed to stay confident about your skills and potential, despite the negative feedback you received for your last performance in Las Vegas?
RG: I told myself that I really wanted to get past the solo round in Vegas, and I achieved that goal. I knew that with only two weeks of training in choreography, it would be a hard week in Vegas. I'm still happy with how far I got.
IG: What are your plans for future involvement in rhythmic? Will you work in coaching or perhaps do choreography for gymnasts?
RG: Choreographing rhythmic gymnastics routines has always been an interest of mine. When I was younger I would always stay after practice and make up routines. L.A. School of Gymnastics has a long history of allowing its former members a unique opportunity to transition from an athlete to a career coach, and it would be an honor to return to the center as a choreographer or coach in the sport.
IG: In what ways have your rhythmic career, and experience on the show, prepared you for your future challenges in the competitive world of performing arts?
RG: Rhythmic gymnastics has given me life experience and new experiences including goal-setting and discipline. Travel, sportsmanship and performing in front of an audience have prepared me for the performing arts. Being on “So You Think You Can Dance” was definitely a positive real-life learning experience. I'm looking forward more opportunities in this field.
So You Think You Can Dance Official Site
Los Angeles School of Gymnastics Official Site