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  • Writer's pictureKristyn Burtt

‘World Of Dance’ Secrets: How Kyle Van Newkirk Approached His Duel Against Les Twins

Kyle Van Newkirk-World of Dance

Photo credit: Jordan Matter

NBC touted this week’s episode on World of Dance as the duel between “David versus Goliath.” The promo had every dance fan waiting all week to find out if the underdog beat the giants. While Les Twins are continuing on to the next round, 21-year-old Kyle Van Newkirk gave a valiant fight every step of the way.

Van Newkirk, who was contacted by casting to submit a video audition and attended the callbacks in Los Angeles, is nonetheless thrilled about his World of Dance experience.

“They brought in a lot of people viewers don’t know. It’s great that they reached out to people like me, The Mihacevich Sisters and Diana Pombo because we are starting out in the dance field,” says Van Newkirk to Dance Network. “They saw us on YouTube, or they saw us at a performance, it’s been a great experience for us.”

He started out dancing at the age of six with a supportive mother and a dad who wasn’t too sure how to feel about a son who dances. Classes at a recreational studio turned into more formal classes at Dance Dimensions in Longmont, Colorado.

At the age of 17, his attitude towards tap changed when he attended his first tap fest. Van Newkirk realized he was ready to make this his career and that’s when he began to train in New York and LA.

Kyle Van Newkirk-World of Dance

Photo credit: Jordan Matter

Van Newkirk does credit his Colorado-based dance teacher Tiffany Taskey for laying down a solid foundation before he sought additional instruction from Emmy-nominated choreographer Anthony Morigerato and Jason Janas.

“She used to tell me, ‘You have to practice almost every day in order to perfect your craft or you can be a recreational dancer. If you want to do this professionally, practice it. If this is what you love, do it.’ “ he explains.

That work ethic led him to try to become the first soloist to win a gold medal for the U.S. at the World Championships of Tap in 2014. He placed third, but he knew on his flight home that a bronze medal wasn’t going to be good enough for his competitive self.

“My competitiveness was kicking back in. I had to go back and I had to be better. I couldn’t be third or second, I had to be first,” Van Newkirk says. “I sent Anthony a message and asked him to give me his hardest dance. I wanted something fast, something technical and something that the judges would ask, ‘How the heck did he do it?’ “

That drive is what led him to win the 2015 World Championships of Tap and it’s what motivated him in his battle on with Les Twins on World of Dance. Van Newkirk was surprised when he heard his name called by Les Twins because he assumed they were going to pick Fik-Shun, but the hip-hop duo had a different strategy in mind.

“I figured I would go up against Pasión since they are a flamenco group. It would be the same matchup,” he explains. “As soon as that moment happened and I was picked by Les Twins, I thought about my routine and what I had to do to give them a perfect matchup because I am going up against the legends of dance.”

World of Dance battles

Photo credit: Justin Lubin/NBC

Van Newkirk started from scratch again and again. He added the cane and eventually went through five versions of his dance. He sent the video of his rehearsals to his mother, Morigerato and Janas.

He was worried enough about the piece that he couldn’t even sleep until watching Fred Astaire’s “Firecracker Dance” from the 1942 film Holiday Inn and Puttin’ on the Ritz that he found his inspiration.

“I had taken apart that piece about a year before, so I was able to utilize some of the cane work because I knew I could have fluid movement in the dance,” he shares. “I thought it would be a great addition.”

He was able to work with supervising choreographer Tessandra Chavez, who made some suggestions and Van Newkirk went back to rehearse and finalize the movement.

“I knew if I was going up against Les Twins, I had to give 200%,” he says. “When it happened, I was nervous, but as excited as can be. I was completely in the zone.”

At the end of the piece, Van Newkirk remembers the roar of the audience and the supportive cheers from Les Twins, but it was the judges who made the biggest impact.

“In this round, they had no criticism. They were amazed that I came back with a new routine completely different from the qualifying round and they knew I had put everything into it,” reminisces the tap dancer. “Hearing from Derek Hough how hard it is to work with a prop because he knows the cane can own you in a dance that’s the scary thing.”

When it was Les Twins’ turn, Van Newkirk was in awe of what he saw and yes, that does include that final swag move in the dance that predicted their triumphant win over Van Newkirk in the duel.

Kyle Van Newkirk tap dancer

Photo credit: Jordan Matter

“It was really impressive. They were honoring the fact they were going up against a tap dancer and the closest thing to doing that is with their house hip-hop dance. Right at the end, I was thinking, seriously, dude!” he laughs.

Van Newkirk was naturally disappointed to end his run on the show, but he knows this is a huge stepping-stone in his career. Fans can expect to see Van Newkirk at some of the upcoming World of Dance Tour dates and he’s anticipating a move to LA in the fall to fully pursue his dance career.

Van Newkirk knows he is walking away from his World of Dance experience quite inspired — it’s given him a new sense of confidence in his career.

“As soon as that moment happened and I walked off the stage, I wasn’t sad. I was emotional, but I remember thinking that this was one of the greatest things I have done. I went out and I wasn’t trying to impress other dancers,” he says. “I set out to express myself fully. It was a moment for me as an artist. There’s more to come.”

Don’t miss Dance Network and Popcorn Talk’s episode of ‘To The Pointe With Kristyn Burtt’ featuring ‘World of Dance’ supervising choreographer, Tessandra Chavez:

Article was originally published on Dance Network.

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