Breaking it Down with SYTYCD Season 12 First Runner Up, Jana ‘JaJa’ Vankova

JaJa and Cyrus Spencer

Season 12 of So You Think You Can Dance just wrapped on September 14. This year, there were two groups of 10 dancers battling it out for the final prize – Stage vs. Street. Top Street dancer Jana ‘JaJa’ Vankova was crowned First Runner Up. Dance Informa was fortunate enough to grab 15 minutes with Jaja to discuss how she feels about her time on the show, her favorite choreographers she worked with, and her future plans and goals. 

JaJa performs a solo routine

JaJa performs a solo routine. Photo courtesy of FOX.

When did you start dancing?

“When I was 10 in the Czech Republic.”

When did you move to the U.S.?

“I moved when I was 18 for dance.”

Was that hard to move from your home country to the U.S.?

“Definitely, because I didn’t speak English, and I was moving alone…my family is not here. And I didn’t have money at the time at all, so it was a very hard time.”

How do you feel about how well you did on this season of So You Think You Can Dance?

“I feel amazing about it. This was a huge opportunity, and I learned so much, and I gained so much knowledge from the show. And it just opened my mind so much about life and dance. I can see things differently in dance right now.”

Who was your favorite partner to dance with on the show?

“I think my favorite partner to dance with on the show was Alex from the Stage part and Cyrus from the Street part, because we are longtime best friends, and he does my style.”

What was your favorite routine you performed this season?

“My favorite routine was the Animation routine with Cyrus.”

Who was your favorite choreographer to work with?

JaJa and Alex Wong

JaJa and Alex Wong perform a Bollywood routine choreographed by Nakul Dev Mahajan. Photo courtesy of FOX.

“My favorite choreographers to work with would be Chris Scott and Stacey Tookey. Not only did they both teach me the choreography, but also they taught me the intention behind the choreography, and they know how to explain the story really well, and how to put the feeling into the choreography. I enjoyed working with them.”

What’s your favorite style of hip hop?

“Animation and crumping.”

Did you grow close to a fellow contestant?

“Oh yes. Yorelis, JJ, Megz, and my friend Lily, who was the first one to be eliminated, is actually my roommate in real life, so it was very cool to have her on the show for a little bit.”

What was the most challenging part of the show this season?

“I think the most challenging thing was to really keep focused and keep pushing and working hard because you have rehearsals every day for 12-14 hours. You’re waking up early in the morning and going to sleep late. And you’re learning a lot of routines, and you have to remember a lot. It’s a lot of pressure on you a lot of the time. So I think not giving up is definitely challenging.”

What are your future dance goals?

“I definitely have projects in mind. I’m very creative, so I want to choreograph some of my own pieces. I would love to choreograph for So You Think You Can Dance in the future. I would love to have my own show or choreograph for Cirque Du Soleil…I would love to do stuff like that.”

Jaja and Virgil Gadson

JaJa and Virgil Gadson perform a Contemporary routine choreographed by Stacey Tookey. Photo courtesy of FOX.

Who are your biggest dance inspirations?

“I would probably have to say my crew, I.aM.mE, because I have been dancing with them for a couple years now and they are my business partners, my best friends, so definitely my crew.”

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

“In ten years, I will be 33, so hopefully I will have a baby by then. I really want to have kids. I’m a family person, and I love babies. But besides that, I definitely want to take off with my career, and I want to direct and choreograph. I want to continue in my freestyle career and grow in that. I would want to go back to the Czech Republic and teach there…I wouldn’t want to move back there, but I would like to visit and teach. I want teach all over the world and inspire and pass the knowledge I have received to the younger generations.”

By Allison Gupton of Dance Informa.

Photo (top): JaJa and Cyrus Spencer perform a Hip Hop routine choreographed by Chris Scott. Photo courtesy of FOX.

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