America finally picked its favorite dancer on “So You Think You Can Dance” Season 11. The Sept. 3 finale saw 18-year-old Ricky Ubeda win the Fox reality competition after spending weeks as the fan favorite, beating out runner-up Valerie Rockey, who was Ubeda’s dance partner in Week 1 of “SYTYCD.”
Ubeda started dancing at age 9 and began technique training at age 12. Just this spring, he graduated from Coral Reef Senior High School, an arts magnet school, which furthered his dance training. The Miami native specializes in contemporary dance, which concerned the judges at his audition. Judge Nigel Lythgoe worried that he only “dabbled” in forms of classic dance, but Ricky wowed both judges and fans as he performed each week. In his final week before fans cast their votes, Ubeda performed hip-hop, jazz and African jazz dances as well as two contemporary dances.
Ubeda’s combined talent and likability is unusual for a “So You Think You Can Dance” winner, according to judge Mary Murphy. “I don’t think he ever took a wrong step basically all season,” Murphy told Entertainment Weekly. “It’s never usually the best dancer, it’s often the favorite dancer [who wins], but this year it happened to be both all wrapped up into one!”
The win wasn’t as easy as Ubeda made it look. “Every time before I step on that stage, I cry like a little baby,” he told the Miami Herald. “It’s the most challenging process ever. You want to give your best, and your body, your mental state are pushed past their limits. You go to new levels of stress and pressure you never thought possible.”
Ubeda managed the emotional distress for more than just a title (though "America’s Favorite Dancer" probably looks great on a résumé), winning $250,000 and a cover shoot for Dance Spirit magazine. He also has an offer to appear in the Broadway production of "Our Town" after he joins the “SYTYCD” Top 10 on a U.S. tour.
Relive Ricky’s "So You Think You Can Dance" audition below:
Were you happy with Ricky’s win? Or did you want America to pick a different favorite dancer? Sound off in the comments section below!