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Celeb Scoop: Legacy (from SYTYCD Season 6)

By It's My Life on February 11, 2010 4:24 PM | No TrackBacks

image001.jpgFans of "So You Think You Can Dance" on Fox will probably never forget Jonathan "Legacy" Perez, the amazing, often emotional street dancer who won over viewers with his earnest, hard-working personality and ability to tackle every dance style thrown at him. Although Legacy didn't ultimately win the title of "America's Favorite Dancer," he was definitely a lasting star of the show.

Recently, we chatted with Legacy about his journey so far and how he hopes his dancing inspires young people to go for their dreams. What a cool, sweet, just-plain-nice guy he was!

IML: Can you tell us a bit about what you've been doing since SYTYCD ended?

Legacy: Right now I have a movie that just came out called "B-Girl," about a girl who has a tough time in NY, moves to the West Coast, finds a dance crew and they accept her. I'm one of the characters in that movie. I also have a small role in "Step Up 3D," which comes out in August, and I'm going to be dancing on the Oscars show with Adam Shankman. Right now I'm mostly doing some choreography and taking acting classes.

IML: So your career has definitely gotten a kick-start!

Legacy: Oh, big time!

IML: What's it been like to meet fans? What kinds of things do they say to you?

Legacy: Because I'm a street performer and I still get out there, I meet a lot of people who come up to me and express how my being on the show has influenced them. People really responded to the fact that I'm not technical and the whole show revolves around that. Being technical is not a mandatory thing, but if you can pull it off and you have ambition and drive and you want to learn and your personality shows, they bring you on the show. It was like diving head first without knowing what I was going to encounter. It was really crazy for me and it made people say, "If he can do that, as a person and as a dancer...and humble himself and just jump right in not knowing if he's going to look stupid doing a waltz or whatever, it's going to help me find what I'm going to do, not caring what anybody says, but because I have a desire." I think they found hope in themselves because of Legacy the street dancer going in there and being positive and taking obstacles and making them opportunities. I get emails from kids saying, "I don't even dance but I'm taking dance classes now." People are sometimes scared of dancing because they think you have to look cool, but really it's just movement to music and everybody has that, and I think if they connect to that part of themselves, it helps you in life. It's like a release.

IML: What were a couple of the most memorable moments from your time on the show?

Legacy: My contemporary piece with Kathryn, and seeing the judges' reaction to the piece. A lot of people were saying that when I got praised during the show, I would look down. I'm not used to listening to praise. I come from a circle of friends; we're all B-boys and street dancers, everybody's from the hood. I come from a really bad part of Miami. I'm used to people saying, "It's cool, whatever." They're not going to say, "You look amazing!" That's a whole other world. So I'm hearing that, looking down, thinking, "What are they saying? How should I be acting?" I thought that was the most memorable moment because it actually allowed me to give thanks and appreciate how the world was seeing my conviction and my desire. I felt like that was my biggest accomplishment. The fact that I stayed on longer than anybody expected -- people thought I'd be out the first or second week. So when I got praised by the judges I thought, now I have to do even better next time. I have to do better not just for me but for the viewers, because when they see me do better, and try to get better, then maybe they'll try to do the same!

IML: Hearing praise is hard for a lot of people. Are you better at it now?

Legacy: Now, it's just a conscious decision of making it not about me. Because in the end, you're doing what you're doing because you want to learn and share with people. If I had my talent and lived in a jungle by myself, it would be meaningless. The only reason dancing means something to me is that people are watching and saying, "Wow if he did it, I can do it."

IML: Tell us about how you got started dancing. How old were you?

image007.jpgLegacy: I was 15 -- that's kind of late. I was supposed to be a professional soccer player. My dad was a pro player in Colombia and he taught me when I was 4 years old, and I was playing all the time. That was my life. Then all of a sudden, I had an injury where I broke my hand and I had a cast, and the only ting I could do was go to the skating rink and skate around the rink. In the middle of the rink there were people breaking, so I'd stop and look and be like, "Whoa, what is that?" As soon as my cast came off, I was like, "I want to be the best at this." I still feel like I'm trying to become that because you can never be the best, just the better version of yourself.

IML: Did you take dance classes?

Legacy: Nope, no classes at all back then. I learned everything on the street. I used to get cardboard and put pieces of tape together and tape it down in the pool area and just dance for 8 hours. As a B-boy you're taught to pick up other people's movements and switch them around to make them your own. And in a sense, being on SYTYCS was difficult because choreography is all about imitating the choreographer who's teaching you the routine. It was weird for me to be like, "I need to look like everybody else right now." But adding your character to make it yours, that's the difference. I started being interested in choreography about 3 years ago, and took one class. I did awful, and I stayed in the back of the room. I felt like an idiot during the first 8 count and stopped taking the class. But I eventually took 5 or 6 classes where I slowly figured it all out.

IML: When you were 15 and started breaking, what did your non-dancing friends think? Did you have soccer buddies who gave you a hard time?

Legacy: Some of them teased me a little to show off. But I surrounded myself with other B-boys, and we always rolled together. When you're a dancer and you're young, it's like you're a superhero. People were like "Oh my God, you can spin on your head?" People were amazed at what we could do and I felt like the coolest kid. I surrounded myself with people who were great and made me look good even when I wasn't.

IML: It sounds like you gained a lot from coming into that community and having dance in your life. How else did it help you in those years right after you started?

Legacy: It gave me courage and it gave me the ability to attack anything else. Because breaking, it's not easy at all! I'm a big fan of, "Anything you put your mind to, you can accomplish." They call me Legacy because my skill level was up to par with people who'd been dancing for 3 years when I was just dancing for 8 months. Someone came up to me when I'd just won 2nd place in a competition and was like, "You just took out all these amazing people...somebody must have passed on the legacy to you." I like that idea, but I interpret it like I'm living up to that expectation, so I don't get overconfident. It gave me that ability to say, "You know what, I can do this. I'm going to play tennis...I'm going to add my style to it and get good at it. Okay, let me try to play the piano..."Whatever it was, I had certain confidence that I could do it. I mean, once you spin on your head, you're like "Anything is possible"!

IML: Why do you think it's important for young people to get involved in some kind of artistic expression?

Legacy: I think the arts can be challenging, and to be really good at something, you have to put your whole soul, mind, and body into it and drive yourself. The greatest things come from obstacles. Then when you add in everything you have as a human being and figure out any art, like drawing or music or even just listening to music, I think you find yourself.

IML: What were you like in middle school?

Legacy: In 5th grade I loved the physical fitness exam and I got a gold medal plaque because I'd done the most pull-ups of anybody! I wanted to be fit and run the mile, and each time I'd try to beat my time. I used to play the piano back then too. I was just very ambitious about learning and eager to figure out what life was about. My mom was Buddhist so I was figuring out what was what about different religions. I was into MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice who were out at that time. I wasn't really a trouble kid; I had straight A's. I had an older brother who was like the cool kid, when I was in 6th grade he was in 8th. I always felt like I had to earn my position and the fact that I had to earn it felt good.

IML: Who were your role models back then?

Legacy: When I was younger, my father was my role model. Just because he played soccer and taught me, and the way he taught me made it seem like nothing was impossible. He's the reason why I'm ambidextrous when I dance. He'd give me $20 a week and take me to play soccer and every time I touched the ball with my right foot he'd take a dollar from me. So I became lefty, and when I was able to use both I was stronger on my right side. I was eventually able to make goals from any angle of the field, and became the team "secret weapon," and that's all thanks to my dad. I also had uncles who were kind of famous in my 'hood because they had the truck that would move up and down, with a big bass. I loved them, they'd pick me up from school and I'd feel like the coolest kid. My brother was also a role model.

IML: If you could leave IML'ers with one piece of advice, what would it be?

Legacy: Do what you love, and love what you do!

IML: Thanks, Legacy, and good luck!

Legacy: Thank you!

If you missed Legacy's performances on SYTYCD Season 6, you can catch them online at

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