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Las Vegas street dancer wins ‘So You Think You Can Dance’

DuShaunt “Fik-Shun” Stegall, an 18-year-old dancer on the Strip — as in the sidewalks in front of the casinos — will draw bigger crowds now as the winner of “So You Think You Can Dance.”

The Fox TV dance contest ended with Stegall drawing more viewer votes than Aaron Turner, a 25-year-old Las Vegan and son of Las Vegas showman Earl Turner. Both, however, will join female winner Amy Yakima and other finalists for a live touring version of the show that will visit 42 cities, though Las Vegas is so far not one of them.

Perhaps fearing limited interest in the manner of a Major League Baseball “Subway Series,” the TV dance contest did not go out of its way to play up the shared area code and Las Vegas Academy ties of the two male dancers.

The TV narrative instead focused on their differences.

Turner is the versatile, studio-trained dancer who now teaches at Bunker Dance Center, where he first started taking classes when he was 7.

Stegall is a street dancer, flexing his hip-hop moves for dollars from pedestrians in the tourist corridor.

Turner danced in the short-lived Las Vegas production “Stomp Out Loud.”

Stegall worked at Jamba Juice in the Fashion Show mall.

“I think technically I’m still employed there,” Stegall said with a laugh in an interview last week, before the summerlong dance contest’s Tuesday finale at CBS Television City in Los Angeles. Now he will take home more than $100,000 in prize money and will be paid for the tour.

To make the competition even more Vegas-centric, Napoleon and Tabitha D’umo, two of the choreographers who put the contestants through their weekly performance numbers, taught Turner as a lad when they were Bunker instructors.

When Turner made it into the show’s Top 20 in June, “I pretty much cried,” Tabitha D’umo says.

After Tuesday’s finale, though, Tabitha D’umo said she and Napoleon were “emotionally on the fence” about the results. But she figured the voting base of the show’s viewership responded to Stegall’s youth. “When I look at Aaron to me, he looks more like a man. … His look and character and demeanor I think appeal to an older audience.”

Stegall, she said, is “young and adorable and can cross over to both. I think that maybe that had something to do with it, because when you go back and look at their performances they were both really strong.”

“I don’t think Aaron will suffer much from not winning,” she added. “He’s going to use this to catapault his dance career I’m sure.”

After the show, Turner met reporters with Jasmine Harper, the female runner-up.

“The whole experience was so back and forth I had to think both ways. There was a possibility of me winning and a possibility of me coming in second,” Turner said after the show. “Of course there’s disappointment because I’m a competitor, I wanted to win. But at the same time I’m not so unhappy that it takes away from my overall experience.

“I’m proud of Fik-Shun,” he added. “We all became so close. I’m a huge fan.”

“I never took (studio) classes,” Stegall said by phone last week. “Everything I’ve done for my style I’ve picked up on the streets, from dancing with other people, meeting them on the Strip, going to sessions and battles” in Las Vegas’ thriving break-dance community.

Stegall’s father, Cali Stegall, operates a martial arts studio in Pahrump. The family moved to Las Vegas when DuShaunt was in sixth grade. After two years at Bonanza High School, Stegall attended the Las Vegas Academy for his junior and senior year, graduating in 2012.

Cali Stegall and wife Arie watched the finale from the risers of Studio 36, a few rows from Turner’s parents, Earl and Christine, and dance legend Ben Vereen. Afterward, Cali Stegall said he thought his son went into the two-hour finale as an underdog. “He pulled it out,” he said. “He can do anything he puts his mind to.”

“I actually did get in (to the Academy) for dance, but just barely,” Fik-Shun said last week. “I was in the lower classes all the time, so it wasn’t really much. When they had me doing my own thing I’d always do hip-hop. I wasn’t hard core into the other styles.”

Nigel Lythgoe, the show’s producer and main judge, repeatedly said the young dancer makes up in showmanship what he lacks in technique.

“I try to be as good a technician as I can be, but I haven’t trained on that level of dancers who have done this for so many years and grew up in studios,” the young dancer said. “For me, I just figure if I can’t get the technique down then I’m gonna perform it as if I was on the Strip. That’s where I relate everything.”

The name Fik-Shun came from a fellow street dancer at Bonanza High. The friend told him, “Honestly, dude, when you moves it looks unreal. Your body doesn’t look like it’s connected to itself.”

Stegall said he only decided to try out for “Dance” two weeks before auditions.

“Come to find out if you make it to the next round you have to do all these other styles,” he said. “I was not ready for that at all.”

“My whole idea coming into this was I’m going to take what I got and see how far I can go with what I got,” he said last week. “No matter how much lack of technique you have, when you do go your hardest you can get the results that you want. Push myself to the max and always go as hard as I can.”

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