Henry Byalikov from the Season 14 DWTS Troupe was kind enough to give us an interview and talk about his background and career. He is one of the kindest, most gracious people I have ever had the pleasure of speaking with, and he was very happy and willing to share some of his experiences and insight with us. Thanks to Henry for taking the time to talk with us!
We all know you were a huge hit in Burn the Floor, but how did you actually end up on DWTS and as part of the troupe?
It’s actually kinda funny, I got here in a very unique way. As part of the San Francisco tour in 2009, selected members of the cast were asked to perform in a demonstration on DWTS. I was so excited to be on the show, I remember walking into the CBS studios which is where the live/pre-recorded filming takes place and thinking how much of an honour it was to be performing for the show and how much I wanted to be on the show.
We performed our number in dress rehearsals before the show, and I vividly remember all the Pro dancers were sitting watching…It was very intimidating but exciting all at the same time.
After our dress rehearsals finished a few of us were requested to interview for potential Pro positions. Those few were myself, Peta, Sharna, Sasha and Damian if my memory serves me correctly.
Following the exceptional reception we received for the demo, I got a call later in 2009, from an executive producer regarding a position as a Pro in 2010. I was beyond ecstatic! Unfortunately, the celebrity I was to be paired with had contractual complications that prevented her from participating and as a result my hopes to become a Pro were dashed. I'm sure you can imagine the feeling. So close yet so far!
Nevertheless, in the beginning of this year I received none other than a ‘facebook’ inbox message from another of the executive team, asking if I would like to be a part of season 14. It took me about .0005 of a second to reply.
At the time, I didn’t know what position I’d get to perform on the show, or if I’d even secured anything. Considering past experience I was hoping for the best but expecting the worst.
Literally 2 weeks or less, before the show was to go to air I got the green flag as a Pro Troupe member, so I then proceeded to book flights, accommodation and a car, and here I am!!!
Thank goodness for social media right?
Some of us are familiar with your choreography, but others may not be. Can you tell us what dances you have choreographed on DWTS (or elsewhere if you prefer), and do you have a personal favorite?
I have been fortunate so far, to have choreographed 2 numbers for the Pro Troupe, the first during Rock week for KISS with Mark Ballas, Chelsie Hightower and Oksana Dmetryenko. My second was for Motown week with Kiki Nyemchek, Oksana and Sharna Burgess. It was an honour to be asked so early in the season to choreograph and that was made even better when I got asked to choreograph again for Motown week.
In all honesty I have choreographed quite a lot, so picking a favourite is always difficult. I loved all my work with my Australian DWTS partner Toni Pearen, she was an amazing student and talent, so I was able to really push the boundaries. Everything we did on the show is on Youtube actually, got to love that! I’ve also choreographed a number of stage shows that I, myself perform in, and have enjoyed every number. But if I have to pick one I’m going to pick the one that puts a huge smile on my face and has a significant meaning to me.
It was when I was on SYTYCDAU (So You Think You Can Dance Australia) in Top 12 week. It was the first time I choreographed a number since I decided to come back to dance. Let me give you a quick background so that you can understand the meaning it had to me.
Previous to my appearance as a contestant on SYTYCDAU in 2008, I had decided to give up dancing and make moves into the corporate world, as a result of disillusionment caused by my experiences in competitive ballroom dancing. I stopped competitive dancing in 2005 at the age of 19, so I could focus on my Bachelor of Economics and Finance university degree. After 3 and half long years and an internship with finance and accounting firm KPMG, I was depressed and lost with what I wanted to do. I was teaching dancing at the time, mostly for the fun of it because I loved it, and heard about SYTYCDAU. I was somewhat intimidated to step back into a competitive world especially one as diverse and competitive as SYTYCD is. Somehow, owing to my stubborn ambitiousness I decided on the spur of the moment to audition, I found a partner to audition with and was on my way. Every obstacle that stood in the way was more difficult than the previous but with my strong determination and focus I seemed to plough through. The only thing I was worried about was choreography, as it was so foreign to me. In top 100 week I choreographed a little piece to a Michael Jackson song for our group of 5 and seemed to sit well with the audience and judges. Nevertheless, I thought it was just luck…
As the weeks went by it came to top 12 week and all couples were challenged with creating our own number to 1 out of 3 songs selected by SYTYCD for us to choose.
In the end I decided to theme it as a ‘Teacher and Goofy Student’ routine. I was so nervous about it going right, because the Aussie version of SYTYCD didn’t have a ballroom judge on the panel. The audience reaction was incredible and the performance was so much fun. It was definitely the moment that defined what I wanted to do for the rest of my life!
If you could dance with any of the pros on DWTS, who would it be and why?
I have to say I'm so lucky because I got the opportunity to dance with one of the Pros this week, whom I’ve respected since I first saw him on the show. Derek Hough.
Derek’s choreography is always so well structured and detailed that when you watch you can’t help but love his routines. Working with him for our Trio with Maria, is a dream come true.
I was nervous going into it, but once I settled in the whole experience has been awesome. He was worried about the song choice we got and was not altogether sure as to the theme/story/flow of the choreography/costuming I can totally relate, since it’s week 8 and he’s done SO much already. It’s really difficult to choose the theme for the piece each week. I find it’s like a trickle down effect; once you choose it then the choreography begins to flow, the costumes become obvious and the performance takes shape.
What are your personal favorite ballroom and Latin dance styles? (feel free to explain!)
Short answer they are all my favourites! I think Maks put it well when he said something to the effect of ‘the dance styles are like children, you can’t like one more than the other cause those are your children’. I like to put it like this: I love to express myself through my performance and I love it when people enjoy my expression. Each dance allows me to take on a different shade of myself, thereby allowing me to paint different pictures. Just as a painter might love his paintings in all their diversity, I love each style, not just ballroom and Latin, because of the different emotions, feelings and expressions.
For example, I think of each dance in Latin as a relationship. Cha is the first time you meet someone, you’re all bubbly, happy, nervous and flirtatious. Samba is sort of like the dating period, when you’ve already chosen your partner in whatever capacity makes sense to you, and is the pursuit of lust. Rumba is the dance of lust, the pursuit is over… Paso Doble is the first argument that may or may not end in death or a passionate display of domination. Jive is the make up after the argument, because we all like a happy ending. hehe..
That’s my take and that’s why, the more the better for me!
Tell us about your dance training, and how dance became such an important part of your life?
I think I would be repeating myself if I were to go into details so, I would refer you to look at Q2 for the snapshot of the journey I’ve had.
In a nutshell, my training started when I was 10 years old, as a result of my mum finding out that I was faking being sick to get out of having to dance at the Russian restaurants my friends and family would frequent. This was when I was around 9 and a half. I was born in Australia and have a strong Russian background, as both my parents were born there. This means the Russian restaurant outings are as frequent & important as, for example, going to your favourite baseball team’s game, it’s just the way we roll…lol
This particular Russian restaurant outing was for my then best friend’s birthday party, This time I had no excuse to be sitting down, I had to dance. I remember being frozen with nerves and embarrassing thoughts of my friends laughing at me so I sat, and my best friend's mother came to me and asked why I wasn’t dancing. To which my reply was “I have a headache”. I got home thinking I had gotten away with it, but my mum’s first line of questioning in her typical fashion was “What’s wrong with you? Are you sick? Why have you got a headache!?” My reply was short and to the point, “I don’t want to get up and look like an idiot.” No later than a week, I was in my first dance class and never looked back…
Very quickly you have developed a large fan base and earned an enormous amount of respect both as a dancer and choreographer. How does that make you feel, and how do you stay so grounded?
Firstly, I can’t believe it! I am so blessed and humbled that people have taken to me this fast. It’s always so nerve racking performing to a brand new audience, constantly thinking what their reaction is going to be! Are they going to like what they’re going to see? But my first performance of this season left me with a throbbing headache as a result of my nerves. By nature I am actually quite reserved, almost to the point of being shy.
An important aspect of my life, that I learnt quite early on, was that there was no way that I could do anything for a living without passion. Not just conceptualized passion, but true, pure passion. I love what I do and that’s the only way I can live. If I am doing something because I think it’s the right thing to do, I will, owing to experience, be destined for unhappiness. The fact that I have found what I love and am living it is fantastic, but to pursue my passion in front of such a massive audience and to have had such an amazing response from the audience is incredible. I appreciate it so much to know that I can connect with viewers and bring joy to people in the way I have. I am lucky that my passion has that effect on others.
What do you like most about being on DWTS?
I love performing to audiences, and I love to know that I can connect with them. The larger the audience, the more people you can connect with, and it’s really as simple as that!
The reason I love DWTS in the US, is that, in my opinion, the US is the focus of some of the best talent in the world. That’s not to say other countries don’t have amazing talent, there is just a historic trend that talent finds its way to the US at least from Australia. Truly I love strong competition, because it brings out the best. The stakes here on DWTS US are as high as they can possibly be! When you’re asked to choreograph a number to one of the world’s most famous rock bands, not to mention one of your own favourite rock bands, it’s not something you take lightly. In addition, the Pros on the show have left quite big footsteps to follow in and are truly an inspiration.
Is there anything you would like to say to your fans and supporters?
I would like for each and every fan and supporter, to know how humbled and grateful I am to have the unique opportunity to perform and connect with each and every one of you. This is my life’s passion and I am honored I get to share it with you, it means a hell of a lot! I appreciate their support immensely…you give the show life and therefore you keep my dreams alive. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, and I wish you and your families all the very best. God bless you all and stay tuned!!
Thank you, Henry!