By Kristyn Burtt
It was the end of the road for Essence Wilmington on the Aug. 3 episode of So You Think You Can Dance, but the hip-hop dancer had an incredible showing this season as a part of the Top 3. When we first met her at the Top 12 photoshoot in late April, Wilmington told us that she went through the original Season 17 process back in 2020 before the pandemic shut down the world. “I was going through the process and BAM! — it was over,” she shared. Over three years later, she can proudly say she made it to the semi-finals.
The 21-year-old does have one regret when it comes to the show — and future contestants should take note of her sage advice. “I would tell myself to live in the moment and be more aware. When I came into this process, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into because of being a hip-hop dancer and not doing other styles at all,” she explained. “If I knew a year ago that I was going to be in this position and had a crystal ball, I would have trained myself a little bit better when it comes to all styles.” Wilmington might be selling herself a bit short because choreographer Mel Charlot, who is in her first season as a part of the choreography roster for So You Think You Can Dance, had words of praise for the Iowa native.
“Essence’s performance brings you in every time,” she said. “Every moment I worked with her I looked forward to seeing her storytelling come through and the entertainment aspect as well.” Robert Green, who made his All-Star debut in the episode, loved being paired with Wilmington — and was so touched to know that she had followed his career post-Season 14. (She called him “a legend” and “an icon” to Inside Dance.) “That honestly made my heart feel so full because I wanted to show up for this girl and I wanted to give her everything I’ve got,” he enthused. “It’s one thing for someone to appreciate you, but to be able to give that back to them is special.”
The piece that Charlot created for this episode also reunited her with Green, who co-directed The Monsters Show, Rebirth, together in 2019. She called it a “full-circle” moment for them and loved that she was able to work with the “incredibly talented dancer.” Green echoed her sentiments, describing the opportunity as “mind-blowing” and that it was “meant to be” for them to be back together again.
Wilmington felt that sweet level of support all the way through the rehearsal process, and now that her journey on So You Think You Can Dance is done, it’s given her inspiration to “think ahead” to the next phase of her career. “Since I have my dance team back home, I have so many videos I want to put out. I also have this big vision of hosting a dance convention, but I want one that I built to give young dancers the opportunities that I had,” she mused. “I want to make dance accessible for all.”
Photo: Michael Becker/FOX
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