Rochester native Jasmine Harper on 'So You Think You Can Dance' finale

11:11 AM, Sep 09, 2013

Jasmine Harper is a finalist in So You Think You Can Dance. (MATHIEU YOUNG/ / Photo provided by Fox)/


Written By Justin Murphy and Victoria Freile | Staff writers

In the 33 years Lisa Allain has been teaching students to dance at the Little Red Dance Studio in Gates, she’s developed a fairly keen eye for talent. So when she saw 6-year-old Jasmine Harper dressed as a skunk, breaking down to M.C. Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This,” she recognized the girl had something special.

When she started, she was a little tomboy, and she’d start dancing and people couldn’t believe it,” Allain said. “I knew she had a great future. I just knew it.”

Allain was right. Harper, now 20 years old and living in Georgia, is among the final four on the Fox reality show So You Think You Can Dance. She will find out during Tuesday’s two-hour season finale whether she’s been chosen as America’s Favorite Dancer.

The show will air at 8 p.m. Tuesday on WUHF-TV (digital 31.1, cable channel 7).

It’s pretty much my dream,” Harper said by phone Sunday between rehearsals. “It’s a chance to dance with so many other great dancers.”

Harper has been paired on the show with Aaron Turner, a tap dancer from Las Vegas. They have navigated a series of eliminations to make the final four.

Last week on the show, it was revealed that the judges early on did not plan to keep Harper for the top 20 until the host, Cat Deeley, persuaded them.

Also, Turner was cut early on, only to be brought back when there was an injury.

It’s definitely an emotional rollercoaster,” said Harper, who estimates she’s danced five hours a day, six days a week since arriving in Los Angeles in June. “There are some moments we’re so high in spirits and other times we’re just so stressed out. … I’m exhausted, but we help each other get through it.”

The schedule doesn’t relent until the very end. On Tuesday, the contestants have three rehearsals of the full show before they take the stage live on television in the evening.

Harper grew up in Henrietta, attended Rush-Henrietta schools through middle school and then spent one year in Spencerport before moving with her family to North Carolina.

She’s now a professional dancer in Georgia. Just before leaving to begin filming the show in June, she danced in the music video for “I’m Out,” the new song by pop singer Ciara.

She specializes in contemporary dance, but has impressed judges on the show by adopting other styles — hip-hop, ballroom, Broadway, jazz — with ease.

Harper attributes that versatility to her time at Allain’s studio in Gates, where a wide stylistic range is part of the curriculum.

I grew up dancing there; that’s where I got most of my training,” she said. “I remember always looking up to the class older than me and wanting to dance like them.”

Now, it’s the younger classes that want to dance like Harper. They’ll be watching on television Tuesday, and they’ll see her Oct. 13 at Turning Stone Resort and Casino as part of a national tour with the show’s top 10 dancers.

Allain won’t have to wait that long. She planned to fly to Los Angeles Monday and see her star pupil dance in person Tuesday night.

I’m so proud of her,” Allain said. “She’s very humble and she’s as sweet as anything. … It doesn’t even matter the outcome. She’s a winner whether she wins So You Think You Can Dance or not.”