With his joyful approach to dance, it’s hard to believe the obstacles Alex Wong has had to overcome to get here.
Canadian-born dancer Alex Wong has been dancing from a young age and still brings childlike joy to his craft every day. By 17 he was the first Canadian to win the Prix de Lausanne classical ballet competition in Switzerland. Later, while principal soloist with the Miami City Ballet, he competed on FOX’s So You Think You Can Dance, making it to the top 20, but he had to bow out due to contractual issues with the ballet company. The next year he competed on SYTYCD again, making it to the top 10, but after a severe injury, he had to bow out again. All was not lost, though, because two of his performances on the popular show won Emmy Awards. Since then, he returned to SYTYCD as an All-Star, was in the original Broadway cast of Disney’s Tony Award–winning Newsies, danced in The Greatest Showman, performed on Ellen, and added many more film and TV credits to his name. In an interview, the indomitable performer shared how he leaped over every obstacle to keep on dancing.
What’s one of your most memorable performances so far, and why?
I’d have to say one of my most memorable performances was when I did my hip-hop routine on SYTYCD with tWitch [below]. It was at a time where nobody thought I would be able to pull off a hip-hop routine, being a ballet dancer, and it actually went over so well that the routine went on to win an Emmy Award. It was also my last performance as a contestant on the show, as the following week I snapped my Achilles tendon and was unable to continue on my journey there. Also, Ellen ended up stepping into the routine for me to perform it in the finale!
What was the recovery process like, both emotionally and physically, when you were injured? How did you get through it, and how does the experience affect you now?
It was quite a difficult recovery process as it took so long. Luckily, other than time, I didn’t have many complications after surgery and physical therapy. It took almost a year for my injury to recover, and then a year and three days after, I snapped my other Achilles. Emotionally it was very difficult, as the first time I did it, I was in the middle of competing on SYTYCD. It felt so unfair, as I’d given up so much to compete on the show, and to have it all taken away from me in a second was devastating. Getting through it was difficult, except it was lovely to have the support and encouragement of all the fans during recovery, as my injury was so publicized. For recovery I almost had to pretend I wasn’t a dancer. I moved to NYC to get top physical therapy.
The second time it happened, it was devastating for me emotionally, as it felt like a sign that I should stop dancing. I was just about to return as a SYTYCD All-Star, and two days before my episode, I snapped the other one. The second time around, I didn’t waste any time. I started teaching immediately at conventions all around the country, auditioned for American Idol (made it to the semifinal Hollywood rounds!), and worked on a short film. Shortly after, I had my Broadway debut in Disney’s Newsies.
I feel like everything happens for a reason, and I had amazing things that fell into place because I snapped my Achilles. I don’t think I would have done the things I’ve done or met some of the people I’ve met had I not, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. It has definitely made me stronger as a person. I know I have the strength to make it through anything.
After having to leave SYTYCD, once due to a contractual issue and again due to injury, two of your 2010 SYTYCD dances won Emmy Awards! Can you take us behind the scenes to what those wins were like for you?
That was incredible. Actually, technically it was almost three times, since the third time I was contracted as an All-Star and snapped my [other] Achilles a couple days before. To have two of my pieces win Emmy Awards was incredible, I couldn’t believe that in that short amount of time I was able to make such an impact. Later on, returning as an All-Star, a lot of my other routines have also been nominated for and won Emmys, so it’s been quite the journey!
When you started venturing out into more TV and film projects, what were some of the hurdles and surprises you encountered?
I didn’t realize how long it took to film every sequence. Depending on the content, a one-minute dance can take a full day to shoot or even more. There are so many angles and camera shots that go into everything that I never realized. It can get so tiring when you’re doing something over and over again. We always say “film is forever,” so you really have to give your 100% each time the camera rolls. You also know that the one time you mess up is the shot they always end up using, so you really try to nail every shot! I like doing film and TV, though, because it’s so accessible for everyone.
Aside from dance, what are your everyday inspirations?
I love fitness and eating. They go really well hand in hand. Also, I love traveling and singing. I enjoy social media and seeing the creativity from people who normally might not have the platform or ability to share that, so I find that really special and inspirational.
What’s one truth you’ve learned as a dancer/performer?
Take care and nurture your body so you can dance as long as possible! You only have one!
Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
Follow me on Instagram! It’s where I often share my craft.