“Hey, will you drop me off at the Fox at 5:30 in the morning?” A strange request in the bitingly cold month of January.
But in the dance world, taking leaps of faith are just as important as reaching extravagant heights with graceful leaps across the stage. So for Zack Everhart, a 20-year-old dancer from Kennesaw, attending the early morning audition for a spot on So You Think You Can Dance Season 11 was an opportunity he had to seize.
Michael Everhart, Zack’s father, remembers replying to the request with a, “Sure! Yeah.” A life-changing pair of words, in fact, because Zack made it to the final cuts of the audition process, earning a spot in the season’s Top 20.
Michael and Zack’s mother, Tammy Everhart, own Great Gig Dance Company in Kennesaw, where they watched Zack’s dance training begin and grow as he became “laser-focused” on his craft.
Zack became particularly serious about dance around the seventh grade, training in multiple styles, but tap has always been his favorite. Zack chose to audition in this style–heavily technical and not easily mastered by all dancers—to help set him apart on the show.
Zack said he “really wanted to make sure that tap was still being represented on the show,” and added that it doesn’t hurt to surprise judges and viewers when Season 11’s only male tapper can glide through other styles (even African jazz) with equal ease and confidence.
Despite the praises Zack has received weekly from the So You Think You Can Dance judges, audience votes placed him in the bottom three male contestants on last Wednesday’s episode, meaning that he would still perform but faced elimination.
More than 100 family members, friends, and “Zack Pack” supporters watched his performances at a viewing party at Kennesaw’s California Dreaming restaurant. While Zack kept a cool, smiling demeanor throughout the show, he said the cameras don’t capture what’s happening backstage. “I was definitely stressed—really stressed—backstage,” he said.
Michael and Tammy Everhart and many others at the viewing party had written “Don’t Panic” in Sharpie on their wrists, to match the phrase Zack had tattooed on his own when he turned 18. The tattoo, inspired by one of his favorite books, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, helps to calm his nerves. “It’s just something to remember when you’re stressed out and times are tough,” he said.
Zack’s performance in a contemporary group number choreographed by Mandy Moore, and in a jazz duet and contemporary small group choreographed by Sonya Tayeh, impressed the judges, and he was saved from elimination. He will be back to perform again in next week’s show, and Michael and Tammy plan to be in the live audience—a relatively rare experience for the studio owners, who usually watch Zack perform from the wings of the stage. (Tammy is a dancer and dance teacher, and Michael usually works in the light or sound booth.)
Zack has been a fan of the show since its debut and was just short of being a Top 20 finalist in Season 9. “It’s great watching somebody live their dream. Anybody living their dream is a beautiful thing, but when it’s your own child, that just makes it even better,” Michael said.
Whatever the outcome of the show, Zack said he is planning on a professional dance career. “I don’t really have a particular place I want to be, I just know that I want to end up dancing,” he said.
If you want to bust a move and show off your own fancy footwork (or at least learn a few steps), you can celebrate National Dance Day this Saturday in Atlanta at local studios Gotta Dance and Dance 411. If enjoying the moves of a professional is more your style, attend LIFT at the Woodruff Arts Center.