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'So You Think You Can Dance': Northville's Yakima, Dearborn Heights' Jade Zuberi make top 20

June 19, 2013


June 19--In case there's any doubt left, Amy Yakima, 19, of Northville, and Jade Zuberi, 21, of Dearborn Heights, can dance. Really.

"So You Think You Can Dance," revealed Tuesday night that both Yakima, a 2011 Northville High grad; and Zuberi, a 2010 Crestwood High alum, are part of the Top 20 contestants who will dance for viewers' votes and acclaim as the Fox TV series continues through Sept. 10.

"Everybody's calling me a superstar," said Zuberi about his selection during an interview after Tuesday night's show was taped. "It's outrageous."

Yakima agrees.

"It's literally the time of my life," Yakima said in a similar interview. "This is what I dream about."

Yakima and Zuberi were among hundreds who participated in Detroit auditions in February. The judges awarded them, as well as other dancers, plane tickets to Las Vegas to compete for the final spots. On Tuesday's taped show, Yakima and Zuberi learned they made the cut and also performed dances.

In the coming shows, the contestants will be competing live. Viewers also will be asked to vote for their favorites during the show's run. The first elimination of a dancer will take place on the July 2 show, according to Fox publicists.

The two Detroit-area dancers share a determination and passion for the art. But they've ended up on the SYTYCD stage through different routes.

Yakima's been studio-trained in all types of dance since she was 3. Zuberi's talent was honed in his Dearborn Heights bedroom, as he learned hip-hop and his "animator-style" of dance from videos he watched on the Internet.

"My bedroom is my studio," said Zuberi. "It's not like I have clean wood floors and a bar. I have two mirrors somewhere, a carpet and space. I just make it work. That's where I trained."

Zuberi has wowed crowds at area talent shows, starting when he was 4th grader at Highview Elementary in Dearborn Heights. At Crestwood High's annual talent revue, Zuberi was the show-stopper and performed last because, "I was always the act to look forward to...the grand finale." He's gone on to compete in shows in Toronto and teach animator-style dance in studios around the Detroit area.

His mother, Joa Zuberi, has a dance background, and performed, taught and toured with the Detroit City Dance troop in the late 1970s and 1980s. The late entertainer Michael Jackson influenced her son's affection for dance, she said.

Mom has coached him on maintaining eye contact, and how to play the crowd. She helped edit his performances, the moves and the music.

"I'm from theater. I always wanted him to perform at his best," she said. "He can truly charm a snake for sure."

Mom's watching every performance now, and taping it. Does she give him any advice?

"He kind of hopes that I don't critique him," she joked.

Yakima took lessons at a Dearborn studio, Noretta Dunworth School of Dance for about 15 years. She studied ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary, hip-hop styles and competed in dance competitions until she was a high school graduate. When Yakima was 9, she beat out hundreds of applicants for the coveted role of Clara in the Rockettes "Radio City Christmas Spectacular" at Detroit's Fox Theatre. She danced there for three seasons before being cast in the Rockettes' New York production.

"I've always been a super hard worker and want to be better the next day," said Yakima. "I always know there's going to be a better dancer out there."

Yakima said she auditioned for SYTYCD last year. Judges told her she was powerful, a little too much so -- the suggestion being she needed to become a little more fluid and limber.

"It put a fire under me," said Yakima.

In 2009, The Free Press wrote about Yakima and her two younger sisters, and their family's devotion to dance.

Students at her former dance studio are watching every step of the way. Her younger sisters, Emma, 17, and Lauren, 11, train there still.

"They're so ecstatic and they're loving it," said Yakima. "I love being a role model and I want to inspire them -- even if it's not for dance, but to have the same passion that I do."

For years of dance competition, Yakima had to do her own make-up and hair. That has changed now since she's on TV.

"I've never gotten my makeup and hair done," she said. "You see all those superstars having it done. And now I'm doing what they're doing, and it's so surreal."


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