For the first time in So You Think You Can Dance history, America has crowned two winners.
“I don’t know why we’ve never done it before,” judge Nigel Lythgoe told PEOPLE after Tuesday’s ninth-season finale of the FOX dance competition – where both a male and female were declared “America’s favorite dancers.”
“It’s really great that they win in their own sexes,” said Lythgoe.
And so, with the entire top 20 on hand, the season’s final four – Cyrus Spencer, Chehon Wespi-Tschopp, Eliana Girard and Tiffany Maher – waited to learn who would take home the titles.
After two hours of season 9’s best routines, host Cat Deeley announced America had voted Girard and Wespi-Tschopp as their favorite dancers – a result that came as a surprise to some, including Wespi-Tschopp.
“I was completely prepared to be runner up. This was not a scenario I was expecting,” he said of winning over fan favorite Spencer. “All I was prepared to do was give Cyrus a really big hug saying, ‘Congrats, Mate.’ ”
But instead, Wespi-Tschopp joined his fellow ballet-trained winner Girard as the confetti fell.
“To know that people are inspired and feel what you feel when you’re dancing makes all the stress and tears and pain worthwhile,” Girard said of the win. “I just feel so lucky that I get to do what I love and that people enjoy it.”
Time to Eat and Drink
Both winners planned on celebrating their victories by allowing indulgences they had denied themselves all season – lasagna and ice cream for Girard, and a “good Cuban mojito” for Wespi-Tschopp.
“I’m excited because I have not drunk anything while on the show because it is bad for your muscles,” he said.
And while Florida native Girard, 21, was eager to celebrate with her relatives who were sitting in the audience Tuesday, Wespi-Tschopp, 23, would have to settle for a phone call to his family in Switzerland.
“I’m hoping to call my parents whenever they wake up and tell them the good news and hear how excited they are,” said Wespi-Tschopp, who left home to study ballet at the age of 13.
Money to Spend – and Save
Wespi-Tschopp plans on using some of his $100,000 prize money for flights home while saving the rest, as Girard hopes to use her winnings to spur a new generation of dancers.
“I’m going to pay some bills, but I want to use the money towards a lot of foundations for dance in schools,” she said. “I feel as though a lot of children are missing out on the art of dance.”
Both winners expressed their eagerness to start their professional dancing careers, but Wespi-Tschopp was quick to acknowledge the hard road ahead as they continue to pursue their dreams.
“This show has given all of us incredible exposure, but it is not going to be easy. Winning this competition doesn’t mean you will go right in to your next job,” he said. “It is going to be a fight, but at least this show has given me the confidence I need. I’m just so excited for my journey.”
Girard echoed his sentiments.
“Now we get to just perform and dance for people and that’s what we love to do,” she said. “That is the biggest reward.”