Will this Raleigh dancer be a finalist on ‘So You Think You Can Dance’?

Robert Green, 25, center, who grew up in Raleigh, is a contestant on “So You Think You Can Dance.”
Robert Green, 25, center, who grew up in Raleigh, is a contestant on “So You Think You Can Dance.” Fox

Viewers will find out Monday evening if a dancer from Raleigh is a top-10 finalist on “So You Think You Can Dance.”

Robert Green, a 2010 graduate of Enloe High School, is a contestant on this season’s Fox reality show, which features dancers who perform everything from contemporary to ballroom. If he advances into the top 10, Green could be voted “America’s Favorite Dancer” by fans.

“It’s very surreal, being in my shoes right now,” Green, 25, said during a phone interview from Los Angeles, where the show is filmed. “I have to pinch myself to realize it really is me and my life and my career, that the exposure and the opportunities are in my hands.”

Green is a self-taught dancer who grew up in Southeast Raleigh. He emerged in the dance world in 2015 when singer Taylor Swift tweeted a video of Green surprising his mother with the news that he was one of 12 people chosen as back-up dancers for Swift’s “1989” album tour.

“I always wanted to share him with the world, always thought what a blessing that would be if that happened,” said his mother, Sylvia Watlington-Green. “He’s truly an artist, in every facet of artistry. He puts his heart into it – everything.”

Before he started dancing, Green played violin for 12 years and earned a scholarship to UNC-Greensboro. After a year on the Dean’s List, he told his mom he wanted “to use my body as an instrument.”

Together, mother and son traveled the country to weekend dance workshops and conventions where Green learned hip-hop, ballet and jazz from renowned choreographers.

In 2013, Green moved to Los Angeles, and he landed Swift’s world tour two years later. He has since danced with other top artists, dabbled in choreography and taught classes as far away as Russia and Iceland.

“I honestly feel like I’ve made my mom proud, and that’s special to me,” Green said. “I’m proud to be her son.”

Green was one of about 100 contestants who made it past the audition rounds on “So You Think You Can Dance.” Ten “all-star” judges made their picks, and Green will face off against another dancer Monday.

His judge is Jasmine Harper, a season 10 contestant and contemporary dancer.

Nigel Lythgoe, the show’s creator, producer and judge, said Harper has “a helluva choice there.”

“(Robert) is up against a pretty formidable, formally trained dancer,” Lythgoe said in a phone interview. “But as we’ve said, we are not looking for the country’s best dancer. We’re looking for America’s favorite dancer. ... If they like you, people are going to pick up the phone and vote for you.”

The show, which features contestants ages 18 to 30, has highlighted Green’s creativity when it comes to both dance and fashion.

“Growing up, I was very quiet, but I was not quiet with the things I chose to wear,” he said. “That is a major part of who I am, my main medium of self-expression, how I started my day, every day: ‘What color am I going to paint my day?’ 

For Green, devoting his life to dance was about following his heart.

Lythgoe said the show is exhibiting so many people’s love for dance – and breaking down barriers and smashing misconceptions. Boys and men who want to dance must ignore the stigma linked to the art form, he said.

“Dance is all to do with being able to express yourself through incredible forms of movement,” Lythgoe said. “If you want to dance, dance!

“I’m so happy to see so many boys now dancing, more acceptance from the general public, and the understanding of what goes into nowadays.”

Green said he’s hoping for the best during Monday night’s two-hour show, which begins at 8 p.m.

“I also feel I have a pretty cool responsibility to hold it down for my city and the people who really support me coming from Raleigh, N.C., and trying to make it – really going for it – out in L.A.,” he said.

He added: “Wish me luck. And if I make it on the show, please vote for me. I would love the support.”

Lori Wiggins covers stories out of Southeast Raleigh for The News & Observer. Email story ideas to her at ldrwigg@gmail.com.