Posted by: JennyRain | December 11, 2009

So You Think You Can Dance: The Underdog Love Story

Everyone loves an underdog who rises to glory unexpectedly.

Especially one who has overcome tremendous adversity and beat the odds, like Ashleigh Di Lello from So You Think You Can Dance(SYTYCD).


I am hooked on Ashleigh’s story because she has been the ultimate underdog in this dance competition. She overcame extreme criticism at the beginning of the show from the judges who did not appear to like anything about her.

They liked her husband Ryan (below) but they were not impressed with Ashleigh. As a matter of fact, the only reason Ashleigh got into the top 20 is because the dancer who was chosen to be there could not participate.

Ashleigh’s technique is sub-par in this competition. She is a ballroom dancer by trade and has had very little classical training. If the competition were based on classical technique alone, Ashleigh would not even be in the running.

This is Ashleigh’s story

Ashleigh Di Lello began dancing at the early age of 3. After 5 years of company work in ballet, jazz, and hip hop, Ashleigh fell in love with ballroom dancing when she was 12 and became a DanceSport Junior Latin Champion and a United States Junior American Latin Finalist.

At the age of 13, Ashleigh became very sick with a life-threatening illness that she would battle through for the next 4.5 years. After overcoming this illness, she suffered a serious back injury when trying to return to dance and spent the following year and a half in rehab.

After an imposed six-year break, Ashleigh returned to ballroom dancing and has since become a 3-time DanceSport Amateur Latin Champion and a United States Amateur Latin Finalist. Ashleigh has performed and taught in 19 different countries and is now so excited to be in SYTYCD Season 6’s Top 20 with her husband, Ryan! Ashleigh now hopes to show America her passion, love, and appreciation for dance and go all the way to the season finale!

Yet here we are in the SYTYCD Finals and Ashleigh has made it!

And I am excited for her!

Yes, Ashleigh has had the benefit of extremely strong partners like Jakob Karr. Yes, Ashleigh has had the luck of the draw on style many times (she seems to rotate between hip-hop and ballroom quite frequently – both of which are her strong-styles). Yes, Ashleigh Di Lello made it into the finale perhaps by the grace of the producers and the sympathy of the voters.

But – you gotta give a girl credit – she is in the finals and I personally can’t wait until the finale next week.

Ashleigh’s response to being in the finals?

“It is absolutely incredible! Words cannot describe what it means to make it to the finale. I feel like the luckiest and most blessed person in the world.”

Combine the Ashleigh Di Lello underdog story with the Ashleigh and Ryan love story and you’ve got the makings of a LifeTime movie!

Americans love a good story.

Whether it is an underdog story or a love story – any kind of story gives us the opportunity to enter into the narrative. Ashleigh and Ryan have a great love story.

We have loved how both spouses have supported each other throughout the journey. How they have been equally excited about the other one succeeding and equally saddened when the other one does not perform well.

We have watched how Ryan sacrificed his own potential for votes by asking the audience to “remember Ashleigh because she has worked so hard” and then broke down tearfully (She made it into the finals – He had to dance for his life to get in because he landed in the bottom 3).

If your cheese meter is on tilt right now – I get it – so is mine. I know that Fox is exploiting this couple’s story for ratings. I know that the two performers probably have figured out that their love story/underdog story touches hearts – so they are using it. I get it… but…

I am still drawn to this story and it looks like much of the TV viewing audience is too.

So how will this story end? I guess we will have to tune into So You Think You Can Dance next week to find out! 




  1. I’m so in love with this couple. Glad they will make it on tour together and it should be great for business when they open a studio together.


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