Thanks to the talent of a 9-year-old boy, Sachse has been represented on national television for the past few months.
Ayden Nguyen, a fourth grader at Armstrong Elementary, has made it to the final round of NBC’s hit “World of Dance.”
He has already spent the majority of his life dancing.
“I’ve been dancing for more than four years,” he said. “I just watched YouTube videos – Jabbawockeez, Les Twins – they inspired how I was going to dance.”
Those two particular dance crews specialize in hip-hop, which is Ayden’s preferred style.
“At age two or three, he would have his little iPad and watch Michael Jackson videos,” his mother Cindy said. “It was so frustrating coming home and seeing how he wanted to dance so badly, but I took him to a dance studio when he was four and they said he was too young. But I think it’s good that he learned from the iPad because that’s a skillset that not a lot of people have – he can watch a video and just do it, because that’s the first way he learned to do it.”
After being immersed in dance culture for so long, the family developed connections with Los Angeles-based group The Lab. When “World of Dance” got renewed for a second season, The Lab invited Ayden to be one of the five new members they planned to add to the team. He accepted the offer.
In December 2017, Ayden and Cindy flew to LA to begin rehearsals. Filming began in January and wrapped up in March, and the Nguyens returned to Sachse in April. The Lab made it to the final round, which aired Sept. 12, and were declared the winners. They received a prize of $1 million.
During the finals, winners from each of the four categories compete against each other. The divisions are junior (one to four members all under 18), upper (one to four members all over 18), junior team (more than five members all under 18) and upper team (more than five members all over 18). The Lab won the junior team division.
Although each performance only lasts about two minutes, The Lab spends 12-24 hours rehearsing each number.
Ayden enjoys the relationships more than the potential for fame and money.
“I like being in community with the people I’m dancing with,” he said. “I like the judges. Ne-Yo is really nice, just a cool guy, and Derek (Hough) is a cool guy as well. J.Lo (Jennifer Lopez), I love her so much. It’s cool to think that they’re thinking about us.”
Filming can be a little more stressful for Cindy than it is for Ayden. She accompanies him everywhere, and helps him through intense schedules and emotional moments.
“As the chaperones, it’s just making sure they’re fed and getting enough rest and in a good mood,” she said. “It’s a lot of work making sure that physically and mentally he’s prepared to do his very best.”
One major challenge for the family is the fact that they live far from LA. They have to refuse some opportunities because they cannot fly back and forth often.
However, Ayden still trains as much as possible, and the family will go to the occasional audition in California if they deem it important enough.
Sachse has been able to provide Ayden with plenty of chances to improve his skills. Most importantly for the Nguyens, Sachse offers them an escape from cameras and competitions.
“We’d like to keep him here and let him go to school and have a normal childhood,” Cindy said. “Whatever cool stuff we do on the side, that’s just extra. You can get caught up in that life so easily. You can never redo childhood stuff. We don’t want him to feel pressured into dancing.”
“Sachse is a really nice place,” Ayden added. “I love Dallas and Sachse – go Mustangs!”
One of the biggest effects the show has had on Ayden is his desire to learn new styles of dancing. Instead of focusing on only hip-hop, he has started practicing tap, jazz and contemporary.
Cindy can see even deeper changes in her son.
“Ayden used to be a very introverted dancer,” she said. “He would kind of get in his zone and dance his pants off, but he wasn’t really a performer. He doesn’t like to draw attention to himself. That was the biggest hurdle for him, trying to project outwards and be more of a performer. With every challenge that he gets, he gets better and better. It’s daunting at first but he takes every challenge.”
Performing on “World of Dance” is not Ayden’s first time on a major show. Last year he danced at the Kids Choice Awards, and he is also a member of the Dallas Cowboys Rookie Squad, performing with other kids at pre-game and halftime shows.
When he is not dancing, Ayden plays soccer and reads biographies. He enjoys math and history in school, and wants to play football at Louisiana State University. When he grows up, he wants to be Justin Timberlake’s choreographer.
“I’m going to dance until I fall,” he said.
By Morgan Howard • [email protected]