By Christina Acevedo
UCI dance major Hannahlei Cabanilla, an 18-year-old American-Filipina dancer, recently won season 15 of the reality television show So You Think You Can Dance.
“Every single moment on SYTYCD was like a dream,” she said. “Two moments that stuck out to me was the first time I walked out on that stage and [the second was] winning the title of America’s favorite dancer.”
Cabanilla’s dancing career began at a young age after attending her older sister’s dance lessons. Cabanilla liked to mimic the dancing movements her sister would make, and on her second birthday, she expressed her interest in dance to her mother.
Upon reflection of her dancing career she says, “[It’s] so cliche, but dance is my life and I wouldn’t be the same person if I wasn’t a dancer.”
Cabanilla attributes her victory on the show to the supporting audience who voted for her, a positive mindset, and the support of her friends and family.
Moreover, she credits the dance community and her choreographers, Amy Berokoff and Rachel Miller, as significant inspirations who have influenced her.
“The whole dance community inspires me to keep on dancing,” she explained. “My choreographers… have been my second moms and have raised me to be the dancer I am today.”
Since her victory, Cabanilla has expressed a gratitude for the inspiration that she has been able to provoke in others as a dancer.
“It’s so inspiring to know that my dancing can have an impact on other people’s lives and that warms my heart,” she said.
In addition to being awarded a grand prize of $250,000, upon winning Cabanilla was also invited to travel on tour with other top 10 finalists from season 15 of SYTYCD, which has allowed her to pursue her love for dance and travel.
“Touring has been so much fun,” she said. “I love getting to meet and see all the faces that supported and voted for me during the television show.”