So you think you could use a sweet love story?
Allow us to share the tale of professional dancers-turned-power couple you can't help but root for, Stephen "tWitch" Boss and Allison Holker—a rom-com worthy narration that begins with a few flirtations between eight counts and leads to them offering a very timely lesson on white privilege.
Because the couple of nearly a decade find themselves smack dab in the middle of that crucial ongoing conversation, their daily lives a constant reminder of the differences in the way the world reacts to various races.
So naturally they're going to offer their take on ways people can propel the Black Lives Matter movement forward and share—in a quite powerful TikTok video—how many microaggressions Boss is forced to swallow on the regular.
On the list: being followed in a store, seeing someone cross the street or get off an elevator to avoid him, having someone accuse him of not being able to afford a pricey item and having to initiate a conversation with his child about "how to not get killed by police", the only instance out of 12 that saw Holker also put down a finger, indicating it's something she's also dealt with.
A very real look at the type of racial injustices often ignored—the kind that don't necessarily involve slurs or white robes but are every bit as incendiary and hurtful—it's resonated even more than they imagined, Boss shared on a June 2020 episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, where he's served as the host's in-house DJ for the past seven-plus years and co-executive producer since August 2020.
Noting the viral video led to "deeper" talks with his in-laws and even his bride, he said, "You know, these conversations are incredibly valuable, and they are footsteps forward. They don't solve everything, but they are strides forward."
And the So You Think You Can Dance alum know a bit about the importance of proper footwork.
Naturally they'll be celebrating International Dance Day April 29, a family holiday of sorts with kids Weslie, 13, Maddox, 5, and Zaia, 2, all being genetically blessed with rhythm. "Everyone's kinda got their own vibe in it, though," Holker, 33, explained to E! News. "Like you can see everyone's personalities in their dancing."
Weslie, her daughter from a previous relationship, is "real cool," very "in the pocket." Maddox is "wild and crazy," the one most likely to have the beats take him all around the house while little Zaia is "real smooth about it."
What else would you expect from a crew whose origin story began on the So You Think You Can Dance set 11 years ago?
That's when contemporary dancer Holker, an eighth place finisher on season two of SYTYCD and freestyle hip-hop specialist Boss, the runner up from season four, were tapped to return to the studio as all stars, the first year the series had standout contestants from the past dance with the current crop.
One could argue the entire raison d'etre of the series is about bringing love stories to life, whether real or just believably crafted for the stage through the deft use of choreography and meaningful glances, romantic costuming and A Great Big World ballad thrown in for good measure.
But Utah-raised Holker didn't need a soundtrack or a few well-placed lifts to fall hard for Alabama native Boss, turning 39 Sept. 29. "I thought he was the cutest guy ever," she recalled to Dance Spirit in 2012 of that initial gut feeling. "His personality was so fun."
He, in turn, found himself transfixed by her performances ("I've been brought to tears a couple times,") and certainly attracted enough that "she did catch me checking her out in the hallway," he admitted. "Like, bad," she allowed.
So, he reasoned to the mag, "She knew the interest was there on my part." And yet they couldn't get in sync.
Her first choreographed moves simply weren't bold enough for Boss, who recalled chatting her up years earlier at a party thrown by mutual friend and SYTYCD season two finalist Ivan Koumaev. "We met there for the first time, but Allison doesn't remember at all! Meanwhile, I had blond hair and piercings, so I'm not sure how you'd forget me, but that's neither here nor there," he told Dance Spirit. Couple that with the fact that they barely chatted throughout their stint as all stars "and I thought she wasn't interested."
Known for her passionate, expressive dancing, Holker struggled to do the same IRL. "I didn't just make one move—I made, like, 10 moves and he wasn't seeing them, so I had to put myself out there even more," she said.
Having made note of that early, obvious double take, "The whole rest of the season, I would be like, 'Heyyyy,' and brush up against him. We'd be in rehearsal, and I'd be grabbing his butt and trying to touch his arms," she detailed. "I'd say, 'You missed a few 8-counts. Let me teach you.' He wasn't feeling me at all." In his defense, he clarified, "It was a dance rehearsal where all of the girls in the piece had to hold my arms and move with me."
What Holker, needed, it turned out, was a solo session. And that chance came at the August Step Up 3D premiere, the entire SYTYCD cast invited to watch Boss' big debut. Motivated by how hot he looked in his fitted gray suit, she approached him at the afterparty for a dance. "I was geeking out. That was the first night we were out together at the same place," she recalled. "So I finally made my move, and he asked for my number."
Then he didn't call.
"So then I got his number and texted that I was proud of him and that he looked great that night," said Holker.
The true turning point, though, came at the season seven wrap party, one the mom to then-2-year-old Weslie wasn't actually planning to attend. "But when he texted to see if I was going, I was ready and in the car!" she said, determined to make her interest unequivocal. "I showed up and people were trying to say hi, but I was on a mission to find this guy. I saw him at the other end of the room, and he pointed and did this little 'come here' motion. We went upstairs and danced for three hours straight."
Make that 10 years and counting, their shared love of dance is a connective thread in their relationship that gives them common ground, says Boss, "but it's also nice to have the dichotomy of two different genres. We're very close-knit, but we still have our own things."
And they're each able to understand the sometimes peripatetic life of a professional dancer, complete with long stretches away, grueling rehearsals and attractive coworkers.
"In my past relationships, it's always been really tricky. People will say they're cool with me traveling or doing jobs, but really, if someone doesn't understand that lifestyle, it can cause bitterness," she noted. "Being with someone who travels just as much as I do and understands my work hours and that I have a daughter—and that I have to balance all of that—means we don't have the problems most couples in our industry do."
Having spent three-quarters of that first year apart as she followed up the SYTYCD tour by filming Cobu 3D in Toronto and he headed to Miami to shoot Step Up Revolution after an international tour with The LXD, they take joy in the work that affords them the ability to travel together.
While Boss remembers the stares they got as they strolled through Tennessee's Dollywood theme park with Weslie early on, for Holker, it was an encounter with an older white man in the TSA line that remains etched in her mind.
"Stephen went through the metal detector, and the man started yelling at him, 'You better not steal my stuff. Don't you touch, don't you put your hands on my stuff. He's going to steal my stuff, I gotta go through, he's going to steal it,'" Holker recalled to Entertainment Tonight. "He made this big scene as Stephen is just standing there. Just standing there. It broke me at that moment because I think that was only a year or two years of dating, and I was like, that was a firsthand experience of someone in public just yelling, and accusing him of something that was just obscene."
Frankly she can't understand how anyone can look at the perpetually broad-grinned 6-foot freestyle dancer and see anything except a man with "the kindest, nicest, most welcoming heart," as she put it to ET, the thoughtful, charismatic Southern gentleman she fell madly in love with.
"He's exactly who you see on TV," E!'s Clash of the Cover Bands host told E! News. "He's 100 percent the most gentle, nicest, most generous human that I've ever met in my entire life, through and through."
And since that December 2013 day they pledged forever at SYTYCD executive producer Nigel Lythgoe's Villa San-Juliette Winery, she's basically been dancing on air.
It's more than just the fun they have together, their Boss Family Workouts, the just-because fancy dress dinners and the way they find any excuse to dance it out, a through line in their union that Holker calls "a huge important thing." It's the life they've built with their three kids, the way they've mastered communicating ("We are both the biggest advocates for each other, that we're very quick to catch it. Just to say, 'Hey! I think something might be a little off. Let's talk,'" she explained to E! News), the fact that they're always, always cheering each other on.
"He's just 100 percent just so aware of people and their surroundings and wants them to shine and be happy," she told E! News of his magnetic spirit. "And that's a genuine quality that you can't teach people."
They've got other lessons to impart, though, both a little shocked at how impactful that first TikTok video turned out to be.
If Holker were to guess, she'd say that people are recognizing themselves on the wrong end of those slights. "People obviously have a knee-jerk reaction, and they don't think that their small reaction is going to cause harm to someone, but they don't realize that those small things add up, time and time again," she explained to ET. "People looking at you, and accusing you of stuff that isn't true, and then those things start getting bigger."
To hear everything listed so plainly, the unconscious biases that may not have even registered at the time suddenly became front of mind, she continued: "They might have remembered a moment where they did it to someone. I think it's an example of [how] we really need to change this. We need to look inside our hearts and realize that we are better than that. All of us can be so much better, and everyone deserves a chance here."
Watching the needle move ever so slightly has inspired Boss to keep pushing.
"One of the most important things that can be done is after the trend of this is over is that we are still active, and educating ourselves. Not only educating ourselves, but taking action," he said. "Whether that is even noticing the things that are in the 'Privilege Is Real' video, [being] aware of those things every single day, and not being afraid to call out friends where you see it. So then we are actively dismantling the well-oiled machine that racism actually is."
Having each attended the various protests that sprung up in every corner of the world from Bethel, Alaska to Sydney, Australia to Tokyo, Japan, they're starting to believe real change is possible.
Calling it "one of the most beautiful experiences," Holker told ET, "Everyone was telling stories, people were taking knees, people were praying together, people were having moments of silence. People were passing out masks to make sure everyone was being safe out there, passing out water bottles, snacks. It was a very inviting, spiritual experience."
Those particulars will stick with Boss for some time, the promise that an all too important movement could finally be hurtling forward felt with each chant, each prayer, every show of support. "That kind of camaraderie and that kind of ally-ship, that's something that I'll remember for a lifetime," he said. "I'll be able to tell our grandkids about this."
Catch tWitch on the new E! series Clash of the Cover Bands premiering Wednesday, Oct. 13 at 9:30 p.m.!
(Originally published June 17, 2020, at 12 a.m. PT)