Editor’s note: This story contains mention of suicide. If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs immediate help, dial or text 9-8-8 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.
Lauren Pognon immediately saw herself in Stephen ‘tWitch’ Boss when she first saw him on the “All-Star” season of "So You Think You Can Dance." An African American dancer herself, the 18-year-old UF dance and marine sciences freshman immediately became a devoted fan.
Having never danced hip-hop up to the point of being introduced to Boss, she felt inspired to branch out of the traditional dance styles she was used to. His talent showed her she didn’t have to pigeonhole her dance into just one style, she said.
News broke Dec. 14 that ‘tWitch’ had taken his own life the previous day. Social media was quickly flooded with family, friends, and fans alike expressing words of sorrow, esteem and remembrance of a talent gone far too soon.
“It was definitely a solemn day,” Pognon said. “It was weird that I wouldn’t see him dance anymore. I would never have the opportunity to speak with him and be one-on-one with him; that was definitely devastating for me.”
Boss, who emerged onto the dance scene as a contestant on competition show “So You Think You Can Dance,” was known for his expertise as a hip-hop dancer, choreographer and television personality.
He went on to become “So You Think You Can Dance” fourth season’s runner-up. But his presence in the entertainment industry only rose from there.
Starting in 2014, Boss became a recurring guest host and the house DJ on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” a role he would possess until the show’s final episode in 2022.
Even when a position didn’t require his extraordinary abilities, Boss made it a point to incorporate dancing whenever the opportunity presented itself.
Emily Sanz, a 19-year-old UF applied physiology and kinesiology freshman, has danced since she was about 3 years old. A long-time fan of Boss, she watched him on “So You Think You Can Dance” and YouTube and remembers how clear his admiration and dedication to the craft was.
“You can see his love for dance every single time he performed,” Sanz said. “That’s why everyone enjoyed watching him.”
The dance community experienced such an immense loss with Boss’s passing that even those outside of the community could feel. Losing such a bright light saddened the entertainment industry as a whole.
“Nobody could ever replace ‘tWitch,’” Sanz said.
Herman Ramos, a 38-year-old dance instructor at Cameron Dancenter and choreographer at the Danscompany of Gainesville, recognized Boss’ ultimate legacy as a trailblazing male dancer from the start.
“At the time, the big discussion for ‘tWitch’ was about men that were dancing because it was a stigma that we’re still coming out of from the 2000s,” he said.
Everyone knew who Boss was and recognized the positive influence he had on the dance scene, Ramos said.
“To lose that was impactful for everyone,” Ramos said.
Contact Amanda at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @amandacrubio.
Amanda Rubio is a first-year journalism student at the University of Florida and an Avenue staff writer at the Alligator. When she isn’t writing, you’ll probably find her reading romance novels; binge-watching Glee, which she’s watched an unnecessary amount of times; or somehow finding more ways to make Harry Styles her entire personality.