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Sabra's ready for a rest, but she's still smiling

Since winning top honors on the TV talent contest "So You Think You Can Dance," Sabra Johnson has been all smiles. It's like she can't help herself. She even adorns the most perfunctory e-mail with smiley face emotions.
But then, Johnson has a lot to be happy about. For one, she's doing what she loves most for the same adoring fans who helped catapult her to the top. Five months after earning the title of "America's Favorite Dancer," the 20-year-old dynamo and the show's nine finalists are winding up a 49-city American tour.

When it ends Friday, many of Johnson's stage-mates are taking a well-earned break. But she won't even have a chance to catch her breath. Along with Clarence native Neil Haskell, among the show's final four contestants, Johnson is headed to Western New York to dance in a local production of "The Nutcracker." The two will perform in the American Academy of Ballet's presentation of the holiday favorite at 7:30 pm Saturday and at 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday at University at Buffalo's Center for the Arts.
Before taking the stage for the tour's Portland, Ore., engagement, Johnson spoke about life on the road, on the small screen, and her upcoming performance here.

After three months on the road, are you looking forward to the tour coming to an end?
I'm ready for it. It's a long time to be on the road. But it's also bittersweet because I spent so much time with these people and really got to know them. It's going to be weird to go out into the real world without any of them there.

Your ballet training is limited, and you've never danced in a ballet. How are you going to pull off "The Nutcracker"?
I'm not actually going to be in the ballet -- thank God -- because that would be embarrassing. This "Nutcracker" travels all over the world, so during [the Spanish segment] Neil and I will be doing the paso doble we did on the show, which is awesome, because I love that dance.

How would you describe the past three months?
The tour has been insane. Ever since we all got on the show, that was our next goal: trying to make it to tour. So now we all get to be together for that much longer. We're all so lucky to be here, to travel and to meet the people who help put us where we are.

How does it feel to be labeled "America's Favorite Dancer" with only four years of training under your belt?
Winning wasn't the first thing in my mind the entire time of the show, but it definitely was a huge bonus. I'm 20 years old and I win a national television show? It's awesome -- how else can I describe it?

In addition to earning that title, you won $250,000. Have you splurged on anything?
I'm going to take my family on a really nice vacation in the next two years or so, but right now I'm saving it. As a dancer, I'm not ever going to make that kind of money again, so I'd better save it.

Most people study dance for at least a decade to get to the level you're at. How did you excel so quickly?
I don't know. I definitely surrounded myself with dance. That was all I did. It was a really huge commitment. Then it became an addiction.

Have you had any strange run-ins with fans since you became famous?
Nothing weird. People don't really stalk us girls, but Neil gets that. The girls love him.

What does the future hold for you?
I plan to be really smart and make really good choices. I'm going to travel around, teach and do conventions. Maybe a Broadway show. Then it would be awesome to start choreographing. Eventually, I want to end up in a company. Whatever I do, I just want to keep dancing and learning.

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