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A chat with the final four on ''So You Think You Can Dance'': Just before the final competition night, we talked to Benji, Donyelle, Heidi, and Travis about tans, the tour, and bodily trauma by Carrie Bell

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How does it feel to have Footloose'd your way to this Thursday's finale? Do you now know you can dance, instead of just thinking it?

BENJI SCHWIMMER, 22: Yes, I feel validated — the question was answered! I was obsessed with this show last season; I would memorize [season 1 finalists] Nick and Blake's routines at 3 in the morning. I was pretty good, but it never occurred to me that I could actually get on the show and get to the end.

DONYELLE JONES, 26: Yeah, I guess I do know now. It's been bittersweet. I have gotten the most amazing exposure and instruction as a dancer. The bitter [part] is that we never stop. We rarely have a day off, and I'm exhausted. You don't realize how strong you are and what you are capable of until it's questioned.

HEIDI GROSKREUTZ, 24: It has been a roller-coaster ride, and that is actually what is so great about it. You have to experience extreme lows to get the extreme highs. The more blood, sweat, and tears you go through to get a good performance, the more you enjoy it. And I get to experience this with my cousin [Benji].

TRAVIS WALL, 18: It feels amazing. I was originally cut in L.A. and re-auditioned in South Carolina. They haven't really publicized that. I didn't need to win, but I wanted to go from the beginning to the end and see the whole process — I wanted to get in to prove that first impressions don't always mean something. You can be the best dancer in the room and still get cut. All dancers should know that. Too many people get discouraged by the audition process and give up on dreams. They need to know that I was cut, and now I'm at the end.

How are you holding up physically?

DONYELLE: I have never felt pain like I have felt on this show. It is dancer boot camp. I take a hot bath at night and get up an hour early every morning to take another, to get my muscles loose so I can just move around. And my toe is really screwed up. That's why I looked like I was going to cry last week. I did a jump and my toe did something weird. Normally I would have stopped dancing and went, ''Ow!'' But I couldn't stop in the middle of the solo. Every time I put weight on it I wanted to cry.

HEIDI: I have been a lot luckier than others. My injuries are so minor compared to theirs. My knees are pretty worn out and they bother me a lot. And you can play connect-the-bruises on my body, and I don't know how I got most of them. I am also the girl that everyone wants to lift and turn — which is great, but at the same time it seems to trigger my migraines, because something in my neck is wrong. But I think most of our injuries will subside once we have time to sleep and eat properly and give our muscles a rest.

TRAVIS: I have a really bad back, to the point that last Sunday I woke up and couldn't walk. A chiropractor came in and readjusted me, and he told me I was going to shrink a couple of inches in a year because my back is contracting. I will be okay. It means physical therapy. You just have to push through.

BENJI: My problems are more mental. We have very little time to ourselves. We get, like, five hours a week to run errands, like going to fake-and-bake so we don't look like ghosts on the show. And elimination days were emotionally draining for me.

TRAVIS: If you ask anyone in the cast who reacted the worst to [elimination] Thursdays, they'll say, ''Travis.'' You can't talk to me on Thursdays. We get up at 6 a.m. and film the opening number, and then we have to wait five hours for the results. It's brutal. I think I am going home every week. Heidi gets mad at me for putting out negative energy.

Other than your style specialty, which genre have you come to appreciate the most?

HEIDI: I have grown to like contemporary dance. The movement always seemed so unnatural to me, and I just never got it. It wasn't until I was around Travis and [contemporary choreographer/judge] Mia [Michaels] that I grew to love and appreciate organic movement. I still can't do it the way it deserves to be done, but at least I have a better understanding about what it is to dance like a human instead of a dancer.

TRAVIS: Latin dances. I love doing paso doble: I love the arm tricks, the heel work, and the clothes. I always watched ballroom competitions, but I could never do it, nor did I want to learn. Now I'm going to take some classes.

BENJI: I loved doing the mambo with Heidi. I also really got into the jazz and contemporary stuff. It's the polar opposite of what I do normally. I had never danced solo in my life, so to go out and dance without a girl was also something I had to get used to. It was a weird experience.

DONYELLE: I became quite fond of Latin dances like samba and the cha-cha. I could fake them well enough that I had actual ballroom dancers come up and say, ''If you took just six months to train, you could compete.'' That's flattering.

What were the best and worst moments for each of you this season?

BENJI: Both happened at once. It was the episode when I made the show. It is called the Green Mile Episode, because you have to walk down this long stage, and there's a giant spotlight on us, and then you have to stand there while the judges pick you apart. I was such a mess that I put on two right shoes. [Ballroom choreographer/judge] Mary Murphy toyed with me for 15 minutes, making me believe that I wasn't going to make it on the show. [Hip-hop choreographer/judge] Shane [Sparks] and [show producer/judge] Nigel [Lythgoe] both reamed me. They didn't show half of it on TV. Then they told me I made it, and I was thrilled. I walked off the stage and realized that I was a crying mess on national TV, and that brought me back down again.

DONYELLE: The best moment for me was when we taped a show on my birthday, and I had over a hundred people in the audience for me. Normally I throw a big barbecue, but since I couldn't do that this year, they brought the party here. I couldn't look anywhere in the audience without seeing a friendly face, and that motivated me to dance even harder. I have never felt that loved. The hardest moment for me was learning the quick-step. That was the first time I felt challenged in the competition but didn't conquer it, and the first time I had negative comments from the judges. I was prepared for it, but to actually hear it, it's like, Ouch.

TRAVIS: Hearing Mia, who I look up to, say she would hire me [was my best moment]. I would drop everything and work with her in a heartbeat. It sucked that the week I finally got my mom here to see the show for the first time, I was in the bottom. It sucks that I only make $500 a week and I don't come from money, so I can't fly her out that often. It is just hard being the only contestant left from out of town. They fill up half the studio with their family and friends: It can be very hard on me when I see a sea of Benji, Heidi, and Donyelle signs and I get, like, one person screaming my name.

HEIDI: [The best part:] Essentially getting free lessons and advice from some of the world's best choreographers and dancers. A 45-minute lesson from an expert can cost upwards of $300. The worst is watching your friends and great dancers go home every week. It's like a kick in the face. We are all in this together; we understand the effort and sacrifices it takes to get here, and you know it could have just as easily been you.

Fortunately, it never was your names that host Cat Deely called out. But in the end, only one can win — so if it can't be you, who are you rooting for?

HEIDI: I'm not going to win. It's between Travis and Benji. I would be so happy to see either of them win. All of us just feel like the finals is an accomplishment. This last show was so taxing and stressful that we were all like, ''We are done competing. Let's just get through this.''

TRAVIS: I think Benji will win. He has the young-girl vote. If this was a true dance contest, I think I would win, but it is a personality/likability contest as well as a dance talent contest.

BENJI: Every member of the final four deserves it. If it can't be me, I have to pick Heidi — because she's my cousin, for crying out loud! She has been my dance partner for 17 years.

DONYELLE: I just came for exposure. I didn't honestly expect to be here at the end. If I win, that would be a great blessing from God, but if I don't, there is no bitterness. I'd be happy for any of the four of us to win. We've all come such a long way.

And you'll be taking what you learned on the road. Do you already know what you'll be performing on the So You Think You Can Dance tour (starting Sept. 12?)

BENJI: We won't start practicing until after the finale is over. You will be seeing all your favorite routines — probably even bigger versions of them.

HEIDI: The mambo routine has been discussed as a must.

DONYELLE: Definitely not the quick-step! [Laughs hysterically.] I think this is a new kind of concert for people to get excited about, and I hope it gets more kids interested in dance.

TRAVIS: We are not backup-dancing for anyone. We are the stars of the show. We are hosting the show and we are performing solos, five duets, and six group routines. The bench routine will definitely be in there. The tour is the best part. We get reunited with the top 10, and we get to sell some eye candy and hopefully make dance a household name. As [pop choreographer/judge] Brian Friedman would say, we're going out to give fans an eyegasm.