1 of 2
Mathieu Young, Fox
Ryan Di Lello is in the top eight finalists.

Utahns Ryan and Ashleigh Di Lello don't have any children of their own yet. And they're way too young to be the parents of teenagers.

Yet the "So You Think You Can Dance" finalists have found themselves thrust into sort of a parental role.

"We've kind of been the mom and dad of the group. They call us that," Ashleigh, 26, said with a laugh.

"They started calling us Mom and Dad … because we're the oldest in the cast and the married couple," said Ryan, 28. "We're all friends on the same level, but they just kind of joke and call us Mom and Dad because we kind of watch out for everybody."

(The remaining finalists perform in Tuesday's show, which airs at 7 p.m. on Fox/Ch. 13. Two will be eliminated on Wednesday's show — 8 p.m. on Ch. 13).

The Di Lellos' situation is unprecedented for "SYTYDC." A husband and wife competing against each other, performing with other partners.

Partners like the just-eliminated Noelle Marsh, who admitted it was somewhat uncomfortable to perform a hip-hop routine that was "all smoky and hot" with Ryan while Ashleigh looked on.

"I was like, 'Oh man, what is Ashleigh going to think of this?' " Marsh said. "But we're all so close, and I just adore Ashleigh and Ryan. It's just so nice to have them both on the show and they're really supportive of each other. So it wasn't too awkward."

The Di Lellos are one-quarter of the eight finalists remaining on the show. And there are actually three Utahns, including Mollee Gray, so at least one of them will be among the six who compete in next week's season finale.

As far as the show goes, executive producer/judge Nigel Lythgoe said that having a married couple "hasn't really affected us in any way, shape or form."

"They're extremely professional about it. And both of them, I think, have been two of the major dancers that have grown in this production and this season so far. They're a joy to watch at the moment."

With the exception of the one day when all the remaining finalists work on a group dance for the show, the Di Lellos don't spend that much time together during the long days of rehearsal.

"We're just so involved with our partners and working hard to try to give the best performance we can with them," Ryan said.

On a personal level, however, he said it has been "a really big benefit" for them to be on the show together.

"We're able to help each other. We're able to be there for each other," he said. "But when all is said and done, we are both competitors and want to do the best that we can. If it's affected it in any way, it's a positive thing."

And Ashleigh agreed.

"Personally, it's added to our experience. Professionally, it hasn't affected us either way," she said. "Other than we help critique and watch each other. But we all do that for each other anyway."

The hard part for Ashleigh has been standing by while Ryan has been faced with possible elimination three times. Including last week, when his partner was sent home.

"It was very, very nerve-racking for me. Seemed like an eternity," she said with a laugh. "It's been so amazing to share this journey together and I've loved watching him every week. I was very happy to have him still here with me."

Ryan said it was "a nailbiter" for him, but worse for his wife.

"I looked down, and she was just in tears the whole time I was up there," he said. "I think she was doing a lot worse than I was. I really didn't want to go home, but I would have been more OK than Ashleigh."

"I really was just trying to breathe through each moment," she said.

If they both advance to next week's final, the Di Lellos will be able to do something they haven't done since the "SYTYCD" auditions — perform together in competition. Understandably, they've not been allowed to pair up since the top 20 was announced.

"We were partners for so long together, and it would be kind of unfair," Ryan said. "But in the finale, we would be able to dance with each other."

As in past seasons, each finalist will perform with each of the other finalists of the opposite sex.

"That's why this week we really want to make it, because then there's a chance we could dance together in the finale," he said.

e-mail: [email protected]