Amateur hour is over, people—it’s time for the real dancers to hit the floor.
So You Think You Can Dance returns tonight with another batch of ultratalented young performers vying for the title of America’s Favorite Dancer, and season eight promises to be bigger and better than ever.
Read on to hear what changes judge and producer Nigel Lythgoe is making “to try and please everybody”:
More Mary Murphy! After beating thyroid cancer, the hot-tamale train conductor is back to rattle Nigel’s eardrums full-time once again. “I think she’s going to be a little quieter this season,” Nigel told us (hopefully?) about his 11-decibel tablemate. “Evidently, she is only as loud as a small hairdryer now, and not the jet engine she used to be.” As for why Mary skipped last season (which was filmed before her illness was diagnosed), Nigel revealed, “Initially I don’t think Fox could come to a deal. After that I wanted Mary to choreograph, I wanted to swap with Mia [Michaels] and Mary. I’m insistent that if you judge you can’t choreograph. There could be the possibility that there’s preferential treatment so I won’t have that. I wanted them to judge some weeks, choreograph others, but that didn’t happen.
More Judges! With Adam Shankman off directing and choreographing Broadway’s Rock of Ages, his full-time judging seat will be filled by a roster of guest judges—”a revolving chair and I fancy a bit of fun with it this year,” says Nigel—including choreographer Tyce Diorio, Pussycat Dolls’ Robin Antin, the always “bucc” Lil’ C, ballroom champ Toni Redpath and Jason Gilkison (Burn the Floor). “We would’ve had Adam Shankman back if he’d been available,” Nigel pointed out, “but we’re very proud of him for doing Rock of Ages. We’re not going to hold that against him.”
More Dancers! Instead of starting the season with just 10 contestants, season eight is reverting to its original Top 20 format. Nigel said fans last season missed “the interconnection between people who had never been in competition before.” The SYTYCD All-Stars (standouts from previous seasons) will join the dancers when the field narrows to 10. “Putting [contestants] with an All-Star lifted their game immensely,” Nigel said, adding that the All-Stars “also lifted the choreographers—they had a real challenge there” with the more experienced dancers. “We are not choosing the All-Stars until we see who is in that top 10,” Nigel said, “like we’re doing with the choreographers—to complement them.”
More Danger! In tonight’s two-hour audition premiere, you’ll see an unprecedented 10 successive dancers in Atlanta get tickets directly to Vegas for the final callbacks round. We screened tonight’s episode, and these newbies’ amazing performances have us more excited about SYTYCD than we’ve been in years. Nigel agrees: “We’ve got some very, very interesting characters this season on SYTYCD…much more of a street nature. The kids this season, a lot of whom are not formerly trained, are absolutely brilliant. That is very exciting…I love the danger of the kid that dives under the back of his head, doesn’t know if he’s going to break his neck or not, and then does something absolutely incredible. That’s what gets my heart pounding, and I think that’s what grabs a lot of our audience.”
How do you feel about the changes at the judges table and on the dance floor? Waltz on down to the comments and let us know!