In anticipation of tonight’s two-hour season premiere of Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance, EW.com rang up executive producer and judge Nigel Lythgoe to chat about the show’s fourth season. A former dancer himself, Lythgoe talked about two venerable hoofing styles that have yet to break through on the show (hint: both involve special shoes), what he’s looking for when he selects the final 20 dancers, and where on the planet SYTYCD is even bigger than Idol.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So the promos make it seem like this season there’s going to be a lot of leaping into the air and spinning.
NIGEL LYTHGOE: [Laughs] Yup. There’s going to be a lot of leaping in the air and spinning. I think they were the things the editors [of the promos] thought were exciting. But there’s a lot more to it than that.
Of course. Were there any styles of dancing that you were surprised to see more of in the auditions this year?
Yeah. We’ve been pushing this for a couple years now, and it’s starting to happen, and that’s a fusion of different styles. I find break dancing and hip-hop very exciting, in certain areas, because it’s dangerous, because it takes my breath away, because I go, “Gawd Almighty, even when I was at my best, I could never be able to do that.” But when you try to get them to do dancing where they move their legs, it’s different; a lot of breakers find it difficult to dance dance. So now they’ve started doing [dance] classes, and they’ve started to get themselves a strong base [in styles] other than what they do. There’s this fusion happening of this sort of soft hip-hop, where they’re putting contemporary together with their popping, and I find that very exciting.
I’ve heard maybe you’re seeing more tap dancers audition this year?
We did, but not more in that sense — maybe five or six good ones. So in comparison [with all the auditions], not really. But I think people think, I’ll be put through on this [style] because they won’t see many of them. They’ve done jazz, they’ve done contemporary, but they’ve passed themselves off as a salsa dancer or something. So then we go, “Oh, let’s see if they can do anything else,” and they can, and it’s because they’re really trained in those other forms. We’ll go, ”Oh wow, that’s a salsa dancer doing that [other style],” and [judge] Mary [Murphy] then will go, ”Well, hold on. They’re not really a salsa dancer.” She can spot the real ones, our Mary, and then be very loud about it.
Will there be any format changes this year?
No. I’d like to consolidate on what we did last season. I think last season was our strongest across the board with choreography and dancers. It’s the first time that I’d had lots of guys coming up to me saying, ”Oh, I watched it with my son,” or ”I watched it with my daughter. Really like the show.” So I think the appeal is broadening, and I’d like to see that continue.
NEXT: ”There’s going to be one winner. They’re not going to become multimillionaires, like the Idols. They’re going to still have to work hard for every single thing they get, even if they win. That’s just the way of a dancer: undervalued, underpaid, and overworked.”