‘So You Think You Can Dance’: Chatting with Nigel Lythgoe

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“So You Think You Can Dance” executive producer and judge, Nigel Lythgoe, submitted to some questions from journalists today on a conference call about, among other things, the new fall season, the judging panel adjustments and what he looks for in dancers.

On whether the show will be tweaked this season for its first fall run:

Not really. We think the show is already ripe in its format, but we will be adding a few more interesting points into the results show, and we’ve announced that Adam Shankman is going to be a resident judge. The standards are improving, that’s all.

On what the addition of Shankman means for guest judges, such as Mia Michaels or Tabitha and Napoleon D’mo:


It’s difficult to put them in as judges because I want them choreographing. And I still want Paula Abdul to pop in, and Jennifer Lopez has said how much she loves the program. We tried it with Ellen [DeGeneres], it was very successful. I just don’t want four judges every week. When available, when possible, they will judge. We sometimes have six and seven judges, but normally in a place where I can edit and keep everything tight. The only reason I don’t like that many is that it goes on and it waffles. With dance, people have something categorical to say, a criticism of the dancer they see and want to point out. But the fourth seat could still be a celebrity or a choreographer judge.

On the same-sex ballroom couple that will be on tonight’s audition episode:

Well, I don’t want to say too much, because I want you to watch. But they came on with the attitude that “same-sex dancing isn’t what you’ve shown in the past, it is much stronger, we are the world champions. This is how it should look, not falling over flat on your back.” Basically, we’re giving a proper showcase for same-sex dancing.

On what he hopes to see from this season’s dancers:
Last season I wasn’t too happy with their charisma. I would like to bring personality with talent: I’ll be trying to instill that. You can never guarantee what the dancers are going to do, you can never guarantee that they’re not going to get stage fright. It depends on them. We never know what we’re going to get. Every year we say, “This is the best year yet!’ but nobody expects us to say, “Oh, this is a bad season this year. Don’t watch it!’ All I can say is that I think the standard of technical dancing across five seasons has grown. Season 4 had wonderful personalities with Twitch [Boss], Katee [Shean], Josh [Allen]. If I can get that charisma and personality into the technique, I’ll be a very happy man.

On whether he’ll be dancing again this season:

Ha! They keep twisting my arm — this last season [when the judges danced] I think the two most frightened people were choreographer Mia Michaels and me, and we only had something like 12 bars of music to dance to, and we were scared stiff. I don’t enjoy that feeling.

— Claire Zulkey