‘So You Think You Can Dance’ judge remembers Stephen ‘Twitch’ Boss’ solo routine: ‘It was a defining moment’

panel of four judges behind a desk with words "so you think you can dance"
“So You Think You Can Dance” judges Mary Murphy, from left, Nigel Lythgoe, Vanessa Hudgens and guest judge Stephen “Twitch” Boss judge the show’s auditions in Los Angeles in 2018.

Mary Murphy will never forget the moment Stephen “Twitch” Boss commanded the Las Vegas stage to compete on the hit Fox series “So You Think You Can Dance.”

Almost 15 years later, the “So You Think You Can Dance” judge is coincidentally back in Vegas on Wednesday as she fights back tears following Boss’ death from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

“He came out, and I’ll never forget it as long as I live because it was a defining moment in a dancer’s life, when they dance in front of you and one is with the universe, the music, the choreography,” Murphy told The Times by telephone from her hotel room as she got ready for the first day of the Holiday Dance Classic, a national dance competition she co-owns.

“[There was] a symphony of all music playing because usually it’s hip-hop music, and he was playing a classical piece and his body was like showing us all the different instruments that were being played in the symphony,” she said. “And it just kept getting better and it just kept getting better. And it climaxed right at the right time, right at the end. We just shot up and gave him a standing ovation.”


After auditioning for the third year in a row, the self-taught freestyle hip-hop dancer finally landed on the show’s fourth season.

“He just soared after that on the television show,” she said. “He became so beloved by the end of that show and him dancing with Ellen [DeGeneres] was just out of this world to watch when Alex Wong got hurt and then Ellen stepped in, learned the routine and danced with him. Those were one of the most special moments on ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’” she said.

After coming in second on the dance competition series, Boss returned to the show as an all-star, a choreographer and, lastly, as a judge. Murphy — dubbed the “queen of scream” for her passionate responses and cries of “hot tamale” when judging the majority of the show’s 17 seasons — was joined by Boss on the judge’s table in 2018.

“The very first time that he came out, the crowd just roared, you know the dancers are roaring because maybe they never saw themselves, as a contestant, that they’d ever be able to be a judge on a national show like that, so it just took him to another level,” she recalled.

Boss also judged the show’s latest season this summer, alongside JoJo Siwa, Matthew Morrison and Leah Remini.

“You have no idea the impact that one dancer had on so many lives,” Murphy said in between tears. “All those kids that don’t think they can make it. ... He was one of those people that proved, you know, that hard work can pay off. Yeah, you get smacked down a few times, but if you hang in there and just when you think it is not going to happen, you get to walk through that next door and what a wonderful door it is. And to be able to be a small part of that and watch him grow and his star quality grow is one of the greatest gifts of my life.”


After meeting DeGeneres on “SYTYCD,” Boss went on to DJ her show in 2014 and was promoted to co-executive producer in 2020. The talk series ended its 19-season run in May amid reports of a toxic work environment.

Unlike his counterparts, Murphy said, Boss was able to share the joy of dance with the world.

“A lot of dancers who are highly talented and genius at what they do often can’t show it, they can’t let you feel the dance,” she said. “They don’t bring the dance to life. He was able to do that. He had what I called twinkle eye and there’s certain movie stars that have it, like Julia Roberts definitely has twinkle eye. ... That light comes out from within and there’s a lot of people that might think they can manufacture it, but they just can’t, and he had that naturally.”

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