EP Nigel Lythgoe Talks SYTYCD: The Next Generation and Previews the Live Shows [Exclusive]
I’ve been watching So You Think You Can Dance since it premiered back in 2005. One of the things that’s always impressed me is the outstanding quality of the dancing. Now don’t get me wrong, I do remember a time during the audition shows where we saw some truly awful dancing. But those people never made it very far and if it really bothered me, I just fast-forwarded through it.
While I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of watching good dancers become great, I love that Season 13 focuses on “The Next Generation.” I was skeptical at first, but over the course of watching the auditions and seeing the finalists make their way through choreography and sometimes entirely new dance styles, I have to say I’ve got serious respect for these pint-sized dancers. This top 10 is truly amazing.
I had the chance to talk to EP and judge Nigel Lythgoe last week about the new direction for the show this season, why they decided to add Maddie Ziegler into the mix, those tough Academy episodes and what he expects to see when the live shows start this week.
TV GOODNESS: I love that you guys are focusing on 8 â€“ 13 year-olds this season although when you announced it I was a little skeptical. How did you guys come to that decision?
Nigel Lythgoe: “Iâ€™m with you, by the way. I was extremely skeptical. It started when I used little Phoenix dancing with Cyrus on the finale last year. I said something â€“ weâ€™re live so itâ€™s always off the top of your head â€“ but I said something like, â€˜We should do a series with you little guys. That was terrific.â€™
I didnâ€™t know what I was getting myself into and FOX would pick up on that and say, â€˜We want to do it. It looks great. It was fabulous, it’s getting the best of both worlds.â€™ And I was like, â€˜Oh. I donâ€™t know. I donâ€™t know if theyâ€™re gonna be any good, these kids. I donâ€™t want to do something like any other program that deals with kids. I donâ€™t like all the makeup on kids and everything. Iâ€™m not sure I wanna do this.â€™
And then as soon as we went out on the road and saw the incredible talent that these kids have got, I was thrilled. I mean, I promise you, these kids werenâ€™t even alive when this program started and this is the next generation of dancers.
Iâ€™m extremely proud of what has developed over these years starting with things like National Dance Day and the Dizzy Feet Foundation. My sights are a lot bigger than just a single television show that might disappear any year. It really is to try and keep America talking about dance and getting people to dance. I just believe that dance means a great deal to a lot of kids in order to express their feelings and their emotions, which they canâ€™t always do verbally or theyâ€™re not allowed to do at home.
So, itâ€™s a big part of my life you know? I used to rush to see incredible ballet dancers like [Rudolf] Nureyev do 4 or 5 pirouettes. These kids are doing 12, 13 and 14 pirouettes now. Itâ€™s a whole different generation, a bit like the Olympics â€“ [they]Â just break world records. Dancers now are starting to do that as well, I believe. Theyâ€™re jumping higher. Theyâ€™re doing more pirouettes. Itâ€™s stunning to see.”
TV GOODNESS: Yeah. The way they move their bodies is pretty amazing and the fact that they start so young and are so good, I love that weâ€™re seeing that.
Nigel:Â “So itâ€™s gonna be a whole new show on Monday as well because I havenâ€™t seen how theyâ€™re gonna be dancing with their all-star partner. So that is gonna be very interesting.”
TV GOODNESS: I was gonna ask about that. What can we expect on Monday or will we literally be finding out at the same time as you will?
Nigel: “Iâ€™ve insisted that I donâ€™t see any of the rehearsal during the week. I donâ€™t want to have any opinions before I see them do the routine. And I think thatâ€™s fair enough.
All I warn against is I donâ€™t want to feel uncomfortable with an adult dancing with a child. Thatâ€™s really important to me. And I advise against over-makeup. We used to have a program in England called Minipops and they used to dress up like Madonna with big red lips and it just felt really uncomfortable. That will not happen on this program. Itâ€™ll be based purely on dance talent and personality.”
TV GOODNESS: Iâ€™m a big Maddie Ziegler fan, so Iâ€™m excited sheâ€™ll be a judge. What do you think sheâ€™ll bring to the show?
Nigel: “Well, sheâ€™s probably the best child dancer around with experience. I think other kids have beaten her in competitions, Iâ€™m not talking about technique or anything else. But the experience that sheâ€™s had with Sia and being Siaâ€™s muse and Sia using her to verbalize, if you will, what Sia wants with Maddieâ€™s body and technique.
So, sheâ€™s had incredible experiences that I donâ€™t believe any other kid has had. So sheâ€™s gonna help with that, I think, and sheâ€™ll help us in telling these kids exactly how they need to work for the television audience and how they need to perform. Itâ€™s not just about technique. Also, I feel like it adds that extra layer, like an onion, of judging.
So Maddie is gonna be like their little kid sister, Jason [Derulo]â€™s gonna be like their older brother, Paula [Abdul]â€™s gonna be like their Auntie and I guess Iâ€™m gonna be like their Granddad.” [Laughs.]
TV GOODNESS: No. Youâ€™re just experienced, Nigel. Come on now.
Nigel: “Thank you very much. Thatâ€™s the word I was searching for.” [Laughs.]
TV GOODNESS: Do you have any favorites?
Nigel: “I would never talk about my favorites. I think itâ€™s unfair because you grow on this program. A couple of years ago we wouldâ€™ve sworn Jaja was going to win and then all of a sudden along came another dancer who just grew week on week on week and actually stole the show at the end of the day, as we know.
So itâ€™s difficult to say anything. And also, theyâ€™ve got a partner this year, so it depends on how they interact with their all-star as well. America votes, so I will just try and judge each performance as it goes along and I usually end up opening my mouth and saying, â€˜Iâ€™ve gotta say youâ€™re my favorite.â€™ And they go â€˜Shut up, Nigel.â€™
But Iâ€™ll be honest with you and say â€“ and I wasnâ€™t really gonna name names â€“ but Iâ€™ve already said to somebody the name, so Iâ€™d better tell you too. One of the kids Iâ€™m sorry weâ€™ve lost, because obviously the judges had nothing to do with the 10 theyâ€™ve chosen, was a young man called Sage [Rosen]. I thought he was a brilliant dancer and Iâ€™m sorry to have lost him.”
TV GOODNESS: Yeah. I have to say watching the Academy episodes, some of those moments were so tough because you could tell that the kids were so talented and that the all-stars were having such a hard time letting them go. I like that you guys showed us that.
Nigel: “I was really upset, to be honest. â€˜No, no. Donâ€™t let him go!â€™ I wish weâ€™d have almost done 2 partners for the all-star and then have America make that decision. And I know, I absolutely know that the all-stars wish weâ€™d done that as well because they did not want to send that last person home.”
TV GOODNESS: And, finally, what are you hoping that people who watch the show are getting out of it?
Nigel: “The security in the knowledge that dance is safe in America. That it is gonna be going on a lot longer than the television programs that brought them dance. And I think thatâ€™s really important. Dance is for everyone. I think it creates a great self-awareness, a self-belief. It allows people to express their emotions that canâ€™t always do it verbally.
In a country where the arts have been placed on the bottom of the ladder, itâ€™s something that we really need to encourage both in young men and young ladies. I think this program is showing benefits to kids who are really so articulate as well as being good dancers.
Maybe itâ€™s because they donâ€™t have a filter yet and they just say great things, but they really can express themselves so well. And I believe that is down to the social interaction that theyâ€™ve got from dance and the world, if you will, of dance that is no gang-related or anything else.
You really do have to focus and commit yourselves and if you can do that, you donâ€™t have to become a professional dancer. You can be anything that your talents lead you towards in any walk of life because youâ€™ve proven that you can commit yourself. Thatâ€™s why they take examinations, is that you can show people youâ€™ve committed to this examination. Well, there isnâ€™t anything stronger to commit to than dance knowing how hard you have to work every single day.”
Edited for space and content.
The live shows for SYTYCD: The Next Generation begin Monday, July 11th at 8/7c on FOX.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.
Kelly McCormack Talks Favorite Moments in A League of Their Own
[Warning: Mild spoilers for season 1.] Now that you’ve had a chance to watch A League of Their Own, here’s the rest of my chat with Kelly McCormack about her favorite moments of the season. Seeing the iconic Peaches uniforms for the first time wasn’t just a goosebump moment for…
John Griffin and Harold Perrineau Talk From on EPIX Season 1 Finale
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] How are we doing, #FROMily? In case you missed it this morning, the very good news is that that cliffhanger will be followed by a second season, which was gifted this morning ahead of the linear broadcast of the finale. I always legitimately appreciate when we…
Elizabeth Saunders Talks EPIX’s From
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] One of the things that makes EPIX’s From such a fun ride is the abundance of Canadian cast members. Elizabeth Saunders, who plays Donna, is a favorite from her turn on the third season of Mary Kills People [streaming on Global TV in Canada and Roku…
Corteon Moore Talks From “Broken Windows, Open Doors”
[Warning: Spoilers for tonight’s episode.] Tonight’s episode of From had us all in our feels as we learned through flashbacks about the Sophie’s Choice Boyd had to make to save his son, and back in the present as Boyd said his piece with Ellis before heading into the woods with…
Pegah Ghafoori Talks From “All Good Things…”
[Warning: Spoilers for tonight’s episode] Tonight on From, Fatima’s anniversary celebration turned into a Colony House of horrors when a misguided Kevin let his monster bae in and she promptly killed him and left the window open for her crew. While the party devolved into terror and sent everyone running,…
Shaun Majumder Talks From “Book 74”
[Warning: Spoilers for tonight’s episode.] Tonight on EPIX’s From, Father Khatri made a bold move, kidnapping Sara instead of turning her in, and then recognizing her as a vessel for some big messages. That startling realization speaks to him on multiple levels–as a man of faith, a man trapped in…
Avery Konrad Talks About Sara’s Struggle in From “Silhouettes”
[Warning: Spoilers for tonight’s episode.] Over the course of the season so far on From, we’ve witnessed Sara’s battle against the voices telling her to to do terrible things, and tonight we saw her unravel further, threatening the Matthews and lashing out in a moment of terror with horrifying results….
Hannah Cheramy Talks From “Choosing Day”
[Warning: Spoilers for tonight’s episode.] Tonight, on EPIX’s From, the Matthews participate in the show’s version of the sorting hat, choosing where to call home–the town or Colony House. At the end of the episode, Julie makes the decision to split from her family and instead settle in with Fatima…
Ricky He Talks From “The Way Things Are Now”
[Warning: Spoilers for episode 102 of EPIX’s From.] Epix’s new series From is two episodes in and it’s already laying the groundwork for a seriously spooky season. Tonight’s episode demonstrated the careful balance of relief and horror that the show hits, with our characters’ worst fears realized, just not when…
Catching Up with Ted Lasso and Previewing Season 2
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] The not so dirty little secret about how I approach a new series is that I sometimes make a call based on the headspace I’m in at the time. It’s been a minute since I’ve picked up a show after the first season and then binge…
What They Said: Three Revealing Conversations from Survivor’s Remorse “Closure”
WARNING: Spoilers for Survivor’s Remorse “Closure” The latest episode of Starz’s Survivor’s Remorse featured conversations that showed characters really digging deep into their thoughts, emotions and motivations.
Two Takes: The Catch “The Knock-Off”
Who can you trust? If this episode of The Catch was any indication, the answer is just about nobody. Betrayal was running rampant as Felicity (Shivani Ghai) arose from the dead to seduce-con Margot, Gretchen (Maria Thayer, Gotham, The Mindy Project) played gold-hearted Alice 2.0 before swindling Ethan, Tessa jumped…
What They Said: Top 3 Quotable Moments from Preacher “El Valero”
Both Quincannon and Jesse refuse to give up on what they each think is rightfully theirs. While Jesse is struggling to face the consequences of his actions, Quincannon has laid his past demons to rest and is hellbent on moving forward and putting Annville on the map again. Despite a…
What They Said: Favorite Quotes from Supergirl “Worlds Finest”
Oh, Supergirl. That ending was cold. But I can’t hate on you because the latest episode has quickly become one of my favorites.
What They Said: Top 4 Quotable Moments from Black Sails “XXIII”
The dialogue in “XXIII” is phenomenal. It’s always a fun ride when Black Sails carries its viewers along without giving them the chance to catch their breath. When an episode moves at this unforgiving pace, there is no chance for a breather nor is there a respite from the information…
What Lucifer Said: Favorite quotes from Supernatural “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”
Supernatural episodes are almost always funny but thanks to the dialogue and a certain man speaking said dialogue, I laughed a lot during “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” You know, when I wasn’t busy fearing for Sam’s life or wondering what in the world was going on with Dean and…
What They Said: The Flash, “Legends Of Today” and Arrow, “Legends Of Yesterday”
Two nights of Arrow +Â The Flash = what more could we ask for?! I don’t know what it is about blending these shows, but I canâ€™t help but feel that every time they come together, they somehow become greater than the sum of their parts. And thatâ€™s saying a lot…
What they Said: Top 4 Quotable Moments from Graceland “Little Bo Bleep”
Shoot outs. Fake outs. And long-awaited revelations. “Little Bo Bleep” was a jam-packed episode that wrapped up some loose ends and totally frayed others. Â It finally gave us one Sarkissian in jail and pulled back the curtain on Briggs’ master plan, but it also set up Jakes for a world…
What They Said: Favorite Quotes from Poldark “Part 4”
â€œWhat have I told you, I don’t require my wife to crochet and sip tea, but I do require her to remember she’s not a beast of burden.â€ No, Iâ€™m not talking about The Rolling Stones! I have to admit though, just for a second, the lyrics popped into my…
3 Moments of Goodness from Brooklyn Nine-Nine “Johnny and Dora”
The most satisfying part of this season’s finale has to the Jake and Amy kiss. Well, they kiss three times but the last one is the best one — and it means something. The Charles and Rosa dynamic was also great. I love how she’s convinced he doesn’t know anything…