Are you ready for the live shows of So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation? Nigel Lythgoe certainly is. He gave me a frank and insightful interview on Thursday that really speaks volumes about his love for dance.
I have always maintained that you don't have to always agree with Lythgoe's judging, but you can never question his love for dance. He's done more for the industry in the last decade than any other person in the dance world.
He initially wasn't too keen on the younger-generation format, but he's been impressed with the talent he's seen so far.
"When think that this generation wasn't even born when this program started, it's quite incredible," he says.
Read more about Lythgoe's thoughts on Maddie Ziegler, why Joshua Allen isn't participating in the rest of the season and why he's disappointed in one All-Star's contestant selection...
What surprised you the most about working with this age group during the audition rounds — outside of their talent?
That's exactly it. I wasn't expecting the talent to be so great. I wasn't expecting the kids to be able to express themselves either physically or verbally. They all were quite brilliant. Their personalities — because they are unfiltered — there is nothing holding them back from that point of view. They were terrific whether we were talking to them outside of their auditions or during the auditions.
You are constantly defending the format changes on SYTYCD on social media. What would you like to say to those viewers who aren't happy about the changes?
All of the negative comments started before the show even started. They still don't know what the show is. We haven't even started the format yet with the All-Stars. As far as I'm concerned, the format is exactly the same, just the age group has changed. The audition process is the same, the format is exactly the same — they are still going to have to do all styles of dance.
And if you really do love dance, it's great to see the next generation. The All-Stars are saying, "These kids are even better than we are."
I'm interested in the longevity of dance, not this program. I am interested in the longevity of dance in this country. So to be so close-minded about just SYTYCD... well, what happens to dance when this show comes off the air?
I think they're being short-sighted and the fact is that if you don't make any changes, you don't stay on the air for very long. That's the history of programming, I'm afraid.
There's an All-Star swap this season — Joshua Allen is out and Marko Germar replaces him. Can you explain that?
Joshua could not commit to the complete series. For personal reasons, he could not commit to the entire series. We didn't want to just bring somebody in for a few weeks and then drop them. So we agreed to let him out of his contract.
Did you think about bringing in another hip-hop All-Star to replace Joshua since Marko is known for his work in contemporary?
At the end of the day, not really. We need the greatest variety of dancers. Marko is good at everything and that's what's going to be necessary at the end of the day. These kids are not going to be staying in their genre. It's exactly the same format as the original SYTYCD.
Don't forget that Joshua came in as a contemporary dancer. He didn't come in as a hip-hop dancer originally.
[Editor's Note: Joshua came in as a hip-hop dancer. See his Season 4 audition.]
Photo credit: Adam Rose/FOX
Let's talk Maddie Ziegler, the biggest young star to come out of dance the last few years. What does she bring to the judges' table?
For me, dealing with these kids now, I wanted a variety of judging on the panel. As far as I'm concerned, Maddie is the kid sister, Jason Derulo is the big brother, Paula Abdul is the auntie and I'm the granddad. There you have a complete family of judgment.
Maddie has been in competition with some of these kids and I do believe that some of them have beaten her in competition. I don't think anybody has been through what she's been through with Sia, the videos and the success that she's rightly gained.
She's going to know what is demanded and expected of these kids. Obviously, we only have a number of hours with these kids because we have to school them. This isn't the old SYTYCD where we can spend every hour rehearsing, they have to go to school as well.
Any predictions for this season before the live shows begin?
I don't know yet how they are going to dance with their All-Star partner, so it's a whole different ball game. We know the amount of stress that goes on, so people are going to rise to that or fall by that.
Most of these kids have been in competitions and have had seven or eight routines to learn in a competition. They are accustomed to winning or not winning. The word "lose" doesn't even enter their vocabulary.
With this program you either grow or you don't grow. It's going to be interesting to see how they get on with their All-Star. We also have a few tricks up our sleeves for later on in the series.
We were not involved in choosing who the All-Stars wanted on their team. I think we have already lost a fabulous dancer. I'm not going to name names, but one kid was chosen because he or she is so darn cute.
Cute doesn't work in my book and I want really good dancers, too. I think we lost a really good dancer to someone who's cute. It's going to be interesting when I get to judge. Who's really cute?
So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation airs on FOX at 8 p.m. on Mondays.
Watch this 2019 'To The Pointe' interview with Season 13 contestant Sheaden Gabriel:
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