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  • Writer's pictureKristyn Burtt

The Season 1 'SYTYCD' Winner Received a Cash Prize & This Unusual Reward

Dancing with the Stars wasn't the only dance competition show to premiere in the summer of 2005. FOX stepped into the arena 15 years ago with So You Think You Can Dance. The show debuted on July 20, 2005. What a lot of people don't remember is that Cat Deeley wasn't the original host of the show, it was Lauren Sanchez. (Yes, THAT Lauren Sanchez.) On the judges' panel was Nigel Lythgoe as the head judge, and Mary Murphy, Mia Michaels, Brian Friedman and Dan Karaty on a rotating basis.

The producers held auditions in three cities for Season 1 — Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles. Nigel, Jeff Thacker and Nigel's then-wife, Bonnie Lythgoe, presided over the auditions. After performing their solos, judges started cutting dancers. Those performers who made it through the solo round then went to the choreography round. From those auditions, 50 dancers were sent to Hollywood Week, where 25 men and 25 women fought for a place in the Top 16.

The Top 8 male contestants were Jonathan "Jonnis" Tannis, Craig DeRosa, Allan Frias, Ryan Conferido, Artem Chigvintsev, Blake McGrath, Jamie McGee and Nick Lazzarini. The Top 8 female contestants were Sandra Colton, Michelle Brooke, Snejana "Snow" Urbin, Destini Rogers, Melissa Vella, Kamilah Barrett, Ashelé Dawnson and Melody Lacayanga. Many of the choreographers who worked on Season 1 are still working on the show to this day, including Friedman, Michaels, Doriana Sanchez and Tyce Diorio.

SYTYCD had four weeks of auditions and eight weeks of live shows. The series didn't wrap until Oct. 5, 2005. The Season 1 winner was Nick Lazzarini, who won with 37.7% of the vote. Lazzarini was not only the first winner of the series, but he was also the first person who ever auditioned for the show. He discussed this fun fact with Dance Spirit magazine in 2005. "I was actually taking Dee [Caspary]’s class at EDGE [Performing Arts Center] and [producers] Bonnie and Nigel [Lythgoe] came in to watch…and after class they said, 'We’re doing this untitled project that’s going to be like an American Idol for dancers, and we’d like to do some test auditions here today,' " he shared. "They took me into a room, and I was actually the first person they auditioned. I improvised for them, they filmed me and they interviewed me, and Bonnie was like, 'I would love to see you come to our callback audition at the Orpheum in downtown L.A. at the end of this month.' "

More: Elliana Walmsley Isn't Slowing Down After 'Dance Moms' His prize for winning the show was $100,000 and a penthouse apartment in New York City for one year. According to Lythgoe, Lazzarini opted to take the cash value of the apartment rental for the year because he continued to pursue his career in LA instead of NYC. That $5,000 a month apartment netted him an additional $60,000. Based on the success of Season 1, a tour and results shows were added for Season 2. The early days of SYTYCD also inspired an entire generation of dancers, who grew up watching and voting for America's Favorite Dancer.


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