Celebrating 10 years of ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ with Nigel Lythgoe

SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE: L-R: Host Cat Deeley, resident judges Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy and guest judge Jason Derulo on SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE airing Wednesday, July 2 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2014 FOX Broadcasting Co. Cr: Adam Rose

SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE: L-R: Host Cat Deeley, resident judges Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy and guest judge Jason Derulo on SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE airing Wednesday, July 2 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2014 FOX Broadcasting Co. Cr: Adam Rose

By RODNEY HO/ rho@ajc.com, originally filed Tuesday, July 21, 2015

On Tuesday night, Fox is celebrating 10 years of Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance” with a one-hour special featuring highlights from the seminal reality competition show.

Creator Nigel Lythgoe talked to the press this afternoon about his Emmy-winning show, which has had a massive impact on dance in the United States. It has drawn a whole new generation into the profession and created millions of new fans of the genre.

He admitted when Simon Fuller asked him to put the show together in 2005, he was skeptical.

“When we were commissioned,” he said, “there was nothing like it on TV. When Simon asked me to create this, I was not particularly enthusiastic about it. Dancing wasn’t happening in America. There was no ‘Dancing With the Stars.’ No ‘America’s Best Dance Crew.’ Nothing! Of course, it’s Simon Fuller’s genius. Unlike me, he didn’t see it as something nobody wanted it. It’s fertile for it. It turned out he was right. Here were are 10 years later. I didn’t think we’d last a year!”

Lythgoe marveled at the impact of the show.

“I’m thrilled,” he said. “The standard of dance has risen and risen and risen. I think we’re just showcasing it.”

He said fathers come up to him now and tell him how much the show has inspired their sons to go into dance. And instead of trying to keep them away, they’re happy about it thanks to what they’ve seen on “So You Think You Can Dance.”

“People now realize how tough it is to be a professional dancer,” Lythgoe said. “People are just astounded by the strength of these kids. If they fall down, they pick themselves up. They are hearing critiques that are not just cruel and mean.”

Lythgoe said he has seen plenty of dancers who audition multiple times and get better and better until they reach the finals.

I asked him about Atlanta’s Dragon House’s impact on the show. “Are you kidding me?” he said. “When we started, there were five people in Dragon House. Now everyone tells me they’re a member. They need an extension in that house! … These kids literally articulate every joint in their body. It’s been fantastic. We’ve gotten great people from it. I think Dragon House has become a magnet for dancers.”

Plus, what is it like working again with Paula Abdul, a judge this season after many seasons on “Idol.”

“She’s really comfortable,” he said. “She’s in an area she knows what she’s talking about. She was probably America’s most decorated choreographer in the period she was choreographing [in the 1980s.] I’m always amazed when I read Twitter comments saying ‘Why don’t you get a judge that knows what they’re talking about?’ Maybe you haven’t heard of Paula before 2002 on ‘Idol.’ Also with Jason DeRulo, they didn’t realize he’s a stage school kid. He’s trained in tap and jazz and ballet. Of course, he’s a good dancer in his own right. He incorporates dance into his performances.”

I also asked him Cat Deeley’s impact as the host. He of course thinks she has earned an Emmy for her work. He loves the fact she really listens to the dancers. “She’s passionate. She’s interested in the dancers,” he said. ‘And obviously the public loves her.”

He also got introspective about his own career.

“I started as a dancer and been a choreographer, then a director and producer, then a little program called ‘American Idol,’ which changed my life entirely,” he added. ” ‘Idol Gives Back’ had the greatest impact on my life, even more than ‘So You Think You Can Dance.’ I understood the enormity of this country and problems swept under the carpet. It turned my life around. Then to have this with dance as well. It has given me focus if you will. It’s a wonderful thing. It’s something I’m very proud of.”

He said he will also receive the Order of the British Empire from the Queen. “Gosh, I wish my parents were alive!” he said. “I am being richly rewarded for things I would do for free,” he said.

USA Today’s picks for the 10 best dancers of the past 10 years here.

 TV PREVIEW

“So You Think You Can Dance 10th Anniversary Special,” 8 p.m. Tuesday, Fox


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