A conversation with the host of “So You Think You Can Dance"

“SYTYCD” host Cat Deeley in a Catherine Malandrino dress and Christian Louboutin shoes

"So You Think You Can Dance” host Cat Deeley sees the show’s every success and glitch. She has an exclusive view of the performers, judges and crew, and she is with the dancers from audition day to the moment the winners are crowned. From this position she has the power to set the tone of the show. Deeley’s warm personality is infectious. Though reality television often calls for dramatics, she gives lighthearted feedback after even particularly disappointing performances. “I’m a fan [of the dancers],” she says. “I’d rather make fun of myself or joke with them than at them. I couldn’t do anything like what they do.”

With Season 10 premiering this month, Dance Teacher caught up with the two-time Emmy-nominated host for a behind-the-scenes perspective on America’s favorite dance show.

Dance Teacher: What’s most challenging about hosting “So You Think”?

Cat Deeley: Because the show is live, the most difficult thing is keeping it on track and not getting lost in the moment. There are many elements and emotions run incredibly high. We have to be in the moment, but I also have to be able to extract myself to keep the show moving. I’m the ringmaster, juggling lots of different balls to make it entertaining and enjoyable for everyone watching at home.

DT: How much are the producers feeding you instructions?

CD: Actually, I do my own thing. I’ve got a clock I can see so I know where I can take my time or move on. Quite honestly, the producers can’t see everything I can see at the same time, so they let me get on with what I fancy, unless we’re going really over on time—usually because the judges are talking for too long. Then they’ll scream in my ear, “You’ve got to move them on; you’ve got to move them on!” which is much harder than it looks.

DT: Who taught you to deal with the pressure of a live show?

CD: Voice coach Peter Settelen, who helped me with public speaking, always said, “Be in the moment.” The biggest thing I learned was preparation. Prep, prep, prep, and go to every rehearsal. I think this can be said for any kind of performance. Do everything that you possibly can, so that when you’re live, you can throw away the preparation. I know what camera I’m speaking to, what spotlight to be in, where this dancer needs to be and how long we’ve got on the clock. So when the judges are commenting or the dancers are reacting, I can truly be in the moment.

DT: What have you learned about dance?

CD: When I was little, I’d see The Nutcracker at Christmas. It was beautiful and the dancers could do amazing things with their bodies, but it never really moved me. On the show, though, there are incredible moments when you get the right choreographer with the right dancer and the right hair, makeup, costumes, lighting—the right amalgamation of all those factors—I can’t describe it. I’ll get the chills and the hairs on my arms stand on end. I’ll go onstage after the piece and look out into the audience, and people are mesmerized. Dance can absolutely move you both physically and emotionally, and I didn’t realize that until this show.

DT: You’re known for being a fashion guru. How do you assemble your wardrobe?

CD: I don’t have a stylist, so it’s a real mixture of many things. I do have a few designer friends, so I’m lucky that I can ask to beg, borrow or steal. I also love vintage shopping. I visit vintage stores in all of the cities we go to and customize dresses I find to update them or change the hemline. But it’s very important to remember that style isn’t about having lots of money. You can take something from a store like Zara, Topshop or Forever 21 and put a fabulous belt on it, work a great pair of shoes and accessorize, and it becomes something unique and completely your own. That’s what fashion is all about. DT

Photo courtesy of FOX Broadcasting

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