Nigel Lythgoe on What's Happening with "SYTYCD" and National Dance Day This Year

"So You Think You Can Dance" Season 16 hopefuls at the Academy (Adam Rose/Fox)

Months into the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing is still very much part of our reality. What does that mean for two of the most highly-anticipated dance events of the year: the 17th season of summer-TV staple "So You Think You Can Dance," and National Dance Day, planned for September 19th? We caught up with the one and only Nigel Lythgoe—executive producer of "SYT" and co-founder of NDD's host organization, American Dance Movement—to get the scoop on both.


As you may recall from last year, National Dance Day has officially moved to the third Saturday in September. Usually, the big day centers around two large-scale events on both coasts, as thousands of dance-lovers gather to watch performances and perform the official NDD combo together. Like many other annual events, this year's festivities may look a bit different—but only time will tell. "Because it's months away, we hadn't started much planning on it before we went into lockdown," Lythgoe says. "We remain hopeful that it'll happen. The whole idea of the day is to bring people together, but whether that can be accomplished in-person is going to depend entirely on state and federal guidelines come September." But one's thing for sure: "We'll definitely still be posting an official NDD routine. Even if it can't be danced together in person, we'll dance in our living rooms, gardens, yards, on Zoom—wherever we can," he says.

And when it comes to the highlight of our summer TV lineup? Similar news.

"We're scheduled to start shooting the live tapings of Season 17 of 'SYTYCD' in August, but we don't know how many people will be allowed in the studio, and how many live shows we can do, if any at all," Lythgoe says. "It's difficult to project what's going to happen in August, but we can keep preparing for it now." For the time being, producers are sifting through the thousands of video submissions they received during the entry period. The contestants they'd like to see more of will receive a video of a routine that they have 48 hours to learn, perform, and send back to producers. "Once we get all those back, we'll judge participants against each other doing the same choreography," Lythgoe says. "We're not sure yet if we'll narrow things down to a top 10 or 20."

According to Lythgoe, the worst-case scenario would, in fact, still make for some pretty entertaining television.

"I love audience participation and want to keep that alive. So if we can't have our normal competition, another option is to put our past seasons in competition with each other, and have viewers vote on their all-time favorite dancers and dances," he says. "There's a lot you can do in editing with 16 seasons worth of material."

Whatever ends up happening with both "SYT" and NDD, Lythgoe (unsurprisingly) wants dancers to stay at the top of their game. "You're athletes, so just like all the other professional athletes around the world, you have to keep training," he says. "There's so many more classes you can take virtually now, so make the most of that opportunity."

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