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.
Deep in the throes of "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 16, the euphoria of summertime and live shows is causing us to reflect on seasons past. While much has undergone change since the show's inception—movement trends, choreographers, dancers, judges and fashion—the positive impact it has on the trajectory of the winner's future remains as significant as ever. "This show has changed my life—it's changed me as a person," says Hannahlei Cabanilla, winner of Season 15.
Nigel Lythgoe makes it clear that he is not a dance teacher. The one time he was invited as a student to teach little kids, he scared the hell out of them. He was impersonating a jack-in-the-box, and when the kids approached, he jumped up and shrieked. "Three of the little girls ran off," says Lythgoe. "Two of them peed themselves, and I was never allowed to go near little kids or teach them again. That was my one experience as a dance teacher. And now they're giving me an award!"
But Lythgoe has done as much as anyone to draw America's consciousness to the art of dance. And that is, in a very pervasive, influential way, teaching.
Lythgoe at home in L.A. Photo by Rose Eichenbaum
In 2015, Houston Ballet demi-soloist Jim Nowakowski made a shocking career about-face when he soared into the heart of pop culture and made Top 6 on Season 12 of "So You Think You Can Dance." The commercial world was taken by his flawless technique and perfect lines, while at the same time classical dancers were surprised by his choice to leave a coveted position with Houston Ballet. He was an enigma—and now he's done it again. He has recently returned to ballet company life and is well into his second season with BalletMet.
Last night marked—finally!—the first live show of Season 15. We made it! And so did the Top 10. Now, it's up to the viewers (that's you!) to determine which contestants end up in the Top 4 and, eventually, which one will snag the sweet prizes up for grabs: $1 million, the cover of Dance Spirit (that's us!), and a role in FOX's live production of RENT, which will air January 27. Also awesome: tWitch is officially on the judging panel for the long haul, alongside Nigel, Mary, and Vanessa. Dreams do come true!
So how'd the two-hour event play out? Each contestant couple performed twice: once in the girl's style and once in the guy's. Here's what went down.