What first came across as a rather unpromising offshoot of American Idol — who wants to watch people just, you know, dance? — now appears to be the right idea at the right time. (Thank you very much, Dancing with the Stars.) Fox's So You Think You Can Dance (premiering tonight at 8pm/ET) brings 50 hoofers from across the USA to Hollywood, where those who merely dance will be separated from true dancers.
"We've got breakers, hip-hop dancers, ballet dancers, Irish dancers, lyrical jazz dancers, tap dancers," recounts Nigel Lythgoe, who executive-produces Dance (as well as Idol). "And we have brought them together with five choreographers and said, 'OK, so you think you can dance? Show us. Prove it.'"
After all, Lythgoe points out, "Anyone can stand up and say 'I dance.' Every one of us has had to do that, be it at an office party or wedding. But to say that is totally different from saying, 'I'm a dancer.' A dancer should be able to do lots of things. And any dance that revolves around movement, we will have them attempt to do it. It could be anything from the Charleston to krumping — the entire spectrum of dance."
The field of 50 will quickly be culled to eight males and eight females. Pulling names out of a hat will create pairs (ah, shades of awkward grade-school square-dancing class) who will then tackle a new dance each week, as well as perform their individual specialties solo for the judges . "[Who makes it through each week] will be decided by the judges," says Lythgoe. "But at the finale, America takes over and votes for who they like."
But again, as we stated early on, this is dancing. Not singing. So what reward awaits Dance's first champ? (Please tell us it's not a beach-blanket movie with Justin Guarini.) "We're not turning them into stars like American Idol," Lythgoe concedes. "But we'll give them $100,000 and an apartment in New York City for a year. I don't know any aspiring young dancer who wouldn’t like that. But no, they are not going to be the next Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood. You can't really 'release' anything as a dancer unless it’s the next home video of 'Teach Yourself Hip-Hop.'"
And to hear it from Lythgoe, Dance's dance card boasts more than its share of self-proclaimed experts. "There are so many 'choreographers' [out there]," he says with a roll of his eyes. "Every kid is a hip-hop teacher. One kid even turned around and said, 'I don't train; I teach.' I was like, 'Oh, well, let's hopefully put a pin in that bubble!'"