If you are one of the many who simply swoon when Johnny lifts Baby high up in the air, in front of the entire Kellerman crowd, in the 1987 film of the same name, then the new television version of Dirty Dancing is for you. In the WE series (premiering tonight at 10 pm/ET), 18 women get a chance to live out their Baby fantasies as they are separated into groups and led by male professional dancers, who will eventually pick one lass for a chance to perform a sexy dance for judges. TVGuide.com got a chance to catch up with Dirty Dancing host and celebrity choreographer Cris Judd about why this reality competition shouldn't be left in the corner.
TVGuide.com: How did this series come about?
Cris Judd: I was originally approached to be one of the choreographers and judges. Not too long before that, I had come back from Europe and shot a pilot as the host of a show for MTV, so I inquired if there was going to be a [Dirty Dancing] host. They said they weren't thinking of having a host, that the three choreographers could be "correspondents" and cohost it together. Then three or four days later, they called me and asked if I wanted to be the host, because they thought it was a great idea.
TVGuide.com: So you sort of made yourself a part?
Judd: Yes. [Laughs] I thought it was a great opportunity, and it would be a lot of fun. And what better person to host a dance show than a dancer?
TVGuide.com: Are you a little sad that you aren't out there dancing?
Judd: Of course. Who wouldn't miss being on stage? But I've left that for the young kids. I had my time, and now it is time for other people.
TVGuide.com: So we aren't going to get to see you dancing even a little?
Judd: Well, I visit the groups while they are learning the combinations. And then I give my little two cents and partner with the girls a bit, just to help them out. It is all constructive advice regarding how to prepare themselves for partnering, information to help them out and to make their experience more fun and easier. It was a lot of fun to do that.
TVGuide.com: When I first heard about Dirty Dancing, I thought it would be the dance style from the movie, but it is more like real ballroom dancing.
Judd: We have six professional ballroom dancers. They represent the "Johnny" of the movie, and the women represent "Baby."
TVGuide.com: How much experience did these women have going in?
Judd: Some didn't have any dance experience at all. They came in here as teachers and secretaries trying to realize a dream that they had in them. And I commend them for doing that. There are some girls that had a lot of dance training, and obviously it helped out with their progress through the show. But I thought it was a great concept in the way that the [professional] guys actually eliminated the girls.
TVGuide.com: Do you think that people who like So You Think You Can Dance or Dancing with the Stars are going to be hooked on this?
Judd: I think so, because it is more of a tangible experience for people watching it, because these are everyday career women. It should give people watching it at home the idea that they could try to do it.
TVGuide.com: Are you a fan of those other shows?
Judd: Yeah! I'm a really good friend of Mario Lopez. I've gone to visit the [DWTS] set and watched him perform.
TVGuide.com: Did you give him tips?
Judd: Yeah. But his partner Karina was really great with him, and she's obviously a professional and knows what to do and what to look for. I was just there as support, to help out in whatever way I can. I am a fan of all the shows. For So You Think You Can Dance, I'm on a dance convention tour called "The Pulse," which originated from the Broadway Dance Center in New York, and the other faculty members and teachers are the judges from that show. I'm touring with Mia Michaels, Brian Friedman, Shane Sparks, Laurie Ann Gibson — who does Making the Band — and Wade Robson. We travel around the country together as colleagues and teach kids. I just came back from Houston, Texas, where we taught over 1,000 kids. It is wonderful.
TVGuide.com: What else are you up to?
Judd: I'm shooting a comedy in New York called Goy Band, with Adam Pascal from Rent, Amy Davidson from 8 Simple Rules, and Natasha Lyonne. I have a production company called Lee Grant Productions, and we produce music for film and television. I'm kind of taking a different route as far as being in behind-the-scenes production and direction. I still love to perform. I'm doing this movie and am slated to do another one.
TVGuide.com: Would you ever do anything like I'm a Celebrity — Get Me Out of Here again?
Judd: Probably not, because I already won the show.
TVGuide.com: Right, so where can you go from there?
Judd: [Laughs] Where can I go? But I would love to be an actor on a show.
TVGuide.com: You got a lot of publicity for your personal life, when you were married to Jennifer Lopez. Do you find it hard to remind people that you are a dancer first and foremost?
Judd: The majority of people know me as a dancer, but they don't also know that I'm a director, a songwriter and a producer. I was the creative director for Jennifer's NBC special, Let's Get Loud.
TVGuide.com: And you've worked with so many big names, like Cher, Janet Jackson, Celine Dion, Michael Jackson....
Judd: I was on tour with Michael Jackson for a while; I did the "Dangerous" and "History" tours. I was also on tour with Diana Ross.
TVGuide.com: Does it get taxing doing the same thing every night?
Judd: No! That time of my life to me was brilliant. When I danced with Michael, it was like I was dancing with everybody's idol as far as our generation is concerned. To be on tour with that man, I felt, was the crème de la crème of being a dancer, there was nowhere else I would rather [have been]. Now as I'm getting older, I start to think of other things I can do. When I first moved to L.A. as a dancer, all I wanted to do was dance. I never even considered trying to act or direct. I have to thank Jennifer for a lot of that, because she saw the creativity in me, to believe in me enough to start directing her videos and to start being her choreographer.
TVGuide.com: Are you a fan of the movie Dirty Dancing?
Judd: Absolutely! Who isn't a fan of that movie? Come on! I know you are a fan.
TVGuide.com: Yeah, I could quote the entire thing. But I'm not coordinated enough for any of the dance moves.
Judd: See! There you go, you have to come and be on our show. You could be taught.
Reality-TV fans, find an exclusive look at the five big changes in store for The Apprentice in the Dec. 4 issue of TV Guide.
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