A year and a half after she shocked American Idol fans by announcing her departure from the Fox megahit, Paula Abdul is shimmying her way back to reality TV. The former L.A. Laker girl and Emmy-winning choreographer opens up to TV Guide Magazine about returning to her dance roots, what she thinks about Idol's new judges and why she won't rule out working with Simon Cowell again.
TV Guide Magazine: What sets Live to Dance apart from other dance shows?
Abdul: First and foremost, it's about celebration. It's about celebrating acts that move forward as opposed to who's going home. We're the only show that has all ages — you can be anywhere from 6 to 106. You could be a soloist, duo or group of any size. There are some acts that came in with 50 people! And I don't try to take them out of their element and do routines in a style they've never done before.
TV Guide Magazine: Auditions were held in "specially constructed Dance Domes." What the heck is a Dance Dome?
Abdul: That was part of my vision. We built these 90-foot domes that were deemed the "Dance Domes." We're doing a lot of things that are different from the normal look of TV shows.
TV Guide Magazine: You're not only the show's lead expert but a mentor, coach and executive producer. Is there anything you aren't doing?
Abdul: [Laughs] I'm not fire-baton twirling.
TV Guide Magazine: After you left Idol, there were many rumors about what you'd do next. So You Think You Can Dance, Dancing With the Stars, the upcoming U.S. version of The X Factor — did you seriously consider any of those?
Abdul: I take everything that is passed my way seriously. It was [about] weighing what you can balance life with, and family and friends. Live to Dance is a little gem.
TV Guide Magazine: Weren't you tempted to reunite with Simon on X Factor?
Abdul: You never know. Who said I turned him down?
TV Guide Magazine: But you're doing Live to Dance. Or do you mean he didn't offer you the gig?
Abdul: I'm not saying that. [Laughs] This is fun, this little game we're doing here.
TV Guide Magazine: What exactly are you saying?
Abdul: All I can say for right now is that I'm focused on Live to Dance. Whatever happens down the road, none of us are to say. But I adore Simon, and we've stayed pretty close.
TV Guide Magazine: Word is new Idol judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler will be more Paula than Simonesque.
Abdul: When you're a performer and you've been through [auditions], and you know the hard work it takes, it's a different perspective. But that was what was great about Randy [Jackson], Simon and I — we all came from different perspectives.
TV Guide Magazine: What do you think then of having two performers on the judges' panel?
Abdul: I'm a fan of the show, and I always will be as long as they're going out and finding that raw talent. Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler — they're seasoned veterans. They know what it takes to make it, so they're gonna have a very refined eye. And I'm really happy Randy is at the helm because you need that familiarity. I don't think there's any advice I can give them other than I'm gonna be watching.
TV Guide Magazine: Live to Dance will go up against Idol on Wednesdays, starting January 19. How do you feel about that?
Abdul: I haven't really thought about it much. They're two different shows, and I think there's an audience for both. [Idol is] a juggernaut that you can't deny, and my show's a new show that I hope people are charmed by.
TV Guide Magazine: Are you feeling the pressure, though?
Abdul: I would be lying if I didn't say that I'm totally invested in this [show] and yeah, there's a part of me that does have that anxious nervous energy. But I thrive on that!
Live to Dance premieres Tuesday, January 4 at 8/7c on CBS.