The concept hardly sounds like a hit: a dance contest for unknowns often doing unusual dances. Yet FOX's "So You Think You Can Dance," which launches its 10th season Tuesday and Wednesday, May 14 and 15, continues to tap into what eludes other dance shows: the purity of the art.
"There is no question they have not seen it all before," Nigel Lythgoe, executive producer and judge, tells Zap2it. "That is the joy of seeing dance develop. I do believe every season these kids get better and better. The one thing dancers have [over singers] is if you are tone-deaf, you still sound as bad as you did three or four years ago. If you are a dancer and train hard for three or four years, there is improvement."
"Everyone says, 'How are you going to tweak it?' " Lythgoe says. "The only way I would tweak it is possibly moving results to the beginning of the show and say, 'Here are the results of last week's show.' "
After the two-night premiere, the show runs only on Tuesdays.
"It is really awkward without a results show," Lythgoe says.
The purpose, though, remains the same.
"At the end of the day, we are going for the best dancers and most diverse of dancers," he says.
And it is diverse, introducing viewers to krumping, jookin', waacking, and popping and locking. "SYTYCD" alumni have gone on to Broadway ( "Newsies," "Rock of Ages"), movies ( "Step Up," "High School Musical") and TV ( "Bunheads," the pros on "Dancing With the Stars").
For a dance contest featuring unknowns, the numbers are impressive: 30 Emmy nods with 11 wins. Lady Gaga, Christina Perri and Katy Perry made their first major TV appearances on "SYTYCD."
And, it sparked one engagement -- tWitch and Allison Holker. He returns this season, as a judge and as a dancer in the "All Stars" episode.
"Being on the show puts you in this head space where your focus is at its most extreme," says tWitch, whose real name is Stephen Boss. "You are actually so focused, you are not thinking about all of the things you can't do, rather than just how to do them and making sure you have the basics and making sure you can practice and make it better."
He's among the judges during auditions. Others are Minnie Driver, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Wayne Brady and Adam Shankman. Permanent judges are Lythgoe and Mary Murphy. Cat Deeley remains the host.
If tWitch could give advice to the dancers vying for the top prize of $250,000, he would tell them, "Be fearless. Also while it is a dance show as well, let your personality shine through, how you are relating to what is going on, because those are the things people want to see as a person. If you get the steps 100 percent perfect, that's great, but how are you feeling? They either focus on one thing or none at all. Hey, forget the camera is even there. Focus!"
Having shepherded this show over the years, and having started as a dancer who moved into choreography, Lythgoe knows every element of "SYTYCD." At the heart of it, he remains a dance fan.
"The biggest thing for me is I love the creativity of these kids," Lythgoe says. "Somehow the formally trained ones lose a little bit of their creativity because the steps have been beaten into them. With the street kids they just watch YouTube and video, and they feel the music better. And that is really important in this day and age when we are losing creativity -- that music can make you creative."
Photo/Video credit: FOX