Back for an eighth season this summer, SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE kicks off with a two-hour premiere Thursday, May 26 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT). Hosted by Cat Deeley, the hit dance competition series will inspire and amaze viewers as dancers skilled in styles ranging from hip-hop to ballroom compete to be named America’s Favorite Dancer. This season’s auditions feature resident judges Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy, as well as guest judges Robin Antin, Lil C, Tyce Diorio, Toni Redpath and Jason Gilkison. Once the auditions conclude, weekly two-hour performance shows will air Wednesdays (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT), and weekly results shows will air Thursdays (8:00-9:00 PM ET live/PT tape-delayed), followed by encore episodes of GLEE (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT).
Daedrian McNaughton caught up with Cat Deeley before she dashed off to be the royal correspondent for CNN for the Royal Wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton. In the interview, Cat talked about her special project with Ricky Gervais, Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy’s antics and her job as host for season eight of SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE.
Season Eight of So You Think You Can Dance premieres Thursday, May 26th at 8/7 Central.
Why is So You Think You Can Dance so successful?
Cat Deeley: Never in my wildest dreams did I anticipate the huge success of the show. I never thought that we’d be here going into Season Eight. That’s all down to the audience at home who sit and watch us. So, while they are still passionate about the show, we’ll keep giving it to them but I think that actually, the success of the show is due—of course, the dancing is amazing and of course, we want talented and passionate individuals who are prepared to work hard, but dance is the narrative that runs through the show. I also think that’s about the human element and discovering people’s stories and trials and tribulations and their sense of humor and things that happen in their lives and I think that’s what the audience at home really identify with actually. I think dance is a narrative that runs through but I think it stands to the great characters that we find and also the casting that happens too. I think that’s what people identify with and I think that makes people kind of get up off their sofas and pick up the phone and vote.
What are some of your expectations going into Season Eight of So You Think You Can Dance?
Cat Deeley: My big expectation is I want to see something different. Every single year we raise the bar and I think that what the dancers are really kind of getting a grip with is that we need to see their personalities too and we need to see something a little bit different. Whether that’s doing eight pirouettes instead of five or mixing a Samba with a little bit of Breaking—we’re looking for uniqueness. We want something that says like, “Wow! I’ve never seen that before,” or within that context. I think that the dancers have properly grasped that this year as well. We’ve seen some great people mix up all different styles and do it in a really unique and individual way and that to me is kind of the highlight every year. When somebody kind of takes your breath away and does something completely unique and individual and creative too and uses their imagination. That’s always something that I really look forward to seeing.
What will you bring this season as the host?
Cat Deeley: Our big thing is that I have to bring out the personalities of the kids as quickly as we can because we want to the audience to identify with them as soon as they can because then, the audience sitting at home care more and they tune in more and all those kind of things. So, for me, it’s all about bringing out their personality and also, as I see it, my role is big sister, cheerleader, … that kind of encourages them. When the chips are down and things are a success, I pat them on the back and when the chips are down, and sometimes, it doesn’t go quite as well, I give them a squeeze and we go right. As in life, we all face different struggles and different challenges and sometimes we succeed and sometimes we don’t and when we don’t, we actually learn more than during the time when we do succeed. We learn more from our mistakes and my job is to rally them around and go, “Right, okay, come on, confidence back. Let’s work harder and let’s just try this and let’s take this constructive criticism and let’s move on.”
What does it take to be a good host?
Cat Deeley: I think you have to be. I was never a dancer and I can’t name technical terms or discuss their performances in a technical way, but my roles as I see it is kind of the every man sitting at home. So if I don’t know what a dance move is, I’ll ask the questions. So, I’m kind of the go between the world of dance and everybody sitting at home that maybe have never taken a dance class in their life. I am interested in it in a way where I love human beings. I think for two reasons because I love chatting and two, because I’m incredibly nosy. So, between the two, I just really enjoy the show. Then to see somebody who’s so talented to doing something that I could never in my wildest dreams imagine doing, just kind of fills me with awe. I think you see it on the show. I think the best thing that people can do as a host is be genuine and be themselves and trust that the right question is going to come to you at the right moment.
Do you find it hard to say goodbye to the contestants that you have grown close to?
Cat Deeley: Yes. I mean, it is hard. I’d be a pretty strange human being to not in some way, shape, or form become emotionally attached to certain people. As in everyday life, there are obviously people that you find it easier to make a connection with than others, but yes, it is hard. But also, we’re very good at kind of leaving the door open for people as well. What we don’t want to do is take ordinary people and put them in this extraordinary world and then just kind of leave them floundering after the show is over. We’re very, very aware of our responsibility and the fact that we elevate these dancers to a certain position where the general public knows their names. We want them to go on and have fantastic careers. So, we very much leave the door always open so they can come and talk to us about their careers or contracts or even any personal issues that they have going on as well. So, it never really feels as though it’s goodbye forever, which is a really good way to be.
As the host, why do you pay such close attention to the auditions?
Cat Deeley: When we do all the different cities, when we go to all the different cities, I’m very rarely in the audition room because my specific job at that point is to try and get the stories out of people as much as possible—their back stories, to find out their characters and their personalities. So I’m very rarely in the theater when people are auditioning. So, for me, it’s a great time when we get to Vegas to sit and watch everybody. So, I know exactly what their styles are. I know exactly what their solos are all about. So then, I can fit all the pieces of the puzzle together. Also then, if I’m talking to them over Vegas Week and say, for instance, they’ve been extremely challenged by ballroom or contemporary, I can go well, “Yes, but then your breaking style is this.” It just forms a more well-rounded picture. For me, that’s always a really, really interesting journey to watch—these kind of dancers that do have a certain level of naivety to them but are still incredibly passionate and have a massive talent and to watch their growth, I think is incredibly interesting.
Are these dancers under extreme pressure to perform each year?
Cat Deeley: Yes, I mean, we have to because it’s not just about making a great TV show at the Vegas Week. But, it’s also, if they are going to make it through, they need to be ready for it and we need to know that they can do it and that we need to know that they can attend the different styles, that they’re physically capable and able of doing it. That they’re emotionally and mentally able of doing it. Also, if you think about it, each person we have to approach and the fact that they could be them right at the very end. So, by the time you get to the end of the season and it’s the finale, those kids are shattered. I mean literally, they’ve kind of been through the mill. They’ve done a million different styles. They’re bruised. They’re battered. They’ve worked so hard. So, we kind of have to test them before we get to the studio and also, the other thing is we’re live. So, we need to make sure that they can actually pull it off. So, it’s always, always a tough week, but it’s really interesting. Those ones who are able to kind of take the challenge and ride through it and those people who are kind of—it just becomes too overwhelming for them.
Is there any dance style that have stood out to you this season from what you’ve seen?
Cat Deeley: I think everybody is quite proud of the hip-hopers and breakers this year because what they’ve done is they’ve learned from the previous seasons—as I kind of said before, they’ve taken any constructive criticism that they’ve had and they’ve kind of gone and learned the new different styles. I think that—because somebody who isn’t necessarily technically trained, it’s quite a big thing to kind of turn around and go as a breaker where you’ve learned your moves from either watching YouTube or MTV or music videos or just even from your friends—to actually then turn around and go and put yourself in a Samba class is quite a big deal. Yet, they’ve done it, which I think shows just how dedicated they are and how much hard work they’re prepared to put into the show and also into themselves and I think that’s incredibly inspirational. I think that’s kind of what Nigel was implying by twittering that.
Going into Season Eight, do you have any personal favorites that you’d love to see come back as All Star?
Cat Deeley: Yes, I mean, undoubtedly there are definitely—I love Dominic. I love his personality and I love how he combines—he does a brilliant thing of combining humor with breakdancing and hip-hop and I think that’s a really, really interesting combination, fusion. I’d also like to see Alex Wong back at some point because I don’t think he’ll be able to make the show as a contestant because I think it would just be too much on his injury because he hurt his Achilles’ tendon. I don’t think he’d be able to do it without injuring himself again in some way, shape, or form, but I’d love to see him back on the show. He has this huge following. He was such great guy and so supremely talented that it would be lovely for him to come back on the show.
Do you think the dancers are aware that they have to bring it in order to advance in the competition?
Cat Deeley: I think the big thing that they now understand that just being amazing at their own style isn’t enough. They have to be able to pick up other styles. There are lots of people that have maybe auditioned in the past for the show, have taken away the constructive criticism and gone, “Okay, well if I’m a breaker, I’m going to put myself in a couple of ballroom classes and I’m going to investigate that and see how far I can get.” Quite often, we’ve had people take the criticism, come back and then go much further on. So, I think that they now understand exactly what the show is and the demands of the show.
Is it easy to spot a talent?
Cat Deeley: Well, the one thing I love is that it clearly shows that this format isn’t going anywhere. People always say, “Oh, is it slightly intimidating now that there are more dance shows on the air?” We always turn around and go, “Absolutely not.” Because what it means is that TV networks are still really behind those formats. So, I love the fact that these formats keep coming out because it means that the audience still—there’s still a demand for them and the audience is still feels passionately about them. The one thing that I do think we’ve now—going into Season Eight—got quite good at is spotting that star quality and it’s difficult sometimes because it’s kind of indefinable. It’s that certain something special that means that you see somebody and for whatever reason, you can’t quite take your eyes off them and they hold you. That’s what we’re always searching for. We need people like that that the audience are going to connect with almost instantaneously. I think we’ve been pretty good at doing it—just from our track record of when people have left the show as well, and the things that they’ve gone on to do whether it’s touring or movies or even becoming a choreographer. A brilliant example is Travis Wall. He didn’t win Season Two; he was the runner-up and yet, he has developed into this amazingly creative choreographer that literally every time he does anything for the show, he blows my mind. We’re so excited to have been a part of his journey. So, I think we do get slightly better at it every year and I also think that the dancers are much more aware now of what we need. It’s not just that you have to be the best technical dancer or—you have to bring your personality too and that’s the thing of star quality and that certain something special and I think the dancers are wise to that too now.
Can you tell me what are some of the antics you’ll be looking forward to from the judges this season?
Cat Deeley: Well, the big major change in the judges this year is that Mary Murphy’s back, and to be perfectly honest, I can’t wait. Mary has this enthusiasm that is completely infectious and she’s just very positive. She puts a very positive spin on it. She doesn’t take any rubbish from Nigel and I think we kind of missed her a little bit on the panel. So, I’m so glad that the hot tamale train is rolling back into town. I can’t wait for some of the screams and the enthusiasm and the general kind of witty rituals to Nigel. So, I’m looking forward to that.
What is it like working with Nigel Lythgoe?
Cat Deeley: He is crazy. I turn around sometimes and I go, “Oh my goodness!” This man is 60 years old and he’s running around. He’s going to be doing a trans-Atlantic flight every week. I’ve had a little bit of that going on too and I don’t know how he does. I think one thing is he’s definitely being buoyed by the success of American Idol. I think when Simon left, everybody was a little uncertain of how the show would be in its new “guise” so to speak in its new format, but I think he’s been buoyed by the success of the show. I talk to people all the time and they love Steven Tyler and they love Jennifer Lopez and there’s a new dynamic to the show where I watched the one result show the one day where Hulk Hogan came on and Stevie Wonder sang “Happy Birthday” to Steven Tyler and it was just great TV. That’s completely aside from being within the Idol umbrella. The idea of making a great TV show is to surprise, delight and entertain and that show had it by the bucket-load and that’s purely down to Nigel Lythgoe. He had a vision. He saw where he wanted to go with the show and he’s done it while juggling our show as well which is undoubtedly his passion project and doing the show on the BBC too. So, I can only say that I hold him in such high regards and he’s an aspirational character. I just hope he keeps taking his vitamins and keeps moisturizing and manages to hold it all together, which I undoubtedly know he will.
How excited are you about covering the Royal Wedding for CNN?
Cat Deeley: It’s going to be good. I mean, I am nervous because there are so many people watching. I think on CNN, there’s going to be over 750 million people and I’m hosting with Piers Morgan and Anderson Cooper. It’s going to be a big day. But, it’s definitely not the challenge I would run away from because I just think it’s going to always be one of those moments where you turn around and go, “Where were you when—?” I can’t think of two finer gentlemen to be sharing the screen with on such a kind of huge momentous day.
You were just a baby at the time of the last royal wedding. What can you remember from that?
Cat Deeley: We had a big party in the back garden with all the kids from the neighborhood and we had like a big long table and all flags hanging in the trees and lots of jelly and ice-cream and cream …. I just remember—there’s certain bits that I remembered, like images that are definitely ingrained in my mind, but I just remember more the feeling of the day and how much fun it was and how it was kind of like this feeling of hope and joy and the fairy tale and all those kind of things. So, hopefully, it will be exactly the same this time.
I just received a release saying that you’ll be making a guest appearance on, I think it’s Dresscue Me on Planet Green?
Cat Deeley: Yes, I did yes, with Shareen because I love vintage clothes. I style myself on the show, so I do a whole mixture of high street, vintage, and designer too. Because, I’m very aware my audience is predominantly kind of 16 to 36 year olds or something like that. I want my fashion to be incredibly individual and fun. I want people to have an opinion about it, whether they love it or they hate it. I also want it to be aspirational but also attainable too. So, that’s one way you can do that is through vintage and it’s a very—it’s something that I love doing. I love hunting out the treasures and bargains. So, yes it was really nice to be asked that today.
Can you tell us a little bit about your involvement with Life’s Too Short and what’s it like to work with Ricky Gervais?
Cat Deeley: I haven’t done anything yet actually there. We’re kind of talking schedules at the moment, so I can’t really tell you anything about it yet. I love Ricky Gervais. I love his sense of humor. I think he’s incredibly smart and incredibly bright and sarcastic and ironic and he has all those traits of English humor, so fingers crossed, we manage to sort it out and get the schedule together.