Let’s face it. Deep down, we all think that we are extraordinarily gifted dancers. However, we can’t all live out our dreams of dancing and people actually enjoying it (I dream of the day when my dancing is no longer referred to as “hazardous to others”). Despite this sad fact, Fox’s beloved TV show “So You Think You Can Dance” gives us a chance to watch skilled dancers actually get to live out their dancing dreams.
Entering into its 12th season, the show is coming out with a bang by spicing the judging panel up with Jason Derulo and Paula Abdul in addition to the show’s longtime man in charge, Nigel Lythgoe. I’m pleased to say that this TV favorite is stopping through Dallas at McFarlin Auditorium for a round of auditions this Saturday and Sunday (I may or may not be fangirling a little bit). In preparation for this weekend, I spoke with executive producer Jeff Thacker about the show. Thacker is a distinguished British television producer with experience in dancing and choreography. Some people just have it all…
The DC: “So You Think You Can Dance” is now entering into its 12th season. In the beginning, were you prepared for the show to experience this kind of success?
Jeff Thacker: “To be honest, no. I don’t think any of us were. We had no idea what the show was going to turn out like or what talent would be around. In fact, when I first joined, I flew to Miami to audition dancers, and we had four people. Now we get 904 or 1,004 people, so I think it’s escalated far beyond what we had ever imagined.”
The DC: This season introduces famous entertainers Paula Abdul and Jason Derulo as judges. Do you think this will change the dynamic of the show?
Jeff Thacker: “Oh absolutely, and I hope it does. They are both established performers in their own right, and they both have dancing backgrounds. I don’t think that people realize that Jason when he was a child was training and then went to the streets to learn. So they both have something to say and something to offer.”
The DC: From a dancer’s perspective, what makes a dancer stand out and good enough to capture the attention of such a seasoned panel of judges?
Jeff Thacker: “Well, have you been to a musical or seen a movie yourself?”
The DC: “Yes.”
Jeff Thacker: “Then I am going to put the question back to you. What is it about a certain performer that stands out when you watch a group of 15 people dancing on stage? What stands out to you first?”
The DC: “Well, I think there is obviously a foundation of technique there but maybe charisma. You know, just having a certain personality on stage.”
Jeff Thacker: “I would agree with you, but I would take out the word maybe. There’s an absolute essentiality about charisma, personality, and performance. I’m not sure just their technique and training will make them a star. It’s certainly their charisma, personality, and presence. That’s what’s memorable, and we have always said that is what we look for. It’s very much a casting show as well as a dance show. It’s very important to us that you have some star quality. That’s what it is. It’s something that will make you stand out from the rest, and what that is I have no idea until suddenly you think “you’ve got something different and special.’”
The DC: Speaking of something special, what do you think makes “So You Think You Can Dance” both attractive to the public and perspective dancers?
Jeff Thacker: “Let’s separate the ordinary viewer and the dance viewer. I think the dance viewer will choose it because they absolutely love to dance. They love to see the dances. They love to do the choreography. They like to see the different performers. But in terms of normal viewers, they like to be entertained, which they get, and they also get great music and performances. But I think what they see is heart. They see dancers with a personality. They see dancers with a normality, which as dancers we don’t normally get to show. You know, most dancers are told what to do, when to do it, how to do it, and say nothing. Our show opens up a whole new world of who you are and not just what you are or what you can do. You see a growth and evolution of the dancers, so I think the people at home love to get to know the dancers as they grow through their journey in the show. One of the main things also is the pure talent that we get and that it’s not celebrity based. It’s people off the streets that come in and train and we get to know them. We get to see them. We get to like them. They become part of an investment, and that’s what our show certainly does. I always say ‘SYTYCD definitely has heart.””
The DC: Last but not least, what has been your favorite moment on the show so far?
Jeff Thacker: “I’ve been asked this before, and I don’t actually have a favorite moment because I think that every season is different enough to stand on its own rights. I can’t pick out one sole thing since I’ve been here from day one. The best part of my job, though I take the word job out now, so the best part of me being involved in “SYTYCD” is something that nobody really gets to see unless you are in there. We become a family, and any family unit becomes protective. You become part of everyone’s everyday life. You know, I am the first person they see and the last person they see. When they are on the show, it’s 24-7. My investment in them is long after they finish the season. It’s like a family of kids. I’m a very strict father. I demand a lot. I expect a lot, and I expect them to be demanding and respecting of themselves. When I look at people like Travis Wall or Dmitry Chaplin from season 2 who are Emmy-nominated now and are growing up to be young men, I think ‘my goodness, where has all this time gone?’ That to me, in my role, which has developed over the years, is the most rewarding. I wish I could spread it around and let you all see it, but it is just something that is exclusive to me and the dancers, which makes it very special.”
If you are interested in auditioning, see fox.com/dance for audition requirements. The audition process will commence this Saturday at 8 a.m. Now dance majors, go out there and show them how it’s done.
Side note: I have decided not to share my dancing skills with the world just yet. You guys just aren’t ready.