"I don't see it as yet another dance show," Lythgoe told reporters during a recent conference call. "There has never been a show like this anytime anywhere in the world ever. So it isn't just another dance show."
Lythgoe said that the success of Fox's So You Think You Can Dance -- which he co-created with American Idol creator Simon Fuller -- and ABC's Dancing with the Stars have made dance-themed reality shows mainstream because "as soon as you're successful with anything people want to make copies."
"And everything that I've seen -- and I love Dancing With the Stars, so I'm leaving that out of it and I love my own show, So You Think You Can Dance -- everything else I've seen has been a pale imitation of those style of shows," Lythgoe told reporters.
"This is not that style of show. This - we're not asking the public to even vote on this show. We are putting a world of dance before them and it is as educating as it is entertaining."
Superstars of Dance, which will pit skilled dancers of various genres from different countries against each other, will premiere January 4 on NBC and be hosted by Lord of the Dance star Michael Flatley.
"I wish this was not a competition. I wish that it was just a celebration of dance. In truth, it's actually both and it turns out to be both," Flatley, who also participated in the call, told reporters.
"Because it's a competition I think it's done in a good spirit and it makes it actually that much more entertaining. I don't think there's any dance form in the world that couldn't participate in this. They're not doing this to become rich or to get famous quick. They're doing this because they're dancing for the pride of their home nation and they're professionals already."
Lythgoe said the show's participants already being professionals is one aspect that makes it so exciting.
"I think with the shows that we know like Dancing With the Stars, that's a bunch of celebrities who would like to dance. My own show, So You Think You Can Dance is a bunch of kids who would like to be dancers," explained Lythgoe.
"This is professionals that have been doing it, have made their living through it. A lot of them are world champions in their specific genre, and it's a lot of different cultures coming together. And I think that's what's the most exciting part of it for me."
The eight countries participating include Ireland, India, USA, Argentina, China, Russia, South Africa and Australia -- with each team being comprised of two soloists, one duo and one larger group.
"We have quarterfinals, semifinals and a final - exactly the same as any normal sort of sporting competition," explained Lythgoe.
"There'll be the eight countries in each show. So in some shows they'll put one soloist and one group. In another show they'll put a soloist and the duet. And this will break down and at the end of the day 16 soloists will have competed. They will be broken down into the semifinals by getting rid of the bottom eight soloists. And we lose two groups and two duets so that in the semifinals you will have three duets and three groups per semifinal."
One aspect of Superstars of Dance that Lythgoe said is interesting is that a judging panel of international choreographers -- and not home viewers -- will determine the winners.
"So the judges from the eight countries, each judge votes from one to ten points. They are not allowed to vote for their own country," said Lythgoe. "It isn't a show that you would really want the public to participate in because it would be unfair. I would've thought the American public may vote for America."
Flatley agreed that the show's format would not work as well if viewer voting were allowed. And while he also called the judging panel "terrifically talented, highly intelligent and very experienced," he also said suggested that home viewers shouldn't put too much weight on their scoring decisions.
"The audience, no matter who wins, will have their own favorites at the end of the day which I think is a very positive thing for dance," said Flatley. "It doesn't mean that whoever wins it is necessarily the greatest in the world. It's simply just by those eight judges who have made that decision on this day with this one singular performance."
While some of the judges might not be known by any American viewers, Lythgoe assured reporters they are all "world champions" in their respective dance styles.
"They're choreographers that have done everything in their own country really," he said. "I don't think people will know them. It's probably a bit like me bringing Simon Cowell to America. Nobody knew him."
Lythgoe said not all of Superstars of Dance's contestants took the judges' criticisms very well.
"The masters don't like it. You should see some of these faces when they leave," he said. "They are not happy. They've come here to show how brilliant they are and represent their country. And they do not want to be told that they didn't do it well."
Lythgoe also explained how Superstars of Dance will recognize the winners from each of its genres.
"There are gold, silver and bronze medallists in each of the genres, so solo will have gold, silver, bronze; the duets, gold, silver bronze; the groups, gold, silver, bronze," he said.
"Although we have the three separate competitions of solos, duets and groups, each participant is adding to the overall score of their country. So there will be an overall internationalSuperstars of Dance trophy awarded to the country that gets the most points."
Despite being an international dancing celebrity in his own right, Flatley said he's "kind of glad" that he was tapped to host Superstars of Dance instead of being asked to judge.
"I am very happy to be the host and present it. Dance has always been my passion in life. Presenting a show like this, I think for me, is a real highlight," gushed Flatley.
"Being able to represent all these different countries rather than just one of them, to present them to the United States for the first time in really such a classy way and such a colorful way is very exciting for me. I must say I'm kind of glad I'm not judging because it's an intense competition - absolutely intense."
Flatley said he was sold on the show's concept when he was first approached by Lythgoe.
"I was fascinated by the thought that we could have a dance show that has professional dancers on there and that would show to American audiences for the first time all of the different styles of dance from around the world," he said.
"And needless to say, it's being produced by the 'Dream Team' [of] Nigel Lythgoe and Simon Fuller. And to me that meant that it was going to be done with a touch of class. That was the only reason that I was prepared to do this type of television show."
NBC had orderedSuperstars of Dance last month under the title Superstar Dancers of the World, and it is being produced by 19 Entertainment with Fuller and Lythgoe serving as executive producers.
Lythgoe confirmed in August that he would be stepping down as Idol's executive producer after previously serving in that role for all of its first seven seasons. Instead, Lythgoe said he planned on devoting his time to both So You Think You Can Dance and "a new venture" -- which ended up being Superstars of Dance-- with Simon Fuller.
"So You Think You Can Dance is hugely successful now all over the world. I wanted to travel the world and see the different forms of dance which eventually became inspirational into creating this show," explained Lythgoe.
"So it was just the right time, it felt like. And now that I'm involved in this show which in truth I have to honestly say it's the most exciting show I've ever done in my life for how I grew up and what I went through, and everything else as a kid. I am so pleased and I know the time was right for me to leave American Idol. I used to work 24/7 on Idol and I'm working 24/7 on this now."
Lythgoe said NBC is a "good home" for Superstars of Dance "because they are one of the few stations that don't have a dance program." However he quickly added there was also another reason.
"In truth, I took -- and maybe NBC won't like me saying this -- but I took So You Think You Can Dance to NBC originally, because I didn't think Fox was a good home for it," he said.
"NBC turned it down and I took it to Fox because of our association with American Idol. And I have to say Fox have been an exceptionally good home for it and been extremely supportive with the program. So I'm very grateful that occurred."
Still, Lythgoe said the opportunity was always there for him to pitch Superstars of Dance to NBC because he felt Fox wasn't the right home for it.
"I wouldn't have liked to have seen the same program on the same network. So it would be, you know, crazy of me to sort of offer it to Fox, although [Fox reality chief] Mike Darnell suggested I should've done [so]," said Lythgoe. "But it went to NBC and I'm delighted. NBC have been absolutely behind it. We're making it in extremely short time. They decided when they wanted to broadcast it."
Flatley added that the Superstars of Dance's "nice mix of cultures" should make it must-see TV for NBC.
"I think American audiences have never seen anything quite like this before," he said. "And I don't think that they will again. It's my feeling that they just won't be able to get enough of it."
(Photo credit NBC)
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