Fox and show creator Nigel Lythgoe have unveiled that this season's "shocking but great" changes will include a line-up of returning all-star dancers that will be paired with the contestants and a voting format in which home viewers will play a smaller role until the finale.
"We are going to put together a pool of ex-So You Think You Can Dance all-stars -- some of our favorite dancers from across all six seasons. They will act as a pool of [dance partners for the seventh-season contestants]," Lythgoe told reporters during a Monday conference call.
"The competitors will draw -- instead of drawing the genre of dance out of the hat -- they will draw a photograph of one of the all-stars, and that will dictate the genre of dance that they're going to be dancing."
Lythgoe explained that there will be a pool of all-stars but different ones will be selected by the producers on a weekly basis depending on the remaining contestants' genders and the dance genres they want the contestants to perform that week.
"They of course will not be judged," said Lythgoe about the all-stars, adding that the contestants will end up with different all-star partners on a weekly basis.
"This is not like Dancing with the Stars. You're not with that partner for the entire competition. Every week they will change, so every week their style will change as well."
The identities of the all-stars will be revealed over the next couple of weeks, according to Lythgoe, who said they were chosen for being "fabulous" in at least one specific dance genre during their time as contestants.
"They had to be dominant in their genre of dance because they are the ones that are going to dictate what the competitors are going to dance," he explained.
"I will be tweeting the names of the all-stars -- just because I like teasing -- one at a time over the next couple of weeks."
Lythgoe said he thinks the addition of the all-star partners will make the show "more exciting" for viewers because they'll get to see some of their favorite former contestants who have since disappeared.
"It's not like Idol where you get a contract and you become a multimillionaire and you release records and you're in the public's face -- these brilliant dancers just disappeared off the face of the Earth. So to be able to have the show use its own talent I think is fabulous," he said.
"I just think it makes the show more exciting. Obviously, you are always wanting more and more viewers. There's not denying that the whole reason for trying to do improvements on a show is to try and get more people watching."
Instead of 20 contestants making it out of the competition's Las Vegas Round, Lythgoe told reporters that only 10 finalists will be chosen.
"There's going to be a Top 10 that will come out of Vegas. Each week they will only be leaving one at a time, so you should get to know them," said Lythgoe.
In addition, he said home viewer votes will only determine each week's bottom threesome until the season's finale, with the bottom threesome member eliminated each week being determined by the judging panel.
"America will decide the bottom three -- as usual -- then the judges will get the three of them to dance and make the decision up until the finale, then of course it's in America's hands," he said.
As for the finale, Lythgoe said it "certainly" won't feature four finalists but added he's "not sure yet" if it will include two or three.
"That depends on if I can do something very, very special -- which I can't talk about in this moment in time -- on where the finale is placed on Fox's schedule or if Fox has got an extra week in their schedule for me," he said.
"So this is going to be another huge press release if I get my way over something."
Lythgoe also told reporters that Mary Murphy, who had been a regular weekly member of So You Think You Can Dance's judging panel since its third season, will alternate as a judge and choreographer during the seventh season, as will Mia Michaels -- who frequently served as a guest judge and choreographer on the show's first five seasons but wasn't part of last fall's sixth edition.
In addition to himself and sixth-season regular Adam Shankman, Lythgoe said choreographers Tyce Diorio, Lil' C and Debbie Allen, among others, would also serve on the judging panel -- which will "sometimes" feature four people.
The only case Lythgoe said there will be a five-person panel is if former American Idol judge Paula Abdul finally accepts his invitation to appear on the show.
"I tried for an entire season to get Paula on in full view of the nation. I will still try this season, but I don't think I'll be so overt with it," he explained.
"I can't think of anybody better than Paula Abdul to judge on the show. Whether she wants to do it or not... it's up to her and her management."
Lythgoe said he's "personally" excited by the format changes -- especially the use of all-stars, which he described as a "great idea" that originated with Fox reality chief Mike Darnell.
"Mike Darnell was sort of inspirational," he said.
"We do a tour, and then we can't ever really reinvest in our dancers. We try and bring them back as choreographers, but to be able to do this and use our own stars was a fabulous idea. So the only reason we're doing it now is the fact that it's a great idea that nobody every really thought of before."