So You Think You Can Dance is an American televised dance competition show that airs on Fox in the United States and is the flagship series of the international So You Think You Can Dance television franchise.
The series premiered on July 20, 2005 with over ten million viewers and ended the summer season as the top-rated show on television. SYTYCD was created by American Idol producers Simon Fuller and Nigel Lythgoe and is produced by 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions. The first season was hosted by current American news personality Lauren Sánchez. Since the second season, it has been hosted by former British children's television personality and one-time game show emcee Cat Deeley. During its second season, the program remained the No. 1 rated summer show (adults aged 18-49) but it has declined in ratings since.
The show features a tiered format wherein dancers from a variety of styles enter open auditions held in a number of major U.S. cities to showcase their unique styles and talents and, if allowed to move forward, then are put through additional rounds of auditions to test their ability to adapt to different styles. At the end of this process, a small number of dancers are chosen as finalists. These dancers move on to the competition's main phase, where they perform solo, duet, and group dance numbers in a variety of styles. They compete for the votes of the broadcast viewing audience which, combined with the input of a panel of judges, determines which dancers advance to the next stage from week to week. The number of finalists has varied as determined by a season's format, but has typically been 20 contestants.
The show features a broad variety of American and international dance styles including classical, contemporary, ballroom, hip-hop, street, club, jazz, and musical theatre styles, amongst others, with many sub-genres within the categories represented. Competitors attempt to master these styles"which are generally, but not always, assigned by a luck-of-the-draw system"to survive successive weeks of elimination. The eventual champion wins a cash prize (typically $250,000) and the title of "America's Favorite Dancer". In nine seasons, the winners have been Nick Lazzarini, Benjamin Schwimmer, Sabra Johnson, Joshua Allen, Jeanine Mason, Russell Ferguson, Lauren Froderman, Melanie Moore, Eliana Girard and Chehon Wespi-Tschopp, with Girard and Wespi-Tschopp sharing the title as dual-winners for season 9. The show has won seven Emmy Awards for Outstanding Choreography and a total of nine Emmys altogether.
Spin-offs were announced starting in August 2005 and to date 23 localized adaptations of So You Think You Can Dance have been produced representing 24 different countries.
A typical season of So You Think You Can Dance is divided between a selection process, during which expert judges select competitors from a wide pool of applicant dancers, and a competition phase, during which these 'finalists' (more typically referred to as the 'Top 20') compete for votes from home viewers. Though it is produced over the course of months, the selection phase is highly edited and usually constitutes only the first 2-4 weeks of aired episodes, with the competition episodes forming the remaining 8-9 weeks of the season.
The open auditions, the first stage in determining a seasons finalists, take place in 5-6 major U.S. cities each season and are typically open to anyone aged 18-30 at the time of their audition. The cities where auditions are held change from season to season but some, such as Los Angeles and New York, have featured in most seasons. During this stage, dancers perform a brief routine (typically a solo, but duet and group routines are allowed as well) before a panel of dance experts, usually headed by series creator and executive producer Nigel Lythgoe. This panel then decides on-the-spot whether the dancer demonstrated enough ability and performance value to proceed further. If the dancer exhibited exceptional ability in their performance, judges award a "ticket to Vegas," moving them instantly one step forward in the competition. Alternatively, if judges are on the fence about the dancer, they will ask the contestant to wait until the end of that day's auditions to participate in a short test of their ability to pick up professional choreography.
Vegas week callbacks
The second stage of the selection process - referred to as "the callbacks" or "Vegas Week" (after the city of Las Vegas, where it has been held since season 2) is a several-day-long process in which the remaining hopefuls are tested for overall well-rounded dance ability, stamina, and their ability to perform under pressure. The dancers are put through a battery of rounds that test their ability to pick up various dance styles (typically some of the more well-represented genres that are later prominent in the competition phase, such as hip-hop, jazz, ballroom and contemporary). Additionally they may be asked to perform further solos in styles of their choosing and, since season 2, participate in a group choreography round in which small teams of contestants must display their musicality and ability to communicate professionally by choreographing a performance to a randomly selected piece of music " this challenge is notable as being the only time competitors are asked to choreograph themselves, aside from solos. Vegas week is often portrayed as one of the most exhausting and stressful stages of the competition; each successive round sees cuts in which a significant portion of the remaining dancers are eliminated from competition and dancers are given a limited amount of time to adapt to styles they are sometimes wholly unfamiliar with while being physically taxed by the rapid progression of rounds and a limited amount of rest. At the end of this process, usually less than 40 competitors remain in a pool that final contestants are chosen from. Most seasons have featured 20 top finalists for the competition portion of the show, but Season One was represented by a Top 16 and Season Seven saw a Top 11.
Finalist selection and showcase episode
Following Vegas Week"which has, through video vignettes, made many of the dancers increasingly familiar to the audience as it observes their attempts to cope with the challenges of the week"the judge's panel selects their finalists from the remaining dancers, breaking the good or bad news to each dancer. Since Season six, the series has also featured a showcase episode that takes place immediately before the main competition. In this showcase, dancers compete for the first time on the main SYTYCD stage in Los Angeles before a live audience. The dancers dance duet or group routines, but only in their own styles and no dancers are in danger of elimination at this point. In seasons eight and nine, the finalist announcement episode and the dancer's showcase have been combined into one episode, with groups of dancers taking to the stage for the first time immediately after they are revealed.
Top 20 to Top 10
Following the finalist selection process, the show transitions into its regular competition phase, which lasts the rest of the season. The competition stage is divided into 8-9 weeks, with two contestants eliminated per week (or in the case of season 7, one contestant). Dancers are paired"up"in some seasons at random, and in others by judges " into male-female couples that will stay paired for half of the remaining competition if neither is eliminated. These couples perform 1-2 duets per week in randomly-selected styles. These duets, as with all non-solo performances at this stage in the competition, are choreographed by professional choreographers, who are often noteworthy names in their own genres or American dance culture at large. Prior to most duet performances, a video packet of clips of the couple preparing to perform the routine is shown; these packets are intended not only to demonstrate the couple's efforts to master the routine, but also to give glimpses of the personalities of the dancers as well as to allow the choreographer to give insight as to the thematic, narrative, and artistic intentions of the piece. Following each duet performance, the week's panel of judges gives critical feedback, often emphasizing the two key areas of technique and performance value. These duets and their accompanying video packets and critiques typically take up the majority of a competition show but may be supplemented by solos or group numbers during the later portion of the season. Each competition show ends with a quick recap of the night's routines accompanied by on-screen reminders of the telephone numbers by which at-home viewers can vote for the contestant(s) of their choosing and it is at this point that those lines open to receive votes. As of Season 8, voting can also be performed online. Performance shows typically last two hours, commercials included.
In seasons 2-8 the show's weekly format was split between two episodes, a performance episode, as described above, and a results show which reveals the outcome of the at-home-viewer voting. Results shows typically aired on the night immediately following that of the performance show of the same week and usually opened with a group routine from the remaining contestants. The main purpose of this show was to determine which of the dancers are eliminated that week, but these episodes generally also featured guest dance performances or guest musical acts, and sometimes video packets that provide insight on the dancers and their journey on the show; Lythgoe has commented that the group routines and occasional guest performances will be included in the singular weekly episodes of season 9. Regardless of how many shows air per week for a given season, a bottom three couples (those that garnered the fewest votes from viewers) are typically revealed weekly at this stage in the competition. Each of these six dancers are then in danger of elimination and must perform a solo for the judges as their last effort to impress and stay in the competition. The judges then retire briefly (typically during the night's headlining musical guest performance)
to determine which man and woman (which are not necessarily from the same couple) will leave the competition. The eliminated dancers are then announced and given a brief send-off via a video montage. If the dancers who were eliminated were not from the same couple then the two remaining members form a new couple for the following week's performances. On two occasions, the judges, unwilling to send any of the bottom dancers home on the merits of their performances that week, have abstained from making an elimination and instead allowed all competitors to proceed to the next week, which would be followed by an elimination of the double the usual number of competitors. Results shows have varied in length from one to two hours, commercials included. In season one there was no results show and the dancers' eliminations were pre-recorded the week they occurred and then broadcast at the beginning of the next week's episode. Season nine has marked a return to the one-episode-per-week format but differs in that contestants eliminations will be revealed at the end of an episode, when voting from the previous week is revealed, but only after the dancers have performed the new week's routines and been given another chance to impress the judges.
Top 10 to Finale
Around the time that the show enters its 'Top Ten' competitor phase, there are typically several format changes that take place. Couples are split up and new pairings are formed for each of the remaining weeks (though some couples may be paired up more than once). Additionally, voting is usually then cast for individual dancers rather than couples (in season nine, dancers will be voted for on an individual basis from the start). Lastly, the judges often give up their power to save dancers at this point, and eliminations are determined exclusively by viewer votes, with judges serving in only an advisory capacity - in seasons 2-6, a results show was still shown the following night to reveal the results of the vote, though it featured a bottom four dancers as opposed to a bottom three couples once the Top 10 stage was reached. Each season undergoes one final format shake-up in its last week, which typically takes place when the show reaches a Top 4 (though season six saw a Top 6 finale and season seven a Top 3). In the final performance show, the remaining dancers typically each dance duets with all of their remaining fellow finalists as well as perform solos and participate in group numbers. The following night's season finale episode is often the most elaborately produced show of a season and features the last performances of the competitors, encore performances of many of the season's most acclaimed routines, guest dancers (including returning past season competitors and cast-members from other international versions of the franchise), musical performances and multiple video packets chronicling the course of the season's events, all culminating in the announcement of the winner of the competition, as decided by the previous night's vote. In the first 8 seasons, a singular winner was announced, of which there have been four women and four men over the course of the series; starting in season 9, two winners will be crowned, one guy and one girl. Following the closure of the season, the Top Ten dancers often go on tour for several months, performing hit routines from the season amongst other performances.
While the above describes the most likely format for a given season, there have been notable variations in how various seasons have been arranged. While most seasons have seen 20 top finalists, season 1, being slightly shorter in length than all following seasons, saw only a Top 16, and its final performance show had an improvisational segment that was never again seen on the show. Aired in the fall (as opposed to the summer as with most other seasons), Season Six saw some cuts to its average air time per episode and ended at a Top Six rather than a Top Four. Season Seven featured a number of different format tweaks, several of which have not been featured in any other season; rather than featuring a Top 20 with two eliminations per week, Season seven had a Top 11 and sent home only one dancer per week, ending with a Top 3 finale. Season Seven also saw the introduction of 'All-Stars', former contestants who return in a non-competitive role to pair with new competitors for some of their routines. Season Eight saw a return to the Top 20 format but also continued to use All-Stars after the competition reached the Top Ten phase and this format will be applied to season 9 as well.
" In both seasons 7 and 8, the judges decided not to eliminate any dancers on the occasion of one results show; in both cases this event was followed by the elimination of double the normal amount of contestants the following week. Similarly, for format reasons, season 9 featured two shows with double eliminations, with four dancers eliminated instead of two.
" The seasons 8 and 9 dancer showcase episodes have been combined with the Top 20 reveal episode, with groups of the dancers performing immediately after being revealed as contestants.
Dance Styles and Choreographers
Over the course of its nine seasons, So You Think You Can Dance has featured dozens of distinct dance styles in its choreographed routines. Most of these styles fall into four categories that are regularly showcased and can be found in almost every performance episode: western contemporary/classical styles, ballroom styles, hip-hop/street styles, and Jazz and its related styles. Various other forms of dance that do not especially fall into these broad categories are seen as well, but not as regularly. The following styles have all been seen in a choreographed duet or group routine; styles featured only in auditions or solos are not listed.
Routines from the classically-derived style of contemporary dance are the most common dances seen on the show, being seen in every performance episode of the series (and typically at least twice per episode). While contemporary, lyrical, and modern dance are typically considered three separate (if overlapping) styles, the practice on So You Think You Can Dance has been to refer to all routines in this area as "contemporary", except in the first season where the label "lyrical" was used for the same purpose. Ballet routines occur much more rarely, at a rate of one or two per season since their introduction in the fourth season.
Hip-hop routines are also present in every performance episode. While these routines frequently feature elements from many different sub-genres of hip-hop (locking and popping, for example) and various "street" styles (such as breaking), they are typically all labelled under the umbrella term of hip-hop. An exception is the now frequently-featured lyrical hip-hop, which is unique amongst all the styles on SYTYCD in that it is the only one that is held to have become a known distinct style at least in-part as a result of the show; the style is widely attributed to regular show choreographers Tabitha and Napoleon D'umo and the term itself to judge Adam Shankman. These two broad categories are occasionally supplemented by krump routines, which have been featured a few times a season since their introduction in season 2. Additionally the styles of breakdancing (in the sense of a full breaking routine as opposed to a hip-hop routine with a few breaking tricks), waacking, and stepping have all been featured in exactly one routine.
Street and Contemporary Club Styles
Hip-hop (umbrella term for all Popping, Locking, and New Style/Commercial Hip-Hop styles), Lyrical Hip-hop, Breaking/B-boying, Krump, Stepping, Waacking
Jazz is featured in nearly all performance episodes. While these routines are typically labelled simply "Jazz", the genre is notable as being one of the most fusional featured on the show and various style combinations and sub-categories have been referenced. Descended from Jazz but treated as a separate genre on SYTYCD, "Broadway" is analogous to the label "Musical Theater" outside the U.S.
Jazz, Contemporary Jazz, Modern Jazz, Lyrical Jazz, African Jazz, Jazz-Funk, Latin Jazz, Pop-Jazz/Pop
These dance styles are featured less frequently than their ballroom relatives, but have been seen intermittently since the first season.
American Social / Traditional Club Styles
Charleston, Country-Western Two-Step, Disco, Go-Go, Hustle, Lindy Hop, Rock n' Roll, Swing, West Coast Swing
Ronnie DeBenedetta, Carla Heiney, Brandi Tobais, Travis Payne, Doriana Sanchez, Benji Schwimmer, Kristen Sorci, Maria Torres, Nick Williams
In addition to the broad categories above, many more styles that are less common in the U.S. are sometimes featured. Most of these are seen only once, but the Bollywood style has been featured several times per season since the fourth season.
^These dancers never appeared in the bottom six or bottom four dancers at any point. ^Season 6's finale featured six grand finalists. ^Season 7's finale featured three grand finalists. ^Season 9 featured one male winner and one female winner.
The second season premiered on May 12, 2006. The top 20 finalists were revealed on June 8, and the winner, Benjamin Schwimmer, was named "America's Favorite Dancer" on August 16, 2006 after 16 million votes were collected for the season finale. Travis Wall was the first runner-up, and Donyelle Jones was named second runner-up.
Benji Schwimmer almost did not make the show's top 20 " he was officially first runner-up dancer in case any of the male dancers ran into unforeseen difficulties prior to the start of filming. As it happened, for the second year in a row, Hokuto Konishi was unable to get his visa cleared to work in the U.S. in time for the first taping, and he was cut. Schwimmer took his spot in the Top 20 and fared well from the start, garnering consistent praise from the judges and votes from viewers. Schwimmer and fellow grand finalist Donyelle Jones, who were paired as a couple from the first performance episode, became the first contestants in the show's run to never face elimination from being in the bottom six or bottom 4 dancers.
There were several changes to the show's format in the second season. This season was the first to feature two episodes per week, splitting the bulk of the performances and the voting results segments between two nights. New styles of dance were also introduced, and the winning prize was increased from US$100,000 to $250,000 and also included a new car and a one-year contract to perform in a Céline Dion show then performing Las Vegas. The season was also the first followed by a live tour for the top ten dancers.
Open auditions for season 3 began early October 2006, held in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. Like the previous season, those that made the cuts moved on to Las Vegas. The taped auditions premiered on the Fox Network on May 24, 2007, and the subsequent shows were taped and broadcast live for a 12-week season. Cat Deeley returned as host, and Nigel Lythgoe returned as permanent judge. Joining Lythgoe permanently at the judging table was Mary Murphy; her promotion was reported by TV Guide on March 8, 2007. Lacey Schwimmer, younger sister of season 2 winner Benji Schwimmer and cousin of season 2 fourth-place finisher Heidi Groskreutz, auditioned for this season (with her brother partnering her during the audition) and made the Top 20. She was the only contestant in the finals to have never been in the Bottom 3 couples or Bottom 4 individuals, ultimately placing fourth in the finale (the same position her cousin Heidi finished the previous season); the professional recognition from this finish led to her joining the cast of the seventh season of Dancing With the Stars. The prize for the winner was increased to $250,000 cash. On the performance finale show (August 16, 2007), it was announced that the series had been picked up for a fourth season. Sabra Johnson was named "America's Favorite Dancer," while Danny Tidwell (brother of season 2 runner-up Travis Wall) was named runner-up.
Auditions for Season 4 began in Texas on January 17 and took place in six locations through March 2008. The show kicked off its two-hour season premiere on May 22, 2008. Cat Deeley returned as host and Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy as permanent judges. This season saw the introduction of new dance styles, including Bollywood, and new choreographers, including hip-hop duo Tabitha and Napoleon D'umo. The prize for the winner was again $250,000 cash, the title of "America's Favorite Dancer" and an offer for a role in Step Up 3D. In the finale, viewers voted Joshua Allen as the overall winner, while Katee Shean was given a surprise award of $50,000 for being the top female dancer.
Auditions for Season 5 kicked off in New York City on November 13, 2008 and continued on to Miami, Los Angeles, Denver, Memphis, and Seattle. The premiere aired on May 21, 2009. Louis van Amstel joined the show's cast of choreographers and Shane Sparks returned to choreograph while on break from America's Best Dance Crew. The prize for the winner was once again $250,000 cash, the chance to be on the November 2009 issue cover of Dance Spirit Magazine, and the title of "America's Favorite Dancer." On August 6, 2009 (the finale), Jeanine Mason was given the title.
After a low-rated special episode of Dance featuring Lythgoe presenting his and viewer's favorite dance routines from seasons 1-5, the sixth season of Dance, premiered on Wednesday, September 9, 2009. Auditions were held in Boston, Atlanta, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Phoenix, and Salt Lake City. Adam Shankman joined as the permanent judge for the first time this season. The winner was Russell Ferguson and the runner-up was Jakob Karr.
Auditions began in Miami, Florida, on January 18, 2010, continuing through New York, Dallas, Nashville, and Chicago, ending in Los Angeles on March 26. The season premiered on May 27, 2010. This season introduced significant format changes to the show, with a Top 11 dancers instead of the traditional Top 20 and "All-Stars", contestants from previous seasons who returned to partner with the Top 11 for a portion of their routines. Lauren Froderman won this season with Kent Boyd as runner-up.
Auditions started October 13, 2010 in Oakland, California and continued through November 15 in Brooklyn, New York. The premiere aired on May 26, 2011.
The series began a new version of the "All-Star" format in which the All Stars didn't come in until the top 10. The show returned to a top 20 with couples. This season also marks the first time that the public can cast votes online, in addition to calling in, with a limit of 50 votes per viewer. On August 11, 2011, it was announced that Melanie Moore was the winner of season 8 and Sasha Mallory the runner-up. Together they received 79% of the 11.5 million votes.
On October 6, 2011, Fox announced that it had renewed So You Think You Can Dance for a ninth season, which premiered on May 24, 2012. In January 2012, Lythgoe announced that the result shows had been cut by Fox. On May 18, 2012, Nigel Lythgoe announced that two winners will be crowned: a male and a female. The two winners announced on September 18, 2012 were Eliana Girard and Chehon Wespi-Tschopp.
On December 20, 2012, Fox announced that So You Think You Can Dance was renewed for a tenth season.
On September 2, 2009, as prelude to season 6, a special show aired featuring judge picks for the top 15 routines from the first five seasons. At the end of the show, show creator and judge Nigel Lythgoe presented his favorite performance, a contemporary piece choreographed by Tyce Diorio and performed by Melissa Sandvig and Ade Obayomi.
So You Think You Can Dance premiered with over 10 million viewers in 2005. For Season 1, it was the No. 1 summer show on television. However, when NBC's America's Got Talent premiered in the summer of 2006, it took the title of "#1 summer show" and, over the past few years, has broadened its lead. In summer 2009, SYTYCD premiered strong with a 3.4 rating in its target demographic, although with the start of America's Got Talent roughly a month later in the same timeslot, Dance fell to No. 4 on the ratings board. It continued to lose viewers throughout the summer of 2009 and ended up with an average of approximately 8 million viewers. Fox then moved SYTYCD to its fall 2009 schedule where its ratings continued to decline; hitting an all time series low of 4.6 million viewers for a "special" episode hosted by Nigel Lythgoe on September 2, 2009. The move to the fall was short-lived. After dropping to an average of 6 million viewers, Fox moved SYTYCD back to the summer in 2010. With Mia Michaels replacing Mary Murphy and former contestants termed as "all stars" being used as partners, the ratings for Dance continued to slide to all-time series lows; dropping to just 5.6 million viewers on July 15, 2010. For Season 7, So You Think You Can Dance averaged just over 5 million viewers. Soon after the season 7 finale, it was announced that Mia Michaels would be replaced on the judge's panel by returning personality Mary Murphy. The change appeared to have little effect on the ratings and the show continued to average just over five million viewers per episode in 2011's season 8. Season 9 saw a slight uptake in ratings early on, with each of the season's first five episodes garnering between six and seven million viewers, but the rise was short-lived and the show's ratings hit an all time low of 4.16 millions viewers on August 29, 2012.
Influence and International Franchise
Dance competition had been a part of American television for decades before the premiere of So You Think You Can Dance, but usually in the form of all-around talent searches, (such as Star Search, Soul Train, or Showtime at the Apollo). However, a season-long American Idol-like talent-search show with a sole focus on dance had never been broadcast on American network television. Producers and judges associated with the show have stated on numerous occasions, both within the context of the show and in interviews, that the series was meant to rejuvenate the visibility and appreciation of dance as an art form in the U.S. and to give exposure to struggling dancers. Series judge Mary Murphy says, for example, "Of course you hope you can make a living at it, because you don't want to give up on something that you do, but the honest truth is most dancers have to carry one or two jobs and dance as much as they can on the side -- it's a very lucky dancer who gets a full scholarship." A number of dance-themed competition shows have been produced for American television since the premiere of So You Think You Can Dance, including America's Best Dance Crew, Superstars of Dance, and Live to Dance.
In 2009, Lythgoe came together with fellow SYTYCD judge Adam Shankman as well as Katie Holmes, Carrie Ann Inaba, and others in the dance entertainment industry, in an effort to launch The Dizzyfeet Foundation, with the aim of providing scholarships and training to young dancers of limited means. The foundation has been referenced sporadically on the show since. In 2010, Lythgoe, with the assistance of other SYTYCD personalities and long-time healthy lifestyles proponent Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, was successful in getting another of his dance-oriented concepts realized"an official National Dance Day, held now annually on the last Saturday of July, to promote fitness through movement. This national dance day has been celebrated annually by the show since.
Before the end of 2005, the year the series first premiered, its format had already been licensed for the first of a number foreign adaptations. To date, the resulting So You Think You Can Dance franchise has produced 23 shows representing 24 different countries and comprising over 65 individual seasons. These adaptations have aired in Armenia, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Israel, Lithuania, Malaysia, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, South Africa, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and Vietnam.