Cat Deeley dishes on 'So You Think You Can Dance's fourth season
By Christopher Rocchio, 05/21/2008
Despite a slew of dance-themed reality shows on the airwaves, Cat Deeley thinks Fox's So You Think You Can Dance is still the standard.
"I think our show is such a success and I think it's a show that the others feel that the stations have tried to emulate. I think that our show is such a success because of the human element that's part of the show," the So You Think You Can Dance host told reporters during a Monday conference call.
"I think that people can like dance or be into dance, but it's that thing of watching other people's successes and failures and trials and tribulations. We've all -- at some point in our lives -- turned around and fallen over metaphorically and we've had to kind of pick ourselves and dust ourselves off and get on with it. Whether you're a mechanic, a baker, an accountant, whoever you are we can all identify with that. You don't have to be a dancer. I think that's what makes the show a success with other people, not just the dancing community and I think it's something anybody can identify with."
"It's the same show. It's kind of if it ain't broke don't fix it, but it is everything that you know and love, but back bigger and better," she said. "Because the bar has kind of been raised, we're used to seeing people spin on their heads. Now we want triple back summersaults with extras and a run up the wall because we just get blase about it."
Deeley promised "another amazing Mia Michaels routine that's going to give you chills" and added Wade Robson is also planning "something very special" -- as both choreographers look to repeat last season's success, which earned each Outstanding Choreography Emmy Awards last September.
"But it's kind of the same," said Deeley about the fourth season. "We are looking into other styles of dance because, obviously, what we want to do is keep it fresh, too. We aim to surprise and delight, but we've also got [judges Mary Murphy and Nigel Lythgoe] and there will be ballroom and breaking, all contemporary, all of the normal styles will be there too."
When it comes to Murphy and Lythgoe, Deeley explained she feels it's her "role" to be supportive of the contestants instead of So You Think You Can Dance's judges.
"I want to be on the dancer's side because I see what they go through and I see them in rehearsals and all of that kind of stuff," she said. "To be honest I don't know how harsh the judges are going to be this year. I mean, of course, every single year the bar is raised. It's one of those things where you've seen a breaker spin on his head. Now we want him to spin on his head, do a triple summersault backwards, and land on one arm because the bar is raised every single year. My job is kind of team leader."
In addition, Deeley went as far as to say she feels "very protective" of the show's participants.
"That's my job; to be kind of the cheerleader when the chips are down and maybe Nigel is not being so nice and they've put everything that they have into a routine that's a minute long and they want to stay on another week," she explained. "I'm kind of the big sister/cheerleader role that kind of squeezes their hand and goes, 'Come on, we can do this.' I think it's something that they appreciate maybe."
Even before Deeley was tapped to helm the American Idol-like dance competition prior to the show's second season, she told reporters she "absolutely thought" that supporting the contestants would be a "very important element."
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"I thought it was very important that I became part of their journey so that there was a connection, because what we're doing is we're essentially taking ordinary people and putting them in this most extraordinary situation where people know their names and we put them in this live TV studio and there are cameras and lights," she explained. "It's a lot to ask of the dancers and to get the most out of them I think they've got to feel as though they've got somebody on their side and someone supporting them."
In all honesty, Deeley said her role is not difficult due to the contestants the show casts each year.
"They've all been so great you can't help but get involved, both emotionally, personally," she said. "I mean it's the toughest thing for me on a Thursday when I have to send them home. It's horrible. I hate it. They always come into the studio and they're always like, 'Oh, no. It's a Thursday.' I'm like, 'I know. It's terrible.' It's always very tough."
While Deeley said she tries her hardest to "make them the best that they can possibly be," she said it's ultimately up to each contestant to put his or her personality on the line.
"If you don't let people in and you don't show them your personality and vulnerability and that real human element that we all have that people can identify with, they won't pick up the phone and vote for them," she said. "That's what I've noticed is that the trend seems to be that the dancers are much more open, obviously, hoping to connect with the producers, who are casting the show, and fundamentally the American public."
Deeley said it's a delicate balance for the contestants, who she said just need to be themselves.
"It's kind of don't pretend to be one thing or the other. You haven't necessarily got to be the loudest joke telling person in the bunch if you're just very honest with anything else that you're kind of experiencing," she said. "In all honesty, it's to keep it very real and trust that we've cast it right and that the right people are there on the stage and kind of just let it happen. It's kind of like peeling back the layers of an onion, you know? I don't have to force it too much if we've done our job correctly."
Still, Deeley admitted that those contestants who are "very outgoing normally" tend to get home viewer votes earlier in the competition than someone who is more reserved.
"Obviously, that's who the audience connects with first," she said. "But if there's a quieter person that's maybe struggling with other things or the background or whatever it is, I think as they slowly come through the votes then shift. It takes a little bit more time for the audience to connect with them, but they do definitely do it."
As So You Think You Can Dance moves into its fourth season, Deeley said the contestants are also getting a bit more savvy about the show's format.
"Definitely the dancers are becoming more aware that this isn't just a dance competition," she said. "It's to find America's favorite dancer, so it's not necessarily about who's the best technical dancer or who has the most training. It's actually about the person that America connects with the most and it doesn't matter how brilliant your dancing is."
"I don't actually know why so much, but it seems to just work for us," she said. "I think a lot of the kids are off school, who obviously know that that's the demographic that's a large part of our audience. I don't know. I just think it's a very upbeat, very kind of shiny floor, big set kind of show and it feels good, which I think is what everybody wants all of the time, whether it's summer or not."