January 10th, 2012
12:08 PM ET
When "So You Think You Can Dance" held auditions in Atlanta last January, the show not only set a record for the most dancers sent to the Las Vegas callbacks, but it was also the place where season 8 champ Melanie Moore was discovered.
So it made perfect sense for the show to officially begin its ninth season by hosting auditions back in the ATL.
On a chilly Thursday morning last week, many dancers were practicing their skills - not so much to be ready to face the judges, but to keep warm.
"Dedication is what you need and these people have it in spades," host Cat Deeley said, observing the mass of dancers lined up. "To be that up and happy and enthusiastic, and energetic in the freezing cold....and some people have been here since last night. But dancers are like that – I’ve never met people who are so tough and will keep going and work really hard. I’ve never met a collection of people like that."
Co-executive producer Jeff Thacker spoke about one thing that makes the first auditions of the season special: "It gives us an idea of what’s changed in the past 12 months – new styles, new music, new faces."
Auditions stretched into the weekend, where on Saturday at least one favorite dancer from the early rounds of season 8 made an appearance and brought the house down.
Despite his lack of dance vocabulary, judge/dance legend Debbie Allen said that "He was so dynamic in the way he connected with the judges...I just fell in love with him. He had so much joy, he just touched my soul. That’s something that these people [over] the next 24 hours will have to find."
Executive producer/judge Nigel Lythgoe said such repeat auditions are welcome: "It’s not like 'American Idol,' where if one day you’re tone deaf, if you come back, you’re still gonna be crap." (Lythgoe also produces "Idol.")
Last season featured guest judges like Lady Gaga, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Neil Patrick Harris. For this year, judge Mary Murphy hopes "we get some people back, and people like Beyonce, Madonna and Janet Jackson. Those are some of the people I’d like to see on the show. They’re all great dancers – Madonna has transformed herself so many times, she’s an inspiration to so many dancers out there, [and] she’s still cooking."
On a personal note, Murphy is also celebrating one year since being cancer free. "I’m really excited, things are still going well. I still see doctors and they’re regulating my hormones – I’m working on my diet and what I eat," she revealed. "Like most Americans out there, I eat meat and potatoes every day and they’re telling me that’s something I have to stop. I didn’t realize how hard that is until you really do it."
Looking forward to this ninth season after two major Emmy nominations, Nigel Lythgoe accentuated the positive after he'd announced at the start of the year that Fox would not be airing the results show this season.
"We’ll have to have a lot of changes," he explained. "We’ll have to put the results into our main show. So we’ve now got a two-hour show where we’ll have to get results from the previous week. That’s exciting for me, that changes things up."
The new schedule also means that "the contestants will be working for an extra week that are in the bottom three," Lythgoe explained. "We can now judge them by the previous week's performance, America's vote and what they've done [that night]. It’s our decision who goes home, America votes in the positive. We don’t want to lose the group routine, 'dance for your life' or exponents of styles we haven’t seen before. It’s going to be a jam-packed show. If we can get people to watch that, we get seasons 10, 11 and 12."
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