February 22nd, 2011
08:31 PM ET
It was a beautiful Monday afternoon in Atlanta, Georgia, so what better day to hold auditions for the eighth season of Fox's hit summer reality show, "So You Think You Can Dance"?
Out of the hundreds who showed up the prior Saturday, Abigail Ruz, a dancer for 14 years and a viewer of the show since the first season, was one who got the chance to see the judges that day.
"It really is nerve-wracking," she told CNN, after waiting for several hours to perform, "but you've got all of these nerves bundled up and you've just gotta dance them out."
The auditions take place, more or less, exactly as you see them on television. The judges ask the dancer a few questions, the dancer performs a solo, and then the judges offer their critique and give the yay or nay on letting the dancer move forward (to choreography or to Las Vegas). Then, the next person takes their turn with no stopping in between.
On Monday, there was a very excited, appreciative audience, applauding for every performer, cheering and laughing at producer/judge Nigel Lythgoe's jokes, which were about everything from Justin Bieber to one hopeful's dream of being a firefighter (in case the whole dance thing didn't work out). The styles of dance ran the gamut from Latin ballroom to hip-hop to contemporary to traditional African dancing.
"There’s certainly been some extraordinary contemporary dancers, and a couple of good ballroom dancers," said judge Mary Murphy. "I think there will definitely be quite a few people going to Las Vegas at the end of the day. There’s certainly some extraordinarily talented people."
Murphy is back as a full-time judge this season after missing much of the last one, and after battling thyroid cancer. She was in good spirits, letting loose with her trademark laugh while talking to CNN.
"It feels like I never left," she said. "It feels like home sitting next to Nigel, we’ve been friends for years. It’s like a dream sequence, like did that really happen? I won’t go anywhere after this!"
Host Cat Deeley was there as well, interacting with the dancers as she does throughout the season. "What is extremely interesting to watch is their growth," she said. "Travis Wall is now the most incredible choreographer, and without a shadow of a doubt, I know he will definitely win an Emmy from doing this show. We found him when he was in a small town, and he kind of grew from the opportunity."
As for those dancers hoping to be the next Wall, Lythgoe said they have their work cut out for them: "We’re very, very tough now, so our standards are extremely high, if you look at people like Alex Wong and even tWitch. So we’re getting rid of a lot of people this season."
Lythgoe's currently juggling his work on "SYTYCD" this year with "American Idol," so of course we had to ask about the show and its new judges, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler. The chemistry, he said, "has been fantastic. Everyone is talking about Steven and Jennifer. They forget how important Randy is this season. He's really an anchor for that panel, and allows Jennifer and Steven to enjoy the process rather than worry about it. So I'm really grateful to Randy this year."
But back to "SYTYCD" - if there's one dancer on the minds of fans going into the new season, it's Wong. Lythgoe shared an update on how he's been doing since an injury took him out of the competition last year. "He’s about 70 percent. [Producer Jeff Thacker] went to see him dance, he’s doing well," he said.
As for the chances that Wong will return this season, "We just have to see how he progresses. We don’t want to do anything that’s going to aggravate the injury."
When CNN spoke to Lythgoe and Lil' C, who sat in as the third judge for these auditions, they hesitated to say too much about how auditions were going. Lil' C put it in his own special way: "I haven’t seen too much bucc-ness, but I have seen some potential bucc-ness. I will let you know if my hypothesis was correct. I've gotta test the postulation, the bucc-ness is definitely here. I’ll let you know when I see it."
The Atlanta auditions may be winding down, but there's still a chance for you to impress the judges: They'll be in Los Angeles for the final round on March 12. The new season of the show premieres soon after "American Idol's" finale in May.
About this blog
Our daily cheat-sheet for breaking celebrity news, Hollywood buzz and your pop-culture obsessions.