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So You Think You Can Dance Is Returning To Fox With One Major Change

Dance fans got good news this week when Fox announced its reality competition So You Think You Can Dance will return for Season 17 this year, after being postponed indefinitely in 2020 due to the pandemic. However, there will be at least one huge change to the show that introduced us to dance phenoms such as Stephen “tWitch” Boss and West Side Story star Ariana DeBose when it returns to primetime: Nigel Lythgoe will not be amongst the judges giving feedback to the aspiring dancers.

Nigel Lythgoe, who created So You Think You Can Dance in 2005 with Simon Fuller, has been very hands-on with the dancing competition for its entire run. While the judging panel has featured numerous dance experts over the years, including Mary Murphy, Lady Gaga, Jason Derulo, Vanessa Hudgens, Tyce Diorio, Laurieann Gibson and many, many more, Lythgoe held the panel’s only permanent spot. What makes this announcement especially surprising is that, according to Lythgoe's own tweet, it was not his choice for the show to move in a new direction without him. 

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Despite remaining on the show as executive producer, the 72-year-old dance enthusiast said he was sad to not have been asked to judge this season, but that he wishes his replacement well. In response to multiple fans coming to his defense, Nigel Lythgoe seemed to confirm on Twitter the reason behind the apparent demotion: 

Yes, ‘Freshen up’ is basically what [So You Think You Can Dance] hopes to do.

It’s hard to tell whether or not there’s any bitterness behind Nigel Lythgoe’s tweets, but it’s obvious Fox’s decision has Lythgoe feeling a little ill, and understandably so. Fox’s renewal announcement didn’t provide any details as to who will be on the panel this season, though when Season 17 was originally announced in 2020, Lythgoe, Mary Murphy and Laurieann Gibson were the three slated judges, with Cat Deeley returning as host. According to the news release announcing the 2022 return:

The upcoming season will feature highly skilled dancers between the ages of 18 and 30, showcasing their talents in various dance styles, including contemporary, tap, hip-hop, ballroom, animation, breaking and more. Those who are selected to move on to the SYTYCD studio will work with world-renowned choreographers and compete each week in a variety of styles, with brand-new twists and turns introduced into the competition.

It sounds like So You Think You Can Dance will return as the dance competition we’ve all come to know and love, assuming those “brand-new twists and turns” don’t involve any wild costumes like Fox’s other competition series

The show has served as a springboard for many of its contestants. Magic Mike XXL star Stephen “tWitch” Boss was the runner-up on Season 4 of SYTYCD, with his wife Allison Holker making it to the Top 8 of Season 2. Ariana DeBose, who was recently nominated for an Academy Award after taking home both a Golden Globe and SAG Award for her role in West Side Story, competed on Season 6. 

Over a dozen So You Think You Can Dance alums were featured in In the Heights, the movie adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway hit. Also many of the professionals on Dancing With the Stars competed on SYTYCD before pairing up with celebrities on the ABC competition, including Artem Chigvintsev (Season 1), Jenna Johnson (Season 10) and Alan Bersten (Season 10).

It’s going to be strange to see So You Think You Can Dance return without Nigel Lythgoe, but with the show’s fate up in the air after the pandemic delay, I’m just glad it’s coming back at all. Stay tuned to our 2022 TV Schedule to see when this and other shows will premiere.

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.