Last week, So You Think You Can Dance host Cat Deeley spoke to reporters via conference call about the show and her other television projects. The eighth season of the dance-competition show will start May 26, but hopefully Cat’s comments will hold over fans until then.

On the success of So You Think You Can Dance:
Cat Deeley: Never in my wildest dreams did I anticipate the huge success of the show. I never thought that we’d be here going into season 8. That’s all down to the audience at home who sit and watch us.

I also think that it’s about the human element and discovering people’s stories and trials and tribulations and their sense of humor and things that happen in their lives, and I think that’s what the audience at home really identify with actually. I think dance is a narrative that runs through, but I think it stands to the great characters that we find and also the casting that happens too. I think that’s what people identify with and I think that makes people kind of get up off their sofas and pick up the phone and vote.

On saying good-bye to the eliminated dancers:
CD: I’d be a pretty strange human being to not in some way, shape or form become emotionally attached to certain people.

We’re very good at kind of leaving the door open for people as well. What we don’t want to do is take ordinary people and then just kind of leave them floundering after the show is over. We’re very, very aware of our responsibility and the fact that we elevate these dancers to a certain position where the general public knows their names. We want them to go on and have fantastic careers.

On what we can expect from season 8 of SYTYCD:
CD: My big expectation is I want to see something different. Every single year we raise the bar, and I think that what the dancers are really kind of getting a grip with is that we need to see their personalities too and we need to see something a little bit different. Whether that’s doing eight pirouettes instead of five or mixing a samba with a little bit of breaking, we’re looking for uniqueness. We want something that says like “Wow! I’ve never seen that before!”

We’ve seen some great people mix up all different styles and do it in a really unique and individual way, and that to me is kind of the highlight every year. When somebody kind of takes your breath away and does something completely unique and individual and creative too and uses their imagination.

On Nigel Lythgoe:
CD: He is crazy. I turn around sometimes and I go, “Oh my goodness!” This man is 60 years old and he’s running around. He’s going to be doing a trans-Atlantic flight every week. I’ve had a little bit of that going on too, and I don’t know how he does.

He had a vision. He saw where he wanted to go with the show, and he’s done it while juggling our show as well, which is undoubtedly his passion project, and doing the show on the BBC too. So, I can only say that I hold him in such high regard and he’s an inspirational character.

I just hope he keeps taking his vitamins and keeps moisturizing and manages to hold it all together, which I undoubtedly know he will.

On spotting new dance stars:
CD: The one thing that I do think we’ve now — going into season 8 — got quite good at is spotting that star quality, and it’s difficult sometimes because it’s kind of indefinable. It’s that certain something special that means you see somebody, and, for whatever reason, you can’t quite take your eyes off them and they hold you. That’s what we’re always searching for. We need people like that that the audience are going connect with almost instantaneously.

On the success of Travis Wall:
CD: He didn’t win season 2. He was the runner-up and yet he has developed into this amazingly-creative choreographer that, literally every time he does anything for the show, blows my mind. We’re so excited to have been a part of his journey.

On what a contestant needs for dancing success:
CD: They have to be able to pick up other styles. There are lots of people that have maybe auditioned in the past for the show, have taken away the constructive criticism and gone, “OK, well if I’m a breaker, I’m going to put myself in a couple of ballroom classes, and I’m going to investigate that and see how far I can get.” Quite often, we’ve had people take the criticism, come back and then go much further on.

On her job at So You Think You Can Dance:
CD: When we do all the different cities, I’m very rarely in the audition room because my specific job  at that point is to try and get the stories out of people as much as possible: their back stories, to find out their characters and their personalities.

It’s all about bringing out their personality, and also, as I see it, my role is big sister, cheerleader … that kind of encourages them. When things are a success, I pat them on the back, and when the chips are down and sometimes it doesn’t go quite as well, I give them a squeeze and we go right.

On dancers from big cities and small towns:
CD: We always tend to find great dancers in either LA or New York, and obviously that’s because dancers as a whole gravitate to either coastline, because there’s more opportunities available. But for me, it’s always really interesting when we go to different cities, places like I don’t know Memphis or New Orleans or Atlanta. There aren’t as many great dancers, but there is the odd, occasional one that are like diamonds in the rough a little bit. For me, that’s always a really, really interesting journey to watch: these kind of dancers that do have a certain level of naivety to them but are still incredibly passionate and have a massive talent. And to watch their growth, I think, is incredibly interesting.

On the return of Mary Murphy to the judges’ table:
CD: To be perfectly honest, I can’t wait. Mary has this enthusiasm that is completely infectious, and she’s just very positive. She puts a very positive spin on it. She doesn’t take any rubbish from Nigel, and I think we kind of missed her a little bit on the panel. So I’m so glad that the hot tamale train is rolling back into town. I can’t wait for some of the screams and the enthusiasm and the general kind of witty rituals to Nigel.

On who she’d like to see return as an “All-Star”:
CD: I love Dominic. I love his personality, and I love how he combines — he does a brilliant thing of combining humor with breakdancing and hip hop, and I think that’s a really, really interesting combination, fusion.

I’d also like to see Alex Wong back at some point, because I don’t think he’ll be able to make the show as a contestant, because I think it would just be too much on his injury because he hurt his Achilles’ tendon. I don’t think he’d be able to do it without injuring himself again in some way, shape or form, but I’d love to see him back on the show.

On the stand-out dance styles for season 8:
CD: I think everybody is quite proud of the hip-hoppers and breakers this year, because what they’ve done is they’ve learned from the previous seasons … because somebody who isn’t necessarily technically-trained, it’s quite a big thing to kind of turn around and go as a breaker where you’ve learned your moves from either watching YouTube or MTV or music videos or even just from your friends. To actually then turn around and put yourself in a samba class is quite a big deal. Yet they’ve done it, which I think shows just how dedicated they are and how much hard work they’re prepared to put into the show and also into themselves, and I think that’s incredibly inspirational.

On the challenges of SYTYCD:
CD: If they are going to make it through, they need to be ready for it, and we need to know that they can do it and we need to know that they can attend the different styles, that they’re physically capable and able of doing it. That they’re emotionally and mentally able of doing it.

By the time you get to the end of the season and it’s the finale, those kids are shattered. I mean literally, they’ve kind of been through the mill. They’ve done a million different styles. They’re bruised. They’re battered. They’ve worked so hard.

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(Images courtesy of FOX)

Laurel Brown

Senior Writer, BuddyTV

Laurel grew up in Mamaroneck, NY, Grosse Pointe, MI and Bellevue WA. She then went on to live in places like Boston, Tucson, Houston, Wales, Tanzania, Prince Edward Island and New York City before heading back to Seattle. Ever since early childhood, when she became addicted to The Muppet Show, Laurel has watched far too much TV. Current favorites include ChuckModern FamilySupernaturalMad Men and Community. Laurel received a BA in Astrophysics (yes, that is possible) from Colgate University and a PhD in Middle Eastern Studies and History of Science from Columbia University before she realized that television is much better than studying.