The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU professor Susanne Scholz in the West Bank in 2018.
SMU professor to return to campus after being trapped in Gaza for 12 years
Sara Hummadi, Video Editor • May 18, 2024

Interview with the hosts of “So You Think You Can Dance”

This weekend on campus, a slew of reporters flocked to Moody Coliseum for GameDay, the SMU men’s basketball team pulled out an impressive win against UConn, and the famous Roaming Gnome graced the campus with his presence. But that’s not all.

The Fox hit TV show “So You Think You Can Dance” filmed their Dallas audition footage at McFarlin Auditorium. Even though I had the constant urge to channel my inner fan girl, I managed to not make a fool out of myself and get you all the details of this weekend’s auditions. Now let’s get this show on the road…

On Saturday morning at 7 a.m., a line of anxious dancers stretched from the entrance of McFarlin Auditorium to the steps of Dallas Hall. Performers at the front of the line said they arrived around 4 a.m. in order to ensure an audition time. Considering the show now divides performers based on their style of dance, either street or stage, two lines formed holding two very different types of dancers. On the street side, the music blared, the dancers free styled with each other and their energy soared. On the stage side, numerous dancers clad in sophisticated dance attire anxiously stretched and prepared for their impending audition.


One street performer, Jason Grey, traveled all the way from Mobile, Alabama to audition in front of the show’s esteemed judges Paula Abdul, Nigel Lythgoe, and Jason Derulo.

When asked about the most nerve-racking and excited thing about auditioning, Grey said, “well I am excited that I am auditioning here today, but I’m nervous because my mom couldn’t really be here with me, and she’s normally with me for everything that I do with my dance career.”

Grey also named Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” as his favorite song to groove to. Just keep on moving those feet to that funky tune and making your momma proud, Mr. Grey.

The perspective contestants auditioned in front of executive producer Jeff Thacker on Saturday, and those who impressed Thacker continued to Sunday’s televised round with the panel of judges.

With friends and family in the audience, the performers on Sunday took McFarlin’s stage with confidence, style and upbeat attitudes. Whenever someone was auditioning on stage, another performer was preparing to the left (and stretching their legs to heights I never imagined), while all the other upcoming dancers encouraged the one on stage. Contemporary performers displayed a great degree of skill, control and emotion, while the hip-hop dancers gave the audience a thrill and exhibited spunky choreography.


Jason Derulo, a skilled dancer himself, gave wise constructive criticism and didn’t shy away from sharing his honest opinion. Like previous seasons, Nigel was the hardest to please. He’s specific and helpful in his critiques as well as in his praises. Similar to her role as an “American Idol” judge, Paula Abdul brought a sweetness and nurturing aspect to the panel and used her extensive dancing background to give insightful feedback.

Though some of the hip-hop dancers failed to reach the caliber of street dancers in the previous audition city, New York, the contemporary performers held their own with their raw emotion and talent.

Corey White, a street dancer originally from Arkansas but raised in Dallas, has been dancing since he was just three years old. White noted that the process of auditioning the past few days “has been very different” and not what he anticipated.

“Besides all the cameras and stuff in your face, it’s not that bad because you get to meet new people and interact with people who do and love the same thing you do,” said White. “It’s been an amazing experience. If I get the ticket, then that’s a plus, but I’m just happy to be here with people who share the same gift that I share.”

Briana Butler, 22, has also been dancing since she was only three years old and is now a professional dancer. When asked about her performance style, she replied, “My style is contemporary- jazz- funk. It’s a little different. I tell people as a joke that it’s my way of being able to do whatever I want, but really it’s jazz with elements of street, elements of contemporary and elements of acrobatics. I’m a very versatile dancer. You know, you learn a lot in 19 years, so I like to create what I call fusion movement and it’s my own choreography. I’m really excited to share it with the judges, because I know for a fact they haven’t seen anything like it.”

Judges Jason Derulo, Paula Abdul and Nigel Lythgoe along with host Cat Deeley, took time out of the day’s crazy shenanigans to answer some of our questions. Enjoy this Q&A. I sure did.

Paula Abdul:


The DC: If you had any words of encouragement you could give to a dancer right before they go on stage, what would you say?

Paula: “First of all, breathing is so important because dancers forget since their adrenaline is going so much, so take some deep breaths and remember why you are here. This is what you love to do. If you fall, get back up. How you leave the stage is sometimes more important than how you start. Just remember that it’s your talent that needs to be shown, and it’s your heart-place to be up here dancing. Dancers are not like any form of entertainers I’ve ever witnessed because their spirit and psyche are so in tune with the part. Forget the steps, dance from the heart. Let go of the steps and perform from your heart and be unique. Don’t think you’ve got it all figured it out what we’re looking for, because sometimes we don’t even know. But the one thing we definitely know is someone who stands out. You can tell before they even dance that their presence commands attention. Just have fun. It’s easy for me to say, but I’ve been on the other side, too. I’ve fallen on my a** many times and I’ve made a career out of it. People want to say ‘see how she got up?’”

Cat Deeley:

The DC: So you’ve been here since the beginning?

Cat: “I started doing the second season, and now we’re on season 12, and now I’m like ‘Oh my God, I’m going to be 76 years old and they are just going to shove me out in like a wheelchair or something and I will probably have a cigarette with a really long cigarette holder, and I’ll wear a turban and I’ll start drinking at 11 am.’ So I think it’s all going to go pretty well.”

The DC: How has the show evolved over time in your opinion?

Cat: “I mean, for me, what’s happened most of all is the dancers have become better and better and better. It’s developed into such a thing where it’s not enough to just have great steps or great technique anymore, they really understand that now you have to project so much more than that, and so much about it is emotion and star quality and all those kinds of things that are almost kind of indefinable. You have to be able to do that as well as the dance steps to make a difference. If you’re really going to make it all the way to the end, you’ve got to be the whole package.”

Jason Derulo:


The DC: What’s the best piece of advice you could give to a dancer before coming on stage?

Jason: “For ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’ the best advice I can give is forget all of the lessons that you’ve learned prior and just perform. A lot of times dancers can get too caught up in technique, and this show is about wowing your audience and captivating them. So, I feel like you have to have the technique in the back of your mind, of course, but you have to have it so well rehearsed that it’s second nature, so that you can just perform.”

The DC: So this is your first season on the program. We were wondering what made you want to join in the first place.

Jason: “Being a fan of dance, man. I was a guest judge one time, and it was really cool and I had a good time. They asked if I would do it permanently, and I was like ‘Uhhhhhhhhh I don’t know man.’ It’s a rough thing because you don’t want to tarnish anybody’s dream. This is more than just hurting somebody’s feelings with a ‘no.’ Somebody can walk away and be like ‘I should never do this again.’ The thing I love about this show is that it’s so positive, and even if it is a ‘no,’ we’re leaving them constructive criticism and they know why and they know what to go work on. We have repeat contestants all the time. You’ll see people coming up and be like ‘Yeah this is my fourth time,’ and I think that’s why. You leave with a sense of positivity and a sense that you can do it.”

The DC: Is there a particular difference you can identify between New York dancers and Dallas dancers so far?

Jason: “So far, to be honest, I thought there were better hip hop dancers in New York. New York is such a big place, so it’s kind of unfair, and that culture is really big there. That’s all I can say, but there’s really good people here too.”

Nigel Lythgoe:


The DC: You have two new judges, Paula and Jason, joining you on the panel. Is there going to be anything different in how you adapt your judging style with them being added?

Nigel: “I don’t think so. Judging style is for the kids rather than for the judges. At the same time, Paula and I have known each other for a long time with working together on ‘American Idol’ for so many years, so there’s good chemistry there, and it’s going to be interesting. Jason has got a really good insight into street dance, so it’s going to be interesting to see what he’s got to say, and whether we agree or disagree with things.”

The DC: So how do you think that the change in format with street dancing versus stage dancing will affect the show?

Nigel: “At the end of the day there’s not going to be a lot of difference because it always has been there to a certain degree, but what I think is going to happen now is we will get a lot of really interesting, good street dancers going into the top 20 because they will be in two different ladders. It’s what happens when we get that top 20, both the stage and street dancers will be pithed together. We’re not always going to use couples this year either. We’re going to do trios and quartets to see different groups and different styles work together.”

DC: How has the talent been shaping up in Dallas so far?

Nigel: “I’m a little disappointed with street at the moment. I think contemporary has been pretty good. At the same time, we see an awful lot of really good little girls that just have a low center of gravity and legs that go up behind their ear, and they’re not impressive to us anymore because we’ve just seen so many of them. We’re always looking for something unique, especially with the street kids. Give us something that we can go ‘Wow, we have not seen that before and that was tremendous.’ I think that street has got it really difficult. They’re not going to be choreographed in any other style until they get in that top 20, so they really have to look like they’re going to be capable of doing other things.”

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