Major Shake-Up Rocks So You Think You Can Dance for Season 12

So You Think You Can Dance
Jeffrey Neira/FOX
So You Think You Can Dance

Nigel Lythgoe is determined to get the bloom back on his prize summer rose: the Fox competition series So You Think You Can Dance. Ratings for the show have faded in recent years, so the executive producer and top judge has ordered a major shake-up for Season 12, which premieres Monday. Here’s what to expect.

No more boys vs. girls. Now it’s stage dancers (contemporary, jazz, ballet, tap) against street (hip-hop, breaking, animation). Two teams of 10 will be picked in the Las Vegas auditions, with Season 2 grad Travis Wall coaching the stage gang and Season 4’s Stephen “tWitch” Boss in charge of the streeters. One dancer from each team will be eliminated every week until only two remain. “Street dancers have brought so much charisma and creativity to the show, but many get cut in the early stages because they can’t do jazz or contemporary,” Lythgoe says. “Now, they have a greater shot at the big prize. This will also inspire the stage kids to become more athletic and gymnastic.”

Jason Derulo and Paula Abdul get judgy. Those yammering, self-reverential guest judges are gone, with pop sensation Derulo and reality star/choreographer Abdul signing on for a full season at the judges’ table. “Jason is ideal, because he studied stage dance as a kid and now he’s doing street with his own dancers,” notes Lythgoe. “And Paula doesn’t just look at how a kid is dancing right now. She knows what that kid can do in the future, and such foresight is important. This show has sent home too many dancers way too early.”

The Hot Tamale Train has left the station. Mary Murphy, the popular, heart-on-her-sleeve judge who specialized in ballroom dance, won’t return this season, and it wasn’t her choice. “I have never liked having four judges on the panel because it takes too much time away from the contestants–and I didn’t want to lose myself,” Lythgoe says. “I was upset to lose Mary, but we’re no longer focusing on ballroom. It seemed the right thing to do.”

So You Think You Can Dance, Season premiere, 8/7c, Fox