So You Think You Can Dance in Season 9: One Episode Per Week, but Two Winners!

cat deeley nigel lythgoe mary murphy“Hold your breath,” says Nigel Lythgoe of So You Think You Can Dance‘s upcoming ninth season. “It’s going to be a very fast ride.”

Indeed, with Fox putting the kibosh on the reality competition’s results-show telecast, executive producer and judge Lythgoe has had to make a number of changes to the SYTYCD format. Here’s what to expect when the show returns next Thursday (May 24, 8/7c on Fox):

Two winners are better than one? | “Girls dance totally differently than guys,” says Lythgoe, pointing out the apples-vs.-oranges vibe that’s pervaded most SYTYCD finales. By naming a male winner and a female winner in Season 9, Lythgoe hopes to avoid that problem — and perhaps give viewers twice as many reasons to celebrate when the season ends.

Every routine will essentially be a “dance for your life” scenario | As in previous seasons, the bottom two or three dancers will perform before the judges’ panel, with the experts deciding who stays and who goes. But without a designated results show, how exactly will it work? Lythgoe says that Episode 1 will be a standard performance show. The following week, for Episode 2, all of the Season 9 dancers will perform again, but they might get some bad news during their critiques. “We might end up saying, this routine wasn’t your best, and that’s unfortunate, because based on America’s vote last week, you are in the Bottom 3,” Lythgoe explains. The reason that info will be held until after a routine is because “we don’t want the [at-risk] contestants to be panicking [when they dance].” At the end of Episode 2, the judges will weigh the at-risk dancers’ performances for the two-week period, then decide who goes home. Lythgoe says that if he and his fellow panelists need more information, they reserve the right to ask the dancers to perform solos. “We need to be as flexible as possible,” he reasons.

The dancers’ fates are in good hands | Lythgoe urges calm among SYTYCD fans who rail against the judges having the final say on eliminations. “America’s favorites should never end up in front of us anyway,” he notes. “And Mary and I are good at weighing everything up. We know these kids. We’ve lived with them from their first auditions.”

Judges’ feedback may get trimmed before any actual dancing | Lythgoe says he intends to keep the opening group number, a guest dance act, and some solo routines in the mix, all while packing in the week’s routines and eliminations — in a 120-minute package. And what about long-winded panelist Lil’ C? “He’ll have to make up shorter words,” jokes Lythgoe.

Expect some new and familiar faces in the mix | “We’re looking at three or four new choreographers,” Lythgoe offers. And, he says, keep an eye out for an act called the Ninja Twins. “They’re a couple of falmboyant young men,” he says with a chuckle. “They’re definitely entertaining.” Plus, he adds, he’s hoping to bring back some of Season 8’s more popular guest judges, including Christina Applegate, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and Kristin Chenoweth, to name a few.

Excited about the changes in store for Season 9? Sound off in the comments. And for all my SYTYCD news, interviews, and recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!