'So You Think You Can Dance' ex-contestants weigh in on show's new format
While fans have mixed feelings about the new one-night format of "So You Think You Can Dance," in which performances are married with eliminations at the end of the show, they're not alone. The dancers on the show also see pros and cons to the revised program -- and they don't list "fewer dumb commercials to sit through" as one of the benefits. Though squishing the show down to just one night a week was a move by Fox intended to save a long-running show that's showing its age in the ratings, the down side is that viewers (who vote on the outcome) spend less time getting to know the top 20 performers. In a conference call with reporters, the first three dancers dumped from the top 20 -- Janae French, Nick Bloxsom-Carter and David Searle (Alexa Anderson, who was also eliminated, did not participate)-- talked about what does and doesn't work for them.
"I kind of like the new format," French hedged. "It’s hard, because we didn’t get to experience the old format, so there’s not really much that we can compare it to. But for what we had to experience, we were together as the top 21 within any other season, which is really nice."
While Boxsom-Carter agreed, adding that the "format was very nice to us dancers," Baker admitted some regret.
"It’s a shame I didn’t get the chance to dance for my life, but it seems like the judges already had their minds made up," Baker said. "It’s one less chance that America gets to see you dance, but I like the fast pace of it. I don’t know if it felt too rushed, because I wasn’t watching it at home. But I wonder what America thought of the new format. So America seems to not like change, no matter what show it is… I’ve read some really negative comments about it and I’ve read some positive comments about it.
Another twist in the format is that the judges already know which dancers received the fewest votes for the week -- and it's up to them to determine which dancers to save from elimination each week largely based on the performances earlier in that program. "I think that it is kind of nice, because the judges can change their minds," said Bloxsom-Carter. "They know who’s in the bottom three, but they don’t tell you until after you perform… It can change the way they think about you in a positive way."
French admits she didn't think about how her performance could have changed the judges minds, however. "I had so much going on in my head that that actually did not cross my mind, but it was just more like another shot that we had, because at least for me, I wasn’t as pleased with what they felt about my piece the week before. So I wanted another chance to prove to them that I was capable of a better performance and so I think I was more successful this week and they did acknowledge that… [The judges] might focus a little bit more on the couples that are in danger instead of just watching and not really paying attention and then, they might forget. They watch a little bit more intently so that they can decide if you’re the one they want to save or not. But it’s also harsh knowing that you’re walking around with people who know your fate and you just won’t figure it —- like won’t find out until the end of the night, but that’s the name of the game, so you just have to deal with it.
Baker was somewhat less positive about the judges knowing who was likely going home before they perform. "I like the idea that we have the ability to change their minds, but I’ve been reading things where there have been double-standards in the critiquing, especially if the judges know who’s going home. I feel like they could potentially manipulate the audience if they know you’re going home just to justify it."