Suddenly this summer, dancing is the "in" thing on television.
A couple of weeks after ABC's surprise hit "Dancing With the Stars" wrapped up its season, another fleet-of-foot series is stepping into the spotlight. In conjunction with Dick Clark Productions, the producers of "American Idol" give amateurs the chance to show their stuff on the unscripted Fox show "So You Think You Can Dance," which launches with a two-hour premiere on Wednesday at 8 p.m.
Ballroom and ballet moves alone won't cut it for this summer series. To survive auditions, impress the judges and be invited to Hollywood, a dancer also must know salsa, jive, hip-hop and krumping (aka clown dancing, created by Thomas "Tommy the Clown" Johnson).
Los Angeles news anchor-reporter Lauren Sanchez hosts the 12-week competition, which follows the "American Idol" formula of staging auditions in major cities -- in this case, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
Nigel Lythgoe, executive producer for "So You Think You Can Dance" and "American Idol," said the similarities between the two shows end with each show's being "a talent search."
"Singers and dancers are different animals, and dancers are a lot more resilient, I think," Lythgoe said. "They're accustomed to going to auditions and getting the job or being turned down. . . . A lot of people walked in off the street to audition for 'American Idol,' but there's a bit more training to the people who came in for this."
That said, Lythgoe noted that some people still showed up for impromptu tryouts: "Because they do a bit of break dancing, they think they're dancers. The whole premise of the program is, 'So you think you can dance? Okay. Then do this.' That's what it comes down to, eventually."
"So You Think You Can Dance" will have its own versions of Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson, with a panel of five judges Lythgoe hopes will become as famous simply by showing their expertise.
And whereas a recording contract awaited Carrie Underwood and her "American Idol"-winning predecessors, the prize isn't quite as defined for this show's victor.
"Let's be frank; this isn't 'Idol,' " Lythgoe said. 'It might not produce someone at the level of a Carrie Underwood or even a Bo Bice [last season's 'Idol' runner-up], but it will produce a celebrity, and it will hopefully get the public to understand the hard work that goes into that.
"If you get tired as a singer, you lose your voice. If you get tired as a dancer, you lose your temper, and you also start pulling muscles and injuring yourself."
Even though "Dancing With the Stars" outraced "So You Think You Can Dance" to the network airwaves, Lythgoe doesn't mind. He thinks the ABC show "skewed to an older age group, and with this, I'd like to find the same demographic 'American Idol' has found in this country . . . which is right across the board, from grandchildren to grandmas."
Here Come the Judges
The 50 contestants selected to compete in "So You Think You Can Dance" will be judged in "American Idol" fashion by a panel of five dance experts:
Alex Da Silva, a former world salsa champion, has choreographed commercials for Burger King and Coca-Cola.
Brian Friedman has choreographed for Britney Spears, Hilary Duff, Pink, Beyonce and Mya.
Dan Karaty made his Broadway debut in "Footloose" and has choreographed for 'N Sync and others.
Mia Michaels, the choreographer for Celine Dion's "A New Day" show in Las Vegas, has worked with Madonna.
Mary Murphy was half of the Austrian national championship team in ballroom dancing in 1990-91.