'SYTYCD' Season 17: New celebrity judges take over as Nigel Lythgoe declines to return

'So You Think You Can Dance' has a new judging panel, with JoJo Siwa, Stephen "tWitch" Boss, and Matthew Morrison replacing Nigel Lythgoe


                            'SYTYCD' Season 17: New celebrity judges take over as Nigel Lythgoe declines to return
(L-R) Matthew Morrison, JoJo Siwa, and Stephen "tWitch" Boss will be on Season 17's new judging panel (Instagram)
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Dance enthusiasts were ecstatic when it was announced in March that 'So You Think You Can Dance' would return for its formerly shelved 17th season, and now there are even more grounds to rejoice. Fox has unveiled a newly revamped judges panel that includes some known and fascinating personalities, like Dance Moms vet and latest 'Dancing With the Stars' runner-up JoJo Siwa.

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'So You Think You Can Dance' involves dancers aged 18 to 30 exhibiting their abilities in a variety of dance genres such as breaking, ballroom, hip-hop, tap, modern, and more. Those selected to move to the 'SYTYCD' studio will train with choreographers and battle in a variety of styles each week, with fresh twists brought into the competition. The Fox reality show, which sought out talented dancers from throughout the country to study with renowned choreographers and compete in a range of contests, aired for 16 seasons till 2019. It's been off the air for two years, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. The most recent season, which aired in 2019, had a judging panel with top names in the business like Dominic "D-Trix" Sandoval, Laurieann Gibson, Mary Murphy, and Nigel Lythgoe. In the past, it has also featured celebs like Vanessa Hudgens, Maddie Ziegler, Jason Derulo, Paula Abdul, Mia Michaels, and Adam Shankman. However, it is now back with a new panel of judges.

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JoJo Siwa will be accompanied by fellow judges Stephen "tWitch" Boss, who participated in the competition himself in Season 4, and Glee star Matthew Morrison when 'SYTYCD' returns to Fox on Wednesday, May 18. Furthermore, the network revealed that Cat Deeley will return as the host, giving the future episodes even greater ties to previous seasons. Many long-time 'SYTYCD' viewers were saddened when Nigel Lythgoe stated that he would not be returning to the judges' panel. Lythgoe was formerly the only permanent member of a panel that had a rotating door of judges over the years as executive producer and co-creator.

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What led to the replacement of the judging panel?

The show's creators appear to have used the three-year sabbatical to restructure the show, which includes hiring a younger set of panelists. The first indication that 'SYTYCD's panel was changing came in March 2020, when judge and series co-creator Nigel Lythgoe announced that he will not be returning for Season 17. He stated: "I am so thrilled that America’s young aspiring dance talent will get to work with some of our greatest creative choreographers. On a personally sad note, I have not been asked to be on the judging panel this season. I don’t know who will be saying “Cue Music” but I wish them well."

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Meanwhile, Laurieann Gibson is hard at work on her new talent show. In October 2021, Deadline revealed that the Canadian choreographer was working on a show called 'Icon,' in which she, along with various celeb judges, will cherrypick 11 performers to partake in a strenuous, revelatory 11-week artist development camp designed to challenge and enhance their artistry as an entertainer, dancer, and singer.

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The new judging panel appears to be geared toward luring a younger audience to the show. The new panel of judges has an average age of 33, with Morrison, 43, and Boss, 39, accompanied by Siwa, 18. In comparison, the average age of the 2019 panel was 52. The 2022 season of 'SYTYCD' will be the first sans Lythgoe, who had appeared on the show since its inception in July 2005. Many consider Nigel to be a series fixture because he judged all 16 seasons of the show. As a seasoned dancer and choreographer, fans have always valued Nigel's skills on the judges' panel. There has been fear that styles such as ballroom and tap may be marginalized without his technical dance knowledge.

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Boss is the only member of the new panel who has previously judged the show, having joined Lythgoe, Vanessa Hudgens, and Murphy in the 2018 season. Boss has had a rather consistent relationship with 'SYTYCD'; he was All-Star multiple times following Season 4, was a team captain in Season 12, then judged part-time in Season 15. Anyone who has seen the show knows who he is and what to anticipate from him as a judge.

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Siwa, on the other hand, is more accustomed to competing in dance competitions. She made her television debut at the age of ten on Lifetime's 'Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition,' before going on to become famous on 'Dance Moms.' In 2021, she made television history as the first same-sex pair on 'Dancing With the Stars.' JoJo and her mum Jessalyn also appeared in 'Siwas Dance Pop Revolution,' a show in which they assembled a troupe of young singers and dancers. JoJo thinks that her time as a 'DWTS' contestant provided her with an understanding of ballroom dancing, which she will apply when judging 'SYTYCD' contestants.

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Morrison's name stands out the most among the three, and he has the best potential of introducing the new energy that the show's creators are seeking. Morrison is well-positioned to get the series back on its feet after it survived the pandemic. He's not as well-known as Boss or Siwa as a dancer, but he has performing experience – and it's not the same as either of his two new teammates, which is significant considering that one of SYTYCD's strengths is that it exhibits a variety of dance genres. Most significantly, he's spent the last few years acting as a sort of trial run for this position.'The Greatest Dancer' was a British dancing competition series created by Syco, a business co-founded by Simon Cowell of 'American Idol.' Morrison was one of the show's "dance captains," or mentors, for the two seasons from 2019 to 2020. He coached one of the two runners-up in Season 2, demonstrating his ability to bring out the best in others. This also provided him with reality TV experience as well as experience working with dance performers, which would undoubtedly come in handy when judging on 'SYTYCD.'

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When Lythgoe announced that he had not been asked to return, it was unclear if Deeley would continue in her hosting role, which she had held since 2006. After her husband and kid were killed in a mall shooting in 2020, the 45-year-old broadcaster returned to her own United Kingdom. She then embarked on several British hosting assignments, raising doubts about her comeback to the US dance show. Nevertheless, in an interview with Britain's Stella Magazine in May 2021, she teased that she might return as 'SYTYCD' presenter.

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'So You Think You Can Dance' has traditionally been a summer show, and this season is no exception, beginning on Wednesday, May 18 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

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