Hey Gasmii, I had the chance to hop on a conference call with Nigel Lythgoe And Michael Flatley in support of their new show, Superstars of Dance, premiering tonight at 9PM on NBC. Superstars of Dance is basically an entertainment dance competition show where eight countries compete against each other for a title…It’s basically like the Olympics for dance. The countries competing on the series are Argentina, Australia, China, India, Ireland, Russia, South Africa and the United States.
Here’s the interview, enjoy:
Nads: Hi Nigel! Can you tell me how Superstars of Dance differs with other dancing shows?
Nigel: Well I think with the shows that we know like Dancing With the Stars, that’s a bunch of celebrities who would like to dance. My own show, So You Think You Can Dance is a bunch of kids who would like to be dancers. And this is professionals that have been doing it, have made their living through it. A lot of them are world champions in their specific genre, and it’s a lot of different cultures coming together. And I think that’s what’s the most exciting part of it for me.
Nads: Can you tell me a little about the show’s format?
Nigel: It’s basically – if I give you an overall view, it’ll probably show you how the format goes because the format does change. But the easy way to explain it is we have quarterfinals, semifinals and a final – exactly the same as any normal sort of sporting competition. But each team has brought over their own group of dancers and people that can replace them as well, or replacement dancers in case we have any accident. Again, like any sporting team you have reserves waiting there.
And each team has brought over two soloists that – who will compete, a duet that will compete and a group. And the shows, each time – there’ll be the eight countries in each show. So in some shows they’ll put one soloist and one group. In another show they’ll put a soloist and the duet. And this will break down and at the end of the day 16 soloists will have competed.
They will be broken down into the semifinals by getting rid of the bottom eight soloists. And in – we lose two groups and two duets so that in the semifinals you will have three duets and three groups per semifinal. So it’s a very interesting competition literally and the most difficult thing, I would say, is judging the different styles against each other. So the judges and the judges from the eight countries as well, each judge votes from one to ten points. They are not allowed to vote for their own country. So it really is a tough competition with, you know, some of the best people in the world dancing and some of the best choreographers in the world judging.
Nads: Michael, what made you want to do this show?
Michael: Well when Nigel first approached me I was fascinated by the thought that we could have a dance show that has professional dancers on there and that would show to American audiences for the first time all of the different styles of dance from around the world. And needless to say, it’s being produced by the Dream Team, Nigel Lythgoe and Simon Fuller. And to me that meant that it was going to be done with a touch of class. That was the only reason that I was prepared to do this type of television show.
Nads: Can you talk a little about what we will be seeing on the show, culture wise?
Nigel: I think the Shaolin Monks from China amazed me. You know, they’re working with swords; real swords. They’re working with blades. One guy is actually hoisted up with the point of spears on his naked flesh. And you go my god, I’m not sure it’s really good dancing but wow. I think the Chinese team, in actual fact – I’m sure you agree, don’t you Michael?
Nigel: I mean that ballerina that we saw yesterday.
Michael: …and actually spins. Again, there’s not an awful lot of dancing in it but what she does is really quite sensational and I must say it’s a show-stopper.
Nigel: The Argentinean team with their boluses, you know, that normally bring down animals when they’re thrown are actually creating rhythms on the floor. But still, you know, I’m still old-fashioned. We’ve got a beautiful American lady called (Domisha), who is an absolutely sensational tap dancer and she dances to the typewriter, you know (music). And you just go wow, the intricate rhythms coming out of her feet are almost as good as Michael Flatley’s.
Michael: Yeah, I think it’s a really nice mix of cultures. When you see the precision of the Irish team and the speed at which they tap in unison, almost like an Irish Army. And then you see the Groovaloos from America that just are all over the stage popping and jumping and hopping and spinning, and doing back flips – just a sensational mix. It’s intoxicating.
Nigel: With that, you know, I’ve looked at the – we keep talking about the cultures coming together and how they get different styles. There’s a thing here called stepping that the college students do where they slap their, you know, chests and their feet and everything. And yet from South Africa we’ve got this South African troupe, the African Umoja that actually come out — again bare-chested in Wellington boots, gum boots as they’re called — and they do this slapping/bashing routine with the gum boots and the sort of Coca-Cola tops tied in string around the bottom of their boots.
And this was done in the gold mines in South Africa hundreds of years ago. So, you know, all of a sudden these cultures develop exact – down the exact same lines without realizing it.
Nads: Who decides who wins, the judges?
Nigel: That’s exactly right.
Michael: Well I think that that’s the exciting part of the while show. That’s what makes it so entertaining because they have to judge dancers from other ethnic origins and other countries from around the world. So for instance, you’ve got Master Wong who is the Grandmaster of the Shaolin Temple in China judging the Groovaloos from the streets here in America.
And, you know, you’ve got (Maria Poji) from Argentina – world class and just sensational dancer and choreographer critiquing the greatest Irish troupe in the world. So it’s the way other people see it, I think, that just makes for an intoxicating mix of cultures.
And we’ve already seen some that we think is – it’s pretty sensational television. That’s all I can say. I think people will be shocked when they hear some of their answers.
Nigel: And as we’ve said, you know, a lot of these people are world champions. So you’re actually taking the Argentinean Tango world champions and putting them up against a South African dancer who is showing every bit of her emotions in a political dance statement almost.
Nads: How do you decide on the countries?
Nigel: Number one, a lot of the countries – because of the research and where I’ve been with So You Think You Can Dance. And then Hal, we didn’t really decide on the genres. The genres are chosen by the teams and like for instance, I’ve worked with Jason Gilkison who is the choreographer of strictly ballroom and burn the floor, and said will you put together an Australian team for me?
And he got that together. I spoke to (Duncan Irvin) who is the South African and said I love the gum boot dance. Can you get me that, but then please bring me what else represents South Africa. So — excuse me — it was done like that. I had worked with the Shaolin Monks. I had the pleasure a number of years ago of putting them in front of Her Majesty, The Queen when I did the Royal Variety Performance.
So it’s a little bit of my knowledge then and an awful lot of research from my fantastic production team of going on YouTube which nowadays is our greatest research tool, in fact, and looking at the different people and the world champions. And so it came together that way in truth.
Nads: What is your favorite type of dance for you to watch?
Nigel: I love ballroom – to watch ballroom. I trained in it as a kid. I’m not particularly great at it. I’ve always managed to tread on my wife’s toes which is probably why she’s divorcing me, actually….I love when bodies come together and they work as one. At the same time, I watched a group last night of hip-hoppers and there’s 12 of them. And they were brilliant. There were so many different things going on you didn’t know where to look. So anything that sort of opens my mouth and shocks me, I love too.
Nads: Can you tell me about the life of a professional dancer Michael?
Michael: These guys have have seen the whole world. They’ve been to almost every city.
They, you know, they’re not doing this to become rich or to get famous quick. They’re doing this because they’re dancing for the pride of their home nation and they’re professionals already. They’re already famous in their own country and they’re already famous in many other countries around the world. So naturally, competing to them is going to be just like it would be if they were going to the Olympic Games and representing their country there.
It’s no less important to them. This is what they do. This is who they are. They’ve done it since they were little children and they’ll do it until the day they die. If they come out of this with a gold medal, a silver medal or a bronze medal, that will mean so much to them, their families, their country and their children. And they know that. I mean there’s a lot of nerves. There’s a lot of excitement. There’s a lot of tension. There’s a lot of sleepless nights here. But all that, I think, is a great thing. And to see them dancing for pride, I think, is much more valuable than seeing somebody dance just to get famous.
Nigel: I think all over the world now – you know, the dance shows are really successful in America. But they are all over the world now. And there’s a great integrity that has now been brought back into dancing. And I think this will expand that.