So You Think You Can Dance: Arlene Phillips interview

by Lisa McGarry


Arlene Phillips may have been sacked from Strictly Come Dancing but don’t be fooled into thinking that she is going into retirement.

Arlene will return to ours TV screens this January in Nigel Lythgoe’s ‘So You Think You Can Dance’. Check out our interview with the choreographer below.

How do you feel about starting on a new dancing show after so long in Strictly?
During my time on Strictly I was involved in two other dance shows – Strictly Dance Fever and Dance X, so it’s business as usual.

What is your history with Nigel? Is it true you used to dance together?
I have known Nigel for many years. We both did jazz dance classes together and both auditioned for The Young Generation. He got the job, I didn’t.

How do you feel about working with him again after all these years?
I can’t wait to spar with Nigel on the judging panel.

He’s got a reputation for being Nasty Nigel – will you be as tough? What kind of judge do you see yourself as being on this show?
Nigel and I were taught to dance by disciplinarians, so we’re both tough, however, I am also kind, caring and passionate, so I’ll bring all of those things to the judging panel.

What’s the best and worst kind of audition?
The best auditionees focus, listen and give everything they have first time as there are no second chances. The worst are sloppy and over confident without the ability to back it up. I had one auditionee telling me I knew nothing about the choreography for Saturday Night Fever.

The show is a huge success in the States and around the world – what do you think it is about the programme that people love?
I think people love to watch dance and how, with good teaching, the improvement can be remarkable. Also, it gives the audience an understanding of how the training for ballet is so different to hip-hop and how difficult it is to move the body in a different style.

Did you find it boring sitting through the endless rounds of auditions?
I never get bored in auditions. I’m always waiting to discover ‘The One’.

What do you expect from UK dancers?
UK dancers provide an interesting mix. Irish dancers are extremely rhythmical but often unable to use their arms, while those trained in Highland dance have extraordinary footwork and beautiful feet but are often unable to broaden out. However, Michael Clark, one of the UK’s best and most-loved dancers and choreographers started off as a Highland dancer. Throughout the UK, dance schools are creating extraordinary classical, musical theatre and contemporary dancers and all over the country street dancers are inventing themselves, I hope we get to see them all.

Do dancers have to be professionals/trained?
I hope we are going to get a lot of professional dancers at the auditions as so few dancers in the UK ever get the chance to be seen as anything but a chorus. However, it’s also exciting to discover some of the amazing undiscovered and raw talent that is around right now.

What kind of talent can we really expect from people who’ve never trained? Can an untrained dancer really get a spot in the competition?
A dancer who is completely untrained would find it hard to compete against a seasoned professional, but a dancer who is self-trained, as so many of the best hip-hop, breakers and street dancers are, would be a great asset to this programme and would have moves many of the professionals couldn’t compete with.

If you were a working dancer would you be auditioning?
The chance to go to Hollywood and have their dancing seen by directors, producers and top choreographers is a golden opportunity to open doors to an amazing career, as well as the prize of £100,000.

Lisa McGarry

Lisa has been watching reality TV for too long now. She won't do any housework unless 'Big Brother' announces it over the tannoy and everything she does has to be put to a public vote!