How to Get Cast on ‘So You Think You Can Dance’

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Photo Source: Nathan Bolster/FOX

Fox’s smash-hit talent competition show “So You Think You Can Dance” dazzles viewers with its high-energy, acrobatic, and heartfelt performances by contestants vying for “America’s favorite dancer.” Created by “American Idol” masterminds Simon Fuller and Nigel Lythgoe in 2005, the series is now in its 18th season. Wondering how you can dance your way into the hearts of viewers across the nation?

In this guide, we’ll share everything you need to know about the “So You Think You Can Dance” casting process, including insight into the audition experience and advice from the program’s top competitors.


Who is in the cast of “So You Think You Can Dance”?

For much of the series, “SYTYCD” featured the same host, Cat Deeley, and judges’ panel: Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, and Laurieann Gibson. However, ahead of Season 17, the three judges were replaced with the late Stephen "tWitch" Boss, entertainer JoJo Siwa, and actor Matthew Morrison. And now, with Season 18 on the horizon, the judges’ panel has seen another shakeup, as “Dancing with the Stars” alums Allison Holker and Maksim Chmerkovskiy join the returning Siwa and Deeley in their previous roles.

Who is the “So You Think You Can Dance” casting director?

Because “SYTYCD” mines its talent from around the country, with auditions held at large venues across multiple major U.S. cities, there isn’t one primary CD. Instead, each season’s casting is conducted by teams of casting directors, coordinators, producers, and assistants, For instance, Kat Erangey served as the primary CD for 15 episodes of Season 14, and talent producer Steven Schillaci was at the helm for 14 episodes of Season 7.

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“So You Think You Can Dance” Auditions + Open Casting Calls

“So You Think You Can Dance” Season 18 casting has come to a close, but the show’s homepage will be your best resource for future audition announcements. We also suggest following the show’s Twitter and Instagram accounts for the latest casting updates. In the meantime, check out our main dance auditions page, which lists all relevant casting calls, while our New York City and Los Angeles pages cater to those locations specifically.

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How to Audition for “So You Think You Can Dance”

Much like other talent competition shows, preliminary auditions take place well before we see anything on TV, and potential contestants go through multiple rounds of callbacks.

“When we first see them, they only get 30 seconds, and it doesn’t matter what kind of dancer you are—Latin dancer, ballet, tap, it won’t matter—you’re going to have to show us your stuff,” said Murphy. “If we like you in those first 30 seconds, then we call you back to see what you do to your own [choice of] music. The good news is [we] don’t change [our] song, so the first 75 kids who are brought into the room all hear it, as we bring 10 up on the stage at a time. Sometimes people don’t even make it through the first line of producers to see us.”

Season 11 contestant Angelina Granitz knows just how exciting and nerve-racking the auditions are. “The call line had circled around the building. I stood in line for three hours, in 35-degree weather, [in Georgia] until the staff finally let us in,” Granitz wrote for the Current, Nova Southeastern University’s student-run newspaper, in 2016. “From there, we grabbed our audition numbers and filed into groups of our represented dance styles. I was categorized as a contemporary dancer. After the organization of our groups, we were called onto the stage in groups of 10. At our first audition, we had to improvise to the given music, one by one.

“When the music started in my group, I was number six in the line to perform.… I danced in a state of fog.…” Executive producer Jeff Thacker walked down the line of dancers, handing out yellow slips to signal an auditioner’s advancement to the next round of tryouts. From that point, Granitz proceeded to the next stage, which she referred to as “the pre-screening adventures of interviews, back shots, funny shots, and dancing shots.” It’s important to note that as much as it’s centered on dancing, the show’s producers and judges are searching for someone who has both talent and emotional and/or heartwarming life stories.

When it comes to both live and online preliminary audition submissions, Thacker—while at the Los Angeles auditions for Season 15--noted, “I look at every single video, I mean I think I’ve looked at just under 3,000 videos. [From there] we grade them and invite them here so they know they’re not wasting their time. They’re gonna be seen by me. But we still have walk-ins, people who turn up at the door.… We’re not looking for anybody we’ve had before.... We’re not looking for...last year’s winner.... We’re looking for brand-new, fresh talent.”

As Lythgoe said, they are always on the lookout for dancers who bring a “uniqueness” to the floor. “That can be either the way they look, the way they dance, the way they talk to me,” he explained. “Especially on a show like ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’ personality is almost more [important] than technique that’s needed. The public fall[s] in love with the person rather than the dancer. So we’re constantly looking to balance the two.”

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What are the best audition tips for landing a role on “So You Think You Can Dance”?

Show yourself through dance: “Whatever that star quality is that you have, you have to bring it every single time, whether a million people are watching you or 50 people are watching you,” Season 12 judge Jason Derulo said. “Treat it like a regular audition.”

Lythgoe seconded that notion, saying, “Nobody is the same, so you really have to bring yourself. I believe we’ve all got that little light inside us, and you’ve just got to find that button and turn it on.”

Prepare, prepare, prepare: “You have to go in knowing your material,” Derulo said. The more you know your material, the more comfortable you’ll be with it and the less nervous you’ll be.”

Similarly, Backstage expert and movement coach Erika Shannon encourages dance auditioners to be as prepared as possible, even if things aren’t certain. “Even if you don’t know what the choreography is going to be, if you’re going to a dance call, there is no reason why your body can’t be warmed up, your mind can’t be centered, so before you audition, make sure to put your phone away, get into your body, stretch, warm yourself up, and be prepared…and also, eat!” she emphasized. “Don’t go to an audition with no food in your stomach because you will not be able to retain choreography or direction.”

Don’t bury the lede: “The absolute biggest tip I can share is that if you have any great signature moves, don’t mess about, get to it,” Murphy said. “It’s too often that dancers keep padding a routine with hardly anything, and then all of a sudden, they have this fabulous move towards the end. A lot of times, we will cut you off, so we never even get to see that move. We usually make up our minds in less than 30 seconds about whether we want to see you come back or not.”

Appearances matter: Murphy noted that if dancers are “not well groomed, if they look a mess, it starts giving us a picture of what they really feel about themselves.…They need to walk on that stage with all the confidence in the world because if they don’t, I’m not going to be very confident in them, either.”

Be patient and strong: “The audition process is definitely grueling and long. It’s a big waiting game, [and] you’re constantly proving yourself and show[ing] that you deserve to be on the show, which is stressful, but at the same time, hopefully, it’s all worth it,” said Season 10 contestant Evan DeBenedetto. 

Persevere no matter what: “For dancers that give up when they hear a no, the commercial industry for dancers is 90% noes,” said Season 10 contestant Cole Mills. “So I think this show serves up a little bit of reality. It’s a reality TV show, but it’s real: You’re not going to get ‘yes’ all the time.”

You can’t be afraid to get vulnerable: Melanie Moore, the show’s Season 8 winner–turned–Broadway star, said, “I’ve watched my audition for ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ a couple of times, and it’s so difficult to watch! They screen you a couple of times, and they talked to me a lot about my dad. I’m a crier, so I was already on the verge of crying. They literally make you the most uncomfortable possible before you get in front of those judges. It’s a wonder I didn’t have a nervous breakdown! I was terrified.”

Check out Backstage’s dance audition listings!

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