Fan favorite choreographer Shane Sparks is set to return to the So You Think You Can Dance stage tonight to choreograph a hip-hop routine for the top 18 contestants. Usmagazine.com caught up with Sparks during a break from rehearsing for the group number to get the scoop on his routine's concept, and find out why he opted not to choreograph individual routines this season.
Usmagazine.com: You're choreographing this week's group number for the top 18. Tell Us about the concept.
Shane Sparks: I'm using a song called "Elevator" by Flo Rida and doing a 2008 "Smooth Criminal" vibe. Basically, the dancers are kind of like gangsters. It's going to be a lot of sexy stuff, floating and fighting-type scenes and we've got booty stuff going on because I'm sure America misses the booty! [Laughs] I'm just trying to do something creative and different. I want to give the people what they want, you know?
Us: How did Fox approach you to return? Did fan excitement play a role?
SS: This is what I hear. I didn't want to leave the show; I hated that I couldn't do both [SYTYCD and America's Best Dance Crew, on which Sparks is a judge]. But I heard that Nigel [Lythgoe] and [Dance Crew producer] Randy [Jackson] got together and talked about it. Randy was okay with me doing both shows, but MTV wanted me exclusively. Randy and Nigel tried to work it out, and that made me feel really good to know that that they were willing to talk to the top people and at least ask for me to choreograph.
Us: What would it take for you to choreograph individual routines?
SS: Right now I am really happy doing group numbers. I didn't want to do the competitive side of it anymore because I didn't want my choreography to be judged; I never really liked that. If my routines don't go over well, I go home and I go on YouTube or MySpace and it's like,"What is that?" I prefer to do group numbers, because I am judged on it, but I get to pick the music, the style, the clothing. I have got all of the dancers to work with, so I'm not trying to take two dancers and turn them into hip-hop dancers. I have 18 dancers, so I find the hip hop dancers and have them do what I want them to do hip-hop wise, I find a jazz dancer and have them do what I want in that world. In that way, I can bring it all together.
Us: Switching gears, what do you think of this season's new hip-hop choreographers, Napoleon and Tabitha? Mary Murphy said that their choreography is "cotton candy hip-hop."
SS: Tabitha and Napoleon are a good combination and they're good for the show. It's OK for Mary to say that. I understand why she said that, because sometimes when you're a hip-hop choreographer and you're dealing with people who are ballroom dancers or ballet dancers, it's really hard to get the funk out of them because they don't have that natural feel or ability. You have to water the routine down so it can look and feel good to them and the audience can enjoy it.
Us: Lastly, do you keep in touch with any former contestants?
SS: The only time I keep in touch with them is if I have a project. I have Cedric [Gardner, season 3] coming in for some things for Americas Best Dance Crew and he auditioned for a movie I'm doing called The Jump Off. Hopefully he'll be in the movie. If not, I'll have something else for him. Do you remember Brian Gaynor [who auditioned in season 3]? He plays the janitor in the movie. It's like High School Musical meets You Got Served. Brian's in a scene where he is going to be cleaning up the hallway floor and somebody comes through and he just starts breaking out into his thing, using mops and stuff - its going to be insane!