Listen: How ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Changed Broadway

Since starting his tenure on “So You Think You Can Dance” 10 seasons ago, Spencer Liff has choreographed Broadway productions from “Falsettos” to “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” to “Head Over Heels,” the new musical with tunes by the Go-Go’s that’s now running at the Hudson Theatre. But Liff’s work isn’t the only way that Fox’s long-running dance series has changed Broadway.

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“It’s educated people sitting at home who have never been in a dance class,” Liff said on the latest episode of Stagecraft, Variety‘s theater podcast, on which he appeared alongside Michael Mayer, the Tony-winning director of “Head Over Heels.” “They’ve heard the judges comment, on both our show and ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ and they now know the difference between a battement and a tour-jeté, and who’s doing it correctly.”

So You Think You Can Dance” has also influenced the young dancers who arrive on Broadway after growing up with the series. “No. 1, dancers want to be versatile,” Liff said. “Before, you might want to be just a hip-hop dancer or a tap dancer or a ballroom dancer, but they now see, ‘Oh, to be a great dancer, I need to be able to do everything.’ That is what is coming in the room now. I’m seeing all sorts of people who can absolutely achieve every single style. … That’s the most exciting thing about these younger dancers, is there is a fantastic performance quality.”

On Stagecraft, Mayer and Liff also talked through the many ways “Head Over Heels” has changed over the course of its long development. Initially, producers “thought it was going to be like a ‘Jersey Boys’ type thing, or a Carole King [‘Beautiful’]. It was going to be the story of the Go-Gos,” Mayer said.

Instead, “Head Over Heels” pairs the Go-Go’s tunes with, of all things, a 16th century pastoral romance. Mayer and Liff explained why it’s a good match — and along the way, Mayer delved into the secret history of another rock musical that he directed, “American Idiot.”

“Head Over Heels” is now running at Broadway’s Hudson Theater, while the latest season of “So You Think You Can Dance” is now airing on Fox.

New episodes of Stagecraft are available every other Tuesday in July, August, and September, and then weekly beginning in October. Download and subscribe to Stagecraft on iTunesStitcher, or anywhere finer podcasts are dispensed. Find past episodes here and on Apple Podcasts.

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