'So You Think You Can Dance' Returns With Mary Murphy, Contortionists

Judge Nigel Lythgoe says season eight features 'more interesting' auditions and an emphasis on street dancers.

As has become custom for several years, the echoes of the "American Idol" finale are still ringing our ears as Fox rolls out the first episode of "So You Think You Can Dance" on Thursday night (May 26) at 8 p.m. ET. But before we feast our eyes upon season eight's auditions, MTV News managed to get executive producer/judge Nigel Lythgoe and judge Mary Murphy to give us a little hint about what to expect this year.

"It truly is a much more interesting auditioning process this year because the kids are bringing something so new," said Lythgoe, who's been juggling his "American Idol" exec-producing duties with "SYTYCD" and its U.K. version. "Lots of different styles: turfing, this contortionism that looks like they're going to be dancing in the movie 'The Exorcist.' It's terribly exciting. Made Mary sick, didn't it, a few times."

Fortunately for fans of the loud, enthusiastic ballroom expert, Mary isn't actually sick anymore. After taking a season off to be treated for thyroid cancer, the hot tamale train is up and running again.

"I'm completely cancer-free right now, I'm happy to report, and doing fantastic," she told us. "It wasn't easy sitting at home [last season], I can tell you, judging from my chair."

Nigel said he actually missed Mary making his ears bleed with her excited comments on the judges' table. "And what's happened now with Mary's vocal cords is, she has gone from being the loudness of a jet engine to the loudness of a hairdryer, so it's eased a bit," he joked.

Another mix of new and old this season will be the format. After hearing complaints about last year's format, which narrowed the contestants down to 11 before the live voting rounds (instead of 20) and paired the dancers with "all-stars" from past seasons instead of with each other, Lythgoe said they're changing things up again.

"A lot of people were unhappy, unjustifiably to begin with, unhappy that we went to this all-star situation and [said], 'We want to see a top 20,' and 'We want to see them grow,' and 'We want to see the chemistry,' " he admitted, so they decided, "OK, let's try that this year. Let's do a top 20 and then introduce the all-stars into the top 10 and see if we can have the best of both worlds."

"It'll be great with the two things together," Murphy agreed. "The people that like the old format, it's back. The people that like the all-stars, fantastic."

After heading up a star-studded season of "American Idol," Lythgoe is spicing up "SYTYCD" with a few celebs too.

"Will.i.am is going to come on and be a guest judge," he said. "I worked with him on 'Idol,' and he really has got so much knowledge about music and dance. [He] has got the eye for dance and rhythm and everything."

And what about the dancers we'll see this season? Of course, they couldn't go into detail about the contestants, but Nigel did offer some hints. "We've invested a lot into street and hip-hop this year, more than contemporary," he said. "The contemporary kids are obviously formally trained and will find other styles a little easier. But if the street kids come through they're going to be very exciting."