Mary Murphy is back in the judges’ chair on So You Think You Can Dance, just in time for the auditions for season eight. Salt Lake City is the next stop (2/2/11), but she’s already seen the gamut of contestants. There are always going to be the good, the bad and the downright ridiculous, but Murphy says the bar is raised dramatically with each year.
“It’s definitely harder on them because we’ve seen so much, we know what people can do,” Murphy acknowledges. “So, if they don’t live up to our expectations they’re not going to be on the show.”
But, more than any other season, Murphy says this time around, the break-dancers are pulling out all the stops for a place in the competition.
“I don’t even understand how these guys come up with their moves without killing themselves,” she says with astonishment. “They are absolutely incredible. They put their bodies in positions that make us squirm in our seats because that is not supposed to be possible. I studied the human body in college, I have a physical education degree and I’m looking at that going, ‘Somebody’s going to break something.’ But, they don’t. It’s just crazy to me.”
If you were watching during season seven, you saw that Murphy was noticeably absent from that judges’ chair. Executive Producer Nigel Lythgoe swapped out the champion ballroom dancer for contemporary choreographer, Mia Michaels. Fans were bent, voiced their disappointment and Murphy was resigned for that second seat for the upcoming season.
Directly after signing the contract for SYTYCD, Murphy discovered she had thyroid cancer and has been battling the disease since then.
“I’m still not completely out of the woods yet,” she explains. “I have some more treatments here in February, right after Salt Lake City. I’m very, very lucky. I think my Christmas present definitely came early because the tumor in my throat was quite large and pushing against my voice box.”
And her voice box is what her fans love about her (along with her constructive, but gentle criticisms). There was a chance Murphy could have lost the use of those powerful pipes of hers and that weighed hard on the dancer.
“That’s all I could focus on,” Murphy recalls. “You guys identify me by my laughter…well I do, too. I laugh every single day of my life and I was just thinking to myself, ‘If I can’t hear myself laugh everyday, it’s really, really going to change my life.’ I, of course, will move through it and move on, I thought to myself, ‘But, I don’t want to.’ ”
Luckily, she maintained her voice, but don’t look for any Tamale Train screams, that have become her signature, anytime soon. Murphy is taking it easy on her vocal chords for now…but she actually may never be able to howl like she used to.
Still, to be back in her rightful place judging the new contestants is rewarding enough for Murphy, who is grateful to be back in the action again.
“I love So You Think You Can Dance and, of course, I don’t think there is a person alive that doesn’t know I love it,” she exclaims. “I’ve been in dancing my whole life and it’s just the greatest thing to be able to sit there and watch dancers have their moment in time. Sometimes you have an extraordinary audition and for that dancer it may never get better than that. I get to see people have those moments and to me that’s icing on the cake.”
For full details on Mary Murphy’s battle with thyroid cancer log onto www.lifescript.com (http://bit.ly/edU87G).
The doors open for contestants in Salt Lake City at 8:00 a.m. For info on how to audition for So You Think You Can Dance log onto www.Fox.com/dance.