Superstars of Dance, which premieres Sunday (Jan. 4), will bring together some of the best professional dancers from eight countries for a competition that will try to determine which nation cuts the best rug. It’s the brainchild of Nigel Lythgoe, the former American Idol executive producer who also oversees FOX’s So You Think You Can Dance.
"Dancing With the Stars, that’s a bunch of celebrities who would like to dance. My own show, So You Think You Can Dance, is a bunch of kids who would like to be dancers," Lythgoe says. "And this is professionals that have been doing it, have made their living through it. A lot of them are world champions in their specific genre, and it’s a lot of different cultures coming together. And I think that’s what’s the most exciting part of it for me."
The show will look something like an Olympic competition for dance. Each of the eight nations — the United States, Argentina, Ireland, Russia, South Africa, India, China and Australia — will have solo, duet and group competitors who will face off against one another while also earning points for their country. Judges from each country will determine who moves forward in each round.
Michael "Lord of the Dance" Flatley and MTV personality Susie Castillo host the show. Flatley says he’s been fascinated by the wide array of dance styles he’s seen so far.
"It’s a really nice mix of cultures," Flatley says. "When you see the precision of the Irish team and the speed at which they tap in unison, almost like an Irish Army. And then you see the Groovaloos from America that just are all over the stage popping and jumping and hopping and spinning, and doing back flips — [it’s] just a sensational mix. It’s intoxicating."
The divergent styles, though, can make the judging a little tricky. Lythgoe has decided to leave the audience out of the judging — partly because he figured American viewers would naturally favor the home team, and partly because pros might be better able to take into account the differences between, say, "Riverdance"-style Irish dance and the gravity-defying routine the Shaolin monks perform for China.
"At the end of the day, if you’re going to try and include countries in it, you want to throw the boat open to entire countries. It just doesn’t make sense," Lythgoe says. "… It’s funny because it’s very similar [to the Olympics]. You know, we’ve got a shot of the contestants waiting as the judges speak and their little faces are, What are they going to say?"
You can see what the dancers say — and do — when Superstars of Dance premieres at 9 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC. It moves to its regular timeslot at 8 p.m. ET Monday. Until then, you can check out Zap2it’s Superstars of Dance photo gallery.