2020: The Ups & Downs of 'Dancing with the Stars,' 'So You Think You Can Dance & 'World of Dance'

Kristyn Burtt


Photo credit: ABC/Eric McCandless.

2020 did not turn out to be the year that anyone expected — it was disappointing, heartbreaking, but game-changing in many ways. The dance community is one of the harder hit industries, and the recovery is going to take years, not months. But there were still bright spots in a tough year and those accomplishments deserve to be celebrated as we hopefully move ahead to a more successful year for the arts.

But let's take a look back at some of the highs and lows this year delivered and reflect upon how we move forward. There's more goodness than negativity here, so hopefully, it will elevate your spirits in the New Year.

"World of Dance"


Photo credit: Trae Patton/NBC.

The fourth season of "World of Dance" hit right upon the start of the pandemic. The NBC series filmed in January, February and early March. Just as the cast and crew were preparing for the final episode, the COVID lockdown began. The show moved their final taping date up a by a day, but it was hard not to feel the ominous presence of the pandemic looming on what should have been a joyful evening.

There was no studio audience present to keep the number of people on-set to a minimum, so "World of Dance" taped an eerily quiet episode that will be a part of dance history — and remember three out of four of the final acts came from the Netherlands, France and Colombia, so exiting the U.S. with the closing of the borders was imperative.

"First of all how we got the acts ready with two less days of rehearsal time...," "World of Dance co-executive producer Tabitha D'umo said on the "World of Dance" official aftershow. "These guys were so stressed because it all comes down to this moment and making the right choices. To take two days away from them? It was huge."

"Huge from everybody. From our entire team, from everybody on the production crew to everyone producing the show, especially for the acts to say, 'Yo, if we don't do this today, we might not,' " added "World of Dance co-executive producer Napoleon D'umo. "And literally the day we wrapped, the very next day we went into quarantine. The studio closed down, everybody closed down."

"World of Dance" has yet to be picked up for its fifth season, but it's a series that invites contestants from all around the globe to participate. With the pandemic raging on, it might be 2022 before we see this series again.

"So You Think You Can Dance"


Photo credit: Adam Rose/FOX.

Before we get to the season 17 cancellation of "So You Think You Can Dance," it's important to note the unexpected loss of season 3 contestant Danny Tidwell, who died in a car accident on March 8. His brother and season 2 runner-up Travis Wall spoke about the hard year his family endured with the loss of Tidwell. "I'm grieving right now, I usually create through grief and I create through pain and I can't do those things and I'm alone and I'm isolated," he told Dance Dish Media in August. "I thrive off my friends and my colleagues. March was dark. Danny passed the week of the lockdown."

It would have been an incredible year to honor Tidwell's legacy, especially since it would have been the show's 15th anniversary — instead, the celebratory season was met with a COVID cancellation. "After numerous discussions and exceptionally creative ideas to keep the production on track during this COVID-19 pandemic," Lythgoe wrote in an email to the show's cast and crew. "FOX decided to cancel 'So You Think You Can Dance' Season 17."

FOX has not made any mention of bringing the show back for the 2021 summer season yet, but Lythgoe felt like it was a permanent move, not just a temporary pause due to the pandemic. "It is obviously a bittersweet moment today to say goodbye to a show that just brought so much joy to such a vast audience," he said. Let's hope FOX has a change of heart.

"Dancing with the Stars"


Photo credit: ABC/Eric McCandless.

If there was something to celebrate when it came to the TV dance shows, it was "Dancing with the Stars." A season that seemed so unlikely in the early spring came roaring back for a 29th season with a lot of changes. While many fans lamented the firing of longtime host Tom Bergeron, the ratings didn't reflect a major dip in viewership. Instead, the show was met with a new host and executive producer — Tyra Banks, who had a lot of controversial moments during the season, but who also stood firm against her critics.

The series had its biggest success in bringing back its prodigal son, Derek Hough — he wasn't a pro this time, though. He came back to judge and dance twice — once with former "Dancing with the Stars" troupe member (and yes, his girlfriend) Hayley Erbert and once as a soloist. Hough is finally back at home where he belongs.

The other major milestone for the show was hiring the first Black female pro for season 29. Britt Stewart, who spent five seasons as a troupe member, found herself the breaking glass ceiling for young Black female dancers. The show hasn't had a great track record when it comes to elevating BIPOC dancers in the pro ranks, so this was a powerful move for the show. The next big question is whether "Dancing with the Stars" producers will finally decide to cast a same-sex couple on season 30. The U.K.'s "Strictly Come Dancing" matched pro Katya Jones up with boxer Nicola Adams this year and it proved to many viewers that dance is lead and follow, it's not about gender.

Out of the three major dance shows, "Dancing with the Stars" is currently the only sure bet to return to the television schedule in 2021 — season 30 is expected to air in the fall. But what about the other shows? The networks are probably taking a wait-and-see attitude about "World of Dance" and "So You Think You Can Dance" because of the pandemic limitations for each series. Let's hope 2021 brings that joy of dance back sooner versus later — because the dance community is ready to work.


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Kristyn Burtt is a commercial dance journalist, TV host and producer. She was the West Coast correspondent and host of "To the Pointe" on Dance Network for five years. Her coverage of "So You Think You Can Dance," "Dancing With the Stars" and "World of Dance" is popular with dance fans across the globe. Kristyn's love of dance began early in her life. She trained at the Boston Ballet School, danced with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre in "The Nutcracker" and won a dance scholarship to New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. She currently serves on the American Dance Movement’s Marketing & PR Committee and is a member of the Television Academy and SAG-AFTRA.

Los Angeles, CA

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