When So You Think You Can Dance returns on Memorial Day, look for a SYTYCD superfan next to Nigel Lythgoe, Paula Abdul and Jason Derulo at the judges’ table. Thirteen-year-old Dance Moms standout Maddie Ziegler joins the long-running FOX hit as it welcomes its first season of ultra-talented child dancers.
Dubbed “The Next Generation,” Season 13 features kids between the ages of 8-13 displaying their chops in a variety of dance styles while hoping to score a spot at “The Academy.” There, the field will narrow to the 10 best young performers, who will partner with SYTYCD “All-Stars” to compete in-studio for the judges — and the Season 13 title.
“I definitely want to relate to the kids, because I’m probably going to be the same age as some of them,” says Ziegler, literally a lifelong fan of the show. “It definitely will be cool because they’re in my shoes of what I usually do and when I compete and when I get judges’ feedback. It’s going to be weird for me being on the other side of it, not being the one being judged, but it’s going to be so much fun.”
Ziegler — who met Abdul when she auditioned for the “Straight Up” singer’s short-lived CBS series Live to Dance (look for her at the 1:05 mark in the clip below — is most looking forward to watching the kids perform. “I think that’s going to be my favorite part because every week it’s going to be something different, and it’s going to be so many crazy and cool dances,” she says.
Ziegler knows that giving the dancers some tough love is part of the gig, too — but, she says, if they approach it with the right attitude, “honestly, it is really amazing, and it’s a good experience. It’s going to prepare everyone for auditions when they’re older, and just being able to take that feedback from other judges. I think it’s going to be really a good experience for everyone — even for me, too, and I’m not even performing.”
In the meantime, Ziegler has parlayed her worldwide fame — “I just can’t believe that this is my life!” she laughs — into a newfound passion for acting. She’ll make her feature film debut later this year opposite Naomi Watts, Dean Norris and Room standout Jacob Tremblay in The Book of Henry. And though she is done with Dance Moms, Ziegler says the show’s controversial star (and her former dance teacher) Abby Lee Miller is proud of her success.
“I think she really enjoys watching me dance — probably a little bit more than acting, because dancing is her thing,” Ziegler admits. “But she’s definitely happy for me, and supportive of what I’ve been doing.”
So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation premieres Monday, May 30 on FOX.