Not many people can come across as serious in a tight leopard-print dress. Especially not when they tend toward exuberance — really loud exuberance.
But Mary Murphy, longtime judge on So You Think You Can Dance, glams up and shouts out. And if you doubt how serious she is, watch her observing hopefuls on the 16th season of FOX’s So You Think You Can Dance, airing Mondays.
A champion ballroom dancer, Murphy remains passionate about beautifully executed lifts and knows the moment a dancer’s concentration breaks. She’s also basking in the glory that dance has finally come into its own. “My whole professional career was when dancers were not celebrated,” she says. “And dancers had to explain themselves. It was always, ‘What else do you do?’ I could not be more excited for all the young dancers, and for us that were there in the early years driving through Europe and living out of our cars, it’s wonderful some of the dancers have now become stars. Single-handedly I think So You Think You Can Dance has gotten the message across that you are valuable if you can cross over.”
Crossing over is what every successful contestant on the show must do, as ballerinas take on hip-hop and jazz dancers learn salsa. Murphy takes a break from her judging duties to reflect on the summer staple and answers our “7 Questions.”
- What were a few of your first jobs before you got into dancing?
My first job was at an amusement park, Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, picking up cigarette butts. Then the next eight hours working at Perkins Pancake House, where I was a waitress.
- What’s a movie you can watch over and over and never get tired of?
Love Actually. I watch it every year. One of my holiday traditions, and I start in late October, is that I watch every Christmas movie known to man, and Love Actually is the day before.
- What are three things you have to have in your fridge or pantry?
Balsamic vinegar, cilantro and tomatoes.
- Tell me about a time you were starstruck.
I don’t really get too starstruck. Sometimes with athletes because my family is a big football fam. L.T. Tomlinson was one of our biggest football stars. I worked out in a gym, and a lot of football athletes came to this little place. He walks up to me, and I couldn’t say hardly anything. And I am a talker; nothing fazes me. He came up and said, “Me and my wife really love your show.” Back when L.T. was still playing, maybe 10 years ago, we became friends, and we would lay on two Pilates tables doing Pilates side by side. I would think, “This is surreal.”
- If you could invite a handful of people (dead or alive) to a dinner party, who would they be?
I would love Lucille Ball, without a doubt, Carol Burnett, Mary Tyler Moore, Fred and Ginger, Cyd Charisse and Sophia Loren. That would be a fun group.
- What was your biggest splurge?
Building my backyard just the way I wanted it.
- What is your most treasured possession?
My mother’s wedding rings. When Carlsbad had really bad fires, they blew up in an instant just down my street. I was going through my house, and I counted out 10 dresses for the show, 10 shoes and got all my pictures. I packed my car, and I couldn’t find my mom’s wedding rings. I went nuts and put myself in danger with the smoke coming into my home, and I finally found them. I have them on usually when I am doing the show. They’re very simple, two little diamond bands, and my treasured possession.
So You Think You Can Dance airs Mondays at 8pm ET on FOX. Season 16 begins June 3