Robert Roldan Reflects | SYTYCD | Inside Dance

Robert Roldan Reflects | SYTYCD | Inside Dance

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By Kristyn Burtt

When Inside Dance first spoke with So You Think You Can Dance associate producer Robert Roldan at the Los Angeles auditions in late March, he only intended to choreograph one piece for the stage shows this season (the duet audiences saw on the finale with winner Alexis Warr and All-Star Jason Glover), the other two pieces were bonuses for longtime fans. While being able to choreograph on the show was important to him, so was bringing in fresh faces, something executive producer Jeff Thacker promised us earlier in the spring. 

“Jeff and I spoke a lot and we wanted this season to bring a lot of new choreographers and a lot of new All-Stars because we are back after so many years off,” Roldan shared. “We thought about who’s going to be a good partner. Who’s going to be a good mentor? Who’s going give the dancer their shining moment?” That meant going back into the So You Think You Can Dance archives and bringing back a few veteran All-Stars while inviting additional faces to the roster. “You have to go back in the books sometimes and you think, Well, what about this person? Are they still dancing?” he noted. “At this point, we’ve been on for so long that maybe they’re not doing it anymore.” 

For All-Stars, coming back to the stage is exciting, but it’s a reminder that “this show is still so hard — it’s not easy.” Roldan knows from experience that “coming back after so many years and getting back into your 18-year-old feet again” is a challenge. And yes, this season was challenging for him behind the scenes. The two-to-six days they had between each taping was rough, and it was dictated by the budget given to them this season. Roldan pointed out, “Yes, if we had any decision, we would never want them to dance that much, it’s shattering the bodies, but we can’t do anything about it.”

He does believe that fans can do something about the disappointing elimination of home viewer voting — and that means writing, tweeting, and emailing to FOX to let them know how much that element was missed. The 32-year-old choreographer knew before that season even began how important it is to fans to have that interactive element and root for their favorite contestant. He even commented that it felt like “we’re robbing America” of being able to help crown their favorite dancer. 

Despite the voting setback, Roldan and Thacker worked hard to mentor this set of contestants to prepare them for the next stage of their careers. “I said to every single one of them, ‘I’m proud of you, but you have to take this and grow from this, no job is going to be as hard as this… No job, I’ll tell you that right now. This show has something so incredibly special about it that it pushes you to so many limits, so knowing the experience of how to use a camera, how to be on-camera, how to speak to a producer — nothing will be that hard. So, using all the elements that you learn from the show, take it with you on a tour with Lady Gaga or do a one-off AMAs [American Music Awards] performance,’” he advised. “’Bring all those elements that you learned here and apply to the things that you do in the future.’”

Season 17 was also a big learning curve for Roldan, sliding into his new producer role, and he even had solid suggestions for himself if the show returns for an 18th season. “Voice your opinion because there are moments that I felt like I shouldn’t, but I thought to myself, I should have said that,” Roldan said. “I need to trust my gut a little bit more and get rid of any self-doubt because I know this show well, and always want to see it shine in the best light.”

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Photo: Michael Becker/FOX

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