So You Think You Can Cocktail: A Convo with Mary Murphy

She’s the loudest, happiest, most gregarious judge reality tv has to offer, and she’s back for more!  Mary Murphy is once again sitting in judgment of aspiring dancers on So You Think You Can Dance, and loving every minute of it.

She took a few minutes to chill with The Cocktail and talk about season 15, what it takes to be successful this year, and which style is always the toughest for the wannabes, year in and year out.

Reality Keeps It Real

Let’s be real, most reality shows are about as genuine as the ‘diamonds’ we see on home shopping channels. We’re looking you, The Bachelor.  But SYTYCD gives off a different vibe.  A real vibe. “I definitely think it’s a show that has so much heart,” Mary told us. “This is the life of a real dancer.”

And while some competition shows seem to take a ‘use ’em, abuse ’em, disregard ’em’ attitude, Dance is looking out for their future. “We are actually in the process of making them more marketable by making them go outside their own dance genre. What got them into the show, being extraordinary in one style.”

Staying In Step With the Times

When a show is 15 seasons in, some of the contestants have grown up watching this show. “They have watched this show since they were little. They are studying every kind of dance possible to make it on to So You Think You Can Dance.”

So they’ve spent years figuring it out, and (hoping) they come in with the answers and moves to win. “Now that we’ve been on so long, kids are coming in as super dancers now, super heroes.”

Plus, technology has changed, helping the dancers stay one step ahead on the two-step. 

It certainly helps. I mean when you talk about 15 seasons ago, not everybody had, you know, were able to watch Youtube on their phone and to be able to look up dancing the night before. Hey what’s an Argentine Tango look like now or something like that. Let me see, oh yeah that’s it,’ and at least get a picture.”

“If some of them had like a little video camera but that was rare. You know, these kids couldn’t afford the video cameras back in those days. They were like $800 or something like that. So in that respect, times have changed that they can have access and at least get a visual. What is the best paso doble look like. They can find that now and it’s very helpful. But does it mean that you can back it up with the technique? No. You have to actually have to train in it.”

And that means challenging producers to stay on their toes. “So as a result of that, the choreographers were, before about ten years ago, the routines wouldn’t necessarily be as difficult. Now it’s making the choreographers step up their game because these kids are coming in and have been studying all styles.”

All styles? “Well, most of them.”

Choreography Kryptonite

Mary told us there’s one style of dance that most contestants lack experience: Ballroom. But it’s not because they don’t want to learn, it’s pricy. “Now not everybody can afford to take dance lessons in every style. Let’s face it. Ballroom is one of the more expensive art forms to study.”

And that can be a super problem even for super dancers. “So that’s these dancers’ kryptonite, most of ’em. Nine times out of ten when someone comes up in front of us, we’ll ask ’em what styles have you studied and they’ll tell us and then we’ll go ‘have you taken ballroom?'”

“Almost all of ’em say no. So when they get drawn out of a hat and it says the cha-cha or something like that a lot of ’em seriously are sweatin’ it, cuz I know for a fact they have not had any ballroom.”

But Mary told us, even that is changing, saying “The ballroom dancers this season, look out for that.”

She says they’re working on it, and sacrificing to make it work. “Let me tell you something. They went away and took a few notes and came back with all guns fully loaded. It’s pretty amazing. We have never seen the likes of as many ballroom dancers able to do what they did this season. It’s incredible. I know I wouldn’t have been able to do it like they did, my gosh. I don’t think they crammed. I think they spent a full year and probably quit their jobs and did whatever, to produce the kind of work that they came back and showed us this season.”

Staying In Step

The season is still young. The second episode airs tonight (9pm ET on FOX). And even though these auditions were shot weeks ago, there’s one dancer that sticks out in Mary’s mind. “Look out for this little girl from the Ukraine. That’s all I have to say.”

Hardly. Mary always has more to say!

“I can’t tell you what she does. I can only tell you that honestly, and out of the 15 seasons, it’s one of the most amazing solos I’ve personally ever seen anywhere actually. It’s really something. She’s taken something that typically would make you go ughhhh, to an artistic level. How’s that?”

We’ll take it.

The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation 


A Pink Squirrel. This sweet, crème de cacao based drink is perfect for watching others dance, and if we have enough of them, we get enough courage to get out on the dance floor ourselves. But it’s gonna take a few pitchers to get us confident enough to audition for So You Think You Can Dance, especially when we do the splits, it means we’ve split our pants.

Until then, we’ll leave it to the professionals, and hopefully not be too hung over tomorrow and manage to make it to the gym!



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