Could you take us through the format of how the show works?
Matthew Morrison: The Greatest Dancer is unlike any other show out there. The really cool thing about it that these dancers are going to go into an audition room, a dance studio with big mirrors, and basically they have to dance for their lives. They dance and if 75 percent of this huge audience that are on the other side of this mirror light up for them, then the mirror will open and they will be through to the next round.
And what happens if the mirror opens, who will they be faced with?
If the mirror opens they will be faced with the audience and three Dance Captains – myself, Cheryl and Oti. A lot of what we think of the dancers comes from seeing who continues their performance after the mirror opens, as there have been some people who stopped and started celebrating. I like to see the professionalism in the people who carry on.
Why did you want to do this show and what does dance mean to you?
I wanted to do The Greatest Dancer because I have always had such a passion for dance. Dance has been such a part of my life and has led me to the place that I am now in my career. It’s kind of the cornerstone of everything I’ve ever done, so for me dance fills in when words fail you. There’s always that expression you have through dance. I think it’s saved a lot of people’s lives and I hope as a captain I can inspire people and the next generation of people watching, through the power and vitality of dance.
Have you ever done anything like this before? Any talent show judging or anything like that?
This is my first time ever doing any type of talent show like this. With this show it’s great because the power is not in my hands, it’s up to the audience. So I will just give my feedback and my critiques to hopefully make them The Greatest Dancer.
Who inspired you to get into dance and was there any moment that you can identify back in the day when you thought I can do that, I want to do that, I want that to be my career?
I first started dancing when I watched a movie called Break In, and I was fascinated by this culture of break-dancing in Harlem. I got together with a couple of my friends and we just put cardboard boxes down on the ground and we just started teaching each other dance moves.
Later that progressed to my idol Gene Kelly, and watching his movies inspired me to dance and to dance like him. I want to carry on the legacy and the tradition of being a song and dance man, and that has been my goal ever since I was first introduced to Gene Kelly’s movies.
I never met Gene Kelly. I’ve met his wife though and I’ve been in talks with her about doing a Gene Kelly movie, but he said before he died, “I don’t want anyone to do me – I’m me”. And that’s it, I respect that. I won’t be doing a Gene Kelly movie.
Have there been any dance styles that have surprised you? Anything you didn’t think you would enjoy but have?
So obviously we’re doing a show called The Greatest Dancer, and we’re looking for the greatest dancer. But there were a couple of auditions that came through the door that really surprised me – in a good way! There was this group of dads they didn’t look like the typical dancer. That really made me check myself, because we really do have it in our heads of a stereotype of what a dancer should look like.
But these guys came on to the show and they came into the room and they were all wearing orange shirts, they looked like construction workers, and then they just danced their hearts out. It was so amazing, especially for me as a new father, watching these guys just basically doing this to impress their kids. They’re doing it out of the love they have for children and that’s led them into dance and to form this amazing dance troupe.
Were there moments when the mirror didn’t open and did you, the Dance Captains, get angry with the audience?
So as you know, the format of the show is that the mirror opens if 75 percent of the audience lights up for them. There were a few instances for sure that the mirror opened for awful acts. There was this one woman who wasn’t even dancing, she was just putting on a smile and doing her thing, and this one guy who had tape on his glasses, he had this ridiculous outfit on, he was trying to do the Cha-Cha or something I think. He had ribbons, I don’t know if he was dancing or auditioning for the rhythmic gymnastics Olympics team. It was just all over the place. But on the other side of that there were some amazing dancers that the mirror didn’t open up for.
Tell us something that we might not know about your fellow Dance Captains.
Meeting Oti in the process of The Greatest Dancer has been I think the greatest joy for me. She is the most incredibly… oh God, I can’t even think of the words for her! She’s just so genuine and so enthusiastic about everything and we were just like, somebody must have like just put a Duracell battery in her because she was just on all of the time and so fired up about all the dancers. That is such a great attribute to what she has and the energy she carries across. And I think she’s going to be a huge star. I think she’s on her way to real greatness.
What’s been the dance highlight of your career so far?
One of the highlights of my dance career was actually while we were doing Glee. It was in one weekend, we went to the White House to sing for the Obamas and then the next day we’re on a flight to Chicago to perform on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and it was like an hour-long show dedicated to Glee. And I got up there and I did this whole break dancing number. I wanted to highlight the young talent on the show, and I brought out this guy Harry Shum Jnr, and he was just amazing. So I kind of started it and I made it a dance battle and brought him on stage. And yeah, that was pretty much the highlight of my dance career, performing for the Obamas and Oprah on the same weekend.