|Feb 6th, 2014
by Clare Rigden, Sydney Morning Herald
Paula Abdul is the greatest hope for So You Think You Can Dance Australia, which faltered during its last outing in 2010.
So You Think You Can Dance Australia with host Carrie Bickmore and judges. Photo: Jessica Dale
Paula Abdul takes her role as reality judge and mentor extremely seriously - a little too seriously if her ex-boss and friend Simon Cowell is to be believed.
But it's probably a good thing. After all, Network Ten are paying her big bucks to sit behind the desk and pass judgment on scores of Lycra-clad Australian dancers on the reinvigorated fourth series of So You Think You Can Dance.
She's their great hope for a show that faltered during its last outing in 2010. They're banking on her previous experience as a judge on the US version of the series, as well as her stint behind the desk on the original panel of American Idol equating to ratings gold.
And they may just be on to something.
As a recording artist she's sold 60 million albums - audiences love her. She's also an Emmy award-winning choreographer, so no doubt her leotarded proteges will be hanging on her every word, too.
She's determined to do all she can to help them make the most of their 15 minutes of fame.
"I do take it all very seriously - I'm often made fun of for it," Abdul tells us during her first days in Australia, pre-show. "Simon [Cowell] once said to me, 'It's overrated being you.' I thought, 'You know what? He's probably right.'
"He said, 'You take it all so personally and so seriously. And you take it home with you. You'll come back the next day and still be talking about some contestant whose name I don't even know, nor do I care.'"
But, the 51-year-old performer explains, she can't help herself. She knows only too well how hard it is to get that elusive ''big break'' - and the last thing she wants to do is trample on people's dreams.
"I know how important these moments are for people, because I've experienced it and I know how it is," she says, pointing out she was only a teen when, as an LA Lakers cheerleader, she was spotted by the Jackson family and asked to choreograph one of their songs.
"I also know how vulnerable you can be. It's easy for people who haven't experienced that to just bark out quips and go for the jugular.
"My whole thing is, I, somehow, even if they've given their worst, most unlucky performance, have to give them something they can hang their hat on, with grace and dignity."
That's not something that's always easy to maintain in the mad old world of show business. Just ask Abdul - she's weathered her fair share of tough times over the years. Type in the words ''Paula Abdul drunk'' into YouTube and a whole series of cringe-worthy clips pop up, showing the singer looking far from her sparkling best, slurring her way through live crosses on television.
She denies being under the weather, claiming she's never been drunk in her life. But that's not all - she's also weathered plane crashes and car crashes, and the disintegration of her once-promising singing career. But always she bounces back. And as she touches down in Australia, ready to begin filming, Abdul says she's excited about embracing yet another twist in her career.
"The fact is, there is never a shortage of raw, untapped talent to uncover," she says. "I love that we go out and find it … it's magical. [Whenever we do] I get that feeling, like 'Oh my gosh, that talent only exists, in, what, 100 people?'"
Abdul is well positioned to cast judgment on this year's crop of dancers, having worked with some of the world's best during her time as choreographer.
She thinks Australians are some of the most talented in the world.
''When I have worked with Australian dancers, the level of unbelievable talent and ability is top notch," she says. "And the work ethic and attitude; that feeling that 'it's a blessing to be working' - that doesn't always exist in America."
Abdul has high praise indeed for fellow judge Aaron Cash. She says her ''jaw was on the ground'' when she first saw him dance, at a casting call for a performance she was doing at the American Music Awards some years ago.
"And now I get to work with him again!" she laughs. "He is one of the most talented, accomplished working dancers … And Jason Gilkison, too - it's a dream team."
The three of them will be joined by Shannon Holtzapffel as fourth judge, and Carrie Bickmore, who will act as host. Abdul says she can't wait for audiences to see the fruits of their hard work and that they'll be surprised and delighted by the talent the team uncovers.
"I'm beyond excited," she says enthusiastically. "You can stay up all day and all night when you're this happy!"
So You Think You Can Dance Australia, Sunday, 6.30pm, Ten.
Filed under: TV