I am a past United States & Austrian National Dance Champion. I'm based in San Diego. And I run the Hollywood Dance Championships (first weekend of November) & the Las Vegas Holiday Dance Classic (second week of December). This is my 11th season with So You Think You Can Dance on FOX. I'm here with Victoria to take your questions. AMA.

https://twitter.com/reddit_AMA/status/504391717903015936 (retweet)

Edit Thank you so much. I'm so grateful to be part of SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE, and I'm so grateful that I have amazing fans. Tune in tomorrow and keep checking in on me @hotTamaleTrain! It is me who answers.

Comments: 105 • Responses: 36  • Date: 

forensics40915 karma

Hi Mary, Could you tell us more about the timeline from one show to another? I was curious about when the dancers start working on their routines, and when they finish, because we always hear about major problems in dress rehearsal, but we never actually see any. Thanks

Mary_Murphy18 karma

Yeah, I don't know the exact timeline. The only thing I know for sure is that they get Thursday off, and they have 8 hours, usually 2 days, where they do a run-through of wardrobe and costuming, and they still have press & publicity to do on days they are supposedly "off." On Sunday & Monday they get their first time to develop their packages, learning it for the very first time. And then on Monday, after they have that, they are still working on the group number, and they only get a total of 6 hours with a choreographer for the duet. And they get about 8 hours total on the group number. And on Tuesday, they have "dry blocking" where they get 15 minutes on that stage, where the director and lighting will decide what angles for the routine, which lights will change and when, and what camera angle will be used. And then the day of, they will get to run through a few times, they will have a dress rehearsal, and within 1/2 hour to an hour of that rehearsal - it's showtime.

forensics40913 karma

That's an incredibly intense schedule.

I also wanted to thank you for helping to create such an amazing show. My girlfriend got me into it and it's so much fun to watch together.

Mary_Murphy7 karma

You're very welcome.

mdinter15 karma

Hey Mary! I'm wondering how the process of picking guest judges for the show works. Any specific celebrities you and Nigel are itching to book for next season?

Thanks for doing this, I'm a long-time fan of SYTYCD. This has been a great season so far!

Mary_Murphy16 karma

You know, it's usually people that we've wanted or people that we meet while we're out and about that come up to us and tell us what a huge fan they are, and then we find out that they are celebrities with a dance background. Of course, I have celebs I am itching to have on the show as a guest judge. i would love Justin Timberlake to sit next to me! Beyonce, Janet Jackson and Madonna, and Mikhail Baryshnikov are at the top of my list. Hahahahaha! Wouldn't that be cool?! If I could have them all at once, I'd die! I'd be in judge heaven!

ardothewan10 karma

Bring back Anna Kendrick!

Mary_Murphy16 karma

RIGHT?!?!?!! I love her!! We had the best time together on the show as well! These movie stars, they have a big schedule! She's probably filming Twilight 6 or something, hahaha.

himenohogosha114 karma

Have there been any guest judges that will never be invited back and why not?

Mary_Murphy37 karma


There certainly have. HAHA. And I think at the top of the list would be Carly Rae Jepsen. And why is because she just couldn't really form an opinion on anything. I mean, it was so bad that even Jesse Tyler made fun of her the next week on the show!

beernerd12 karma

My wife was a dancer from elementary school through college and now we have a two year old daughter. I think it's inevitable that she'll follow in her mothers footsteps so I'm wondering what sort of stuff I should expect to do for her as a supportive father?

Mary_Murphy19 karma

I would first start her off in creative dance. That's really where you go in with kids and teach them to shake to rhythms, they play games, doing all kinds of things with spacial awareness. And then I would just be supportive. Be willing to take them to dance lessons, go to recitals, nurture their spirit.

nwindiansfan0111 karma

Hi Mary!

Back in April my dad was involved in a serious motorcycle accident. Since he's been released from the hospital, I've called on at least 2 occasions to speak with him only to be told by my mother (very nonchalantly) that he's "talking to Mary Murphy".

My question is, how much battery is used when you talk to him (because I know he likes to talk)?

Mary_Murphy14 karma

HAHA. I usually talk to your father for 2 hours straight. I'm usually in the car when I call him because I am plugged into a battery, so I don't run out! But you are right, your dad does talk a lot.

Maccas7511 karma

Hi Mary! What kept you motivated and inspired during your thyroid cancer treatment? And; what is your favourite artist to dance to? Hope you're having a great day!

Mary_Murphy16 karma

Certainly when I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, it makes you take a step back. But my friends, my closest friends, are what inspired me, and my cousin who had had thyroid cancer before me, certainly coached me through it and supported me through it. I think the scariest thing I heard was that the tumor might mean I might never speak again. That was the most traumatic. And I was so happy and relieved when I woke up in recovery, that they would know immediately whether I could or couldn't, and when I could, that is all that mattered to me. The biggest thing was thinking I couldn't hear my laugh ever again, because my laugh is part of how i find the humor in life every day.

And I certainly love to dance to Beyonce, the Black Eyed Peas, Nelly... I have rituals before a show. I have a playlist and a list of things I do before every show.

mdinter8 karma

Would you be willing to give us an example or two of your rituals? :)

Mary_Murphy16 karma

Yup. I start the day off very light, listening to my music playlist, some Barry White, then I move into Earth, Wind & Fire. Then I move into Beyonce, Madonna, and then I usually go out and listen to Black Eyed Peas gonna have a good time tonight - I'm thinking of adding Pharrell's Happy to my playlist. I wear some Tiffany perfume. I do a dance exercise program on the way to my dressing room. Then I do about 7 face treatments before my makeup artist arrives at my room. I use a laser, I put different masks on my face, I'm all shocked and ready to go!

ardothewan11 karma

Mary is there any way to get more swing dancing on this show? Would love to see some Lindy Hop. Also what's up with a lot of the "ballroom" on the show becoming mostly side by side dancing with barely any time in hold (like last weeks fox trot)

Mary_Murphy13 karma

Of course, yeah, we've only had West Coast swing this season, and I agree, I would love to see more swing dancing on the show! I of course helped to get Lindy Hop on the show in the first place, and would certainly love to see it back. As far as choreographers choosing not to use close holds, it's because of only 6 hours, if they feel the contestant won't be able to do it justice - they will opt not to put it in. Just as if I knew they couldn't do it, they only had 6 hours, if they can't prove it to me within a few minutes that they know how to do it, I won't put it in. So many dances today are not done in close hold.

we_are_babcock8 karma

What part of the hot tamale train are you? Engine or caboose?

Mary_Murphy16 karma

I'm the engine. FOR SURE. I have always had a ton of energy. HAHAHA. No need for caffeine here! It's true, I don't do any caffeine. Nobody would be able to get a word in edgewise.

PachydermPacker7 karma

May I have this dance, m'lady?

Mary_Murphy11 karma


Of course!

Spawty7 karma

Hello Mary!

Is there anyone you wish that could be added to the current judges panel (outside previous judges)?

Mary_Murphy7 karma

Well, the ones I already listed - Beyonce, Janet Jackson, Madonna, and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

Spawty3 karma

Thank you for answering! I'd like to add that everytime I watch SYTYCD, you and the other judges bring me a smile. Thank you!

Mary_Murphy5 karma

Aw, you're welcome.

MtNoon7 karma

If you had the chance to "save" a Top 20 contestant from elimination this current season and keep them on the show for at least one more week, who would you save?

Mary_Murphy12 karma

Bridget. Without a doubt. Because I thought she was fabulous. I thought she'd be in the top 4. She made it far, I think she made it to 6.

MtNoon7 karma

She's my cousin!!! It really means a lot to hear that.

I thought she did so well.

Mary_Murphy9 karma

Oh, that's terrific.

Sammy2g7 karma

Cat Deeley. Hot host or hottest host?

Mary_Murphy18 karma

I do think she's the best host, and she was robbed at the Emmys this year. She was nominated the last 2 years and didn't win. I think she's the best host on television today. And certainly I love Jane Lynch who just won, but a game show, it's very different than a live show, to host a live show is a skill and Cat handles it beautifully.

Mondonodo6 karma

If you were on the show, how do you think you would do?

Mary_Murphy20 karma

Oh, I'd be out in the first round! HAHAHA. I need a few months to rehearse, not a few hours! I was rehearsing for something, and when I hit the 6 hour mark, I thought to myself "Would i want to be on national television right now? Hell no!"

These kids are extraordinary at what they do. It's the honest truth! HAHAHA!

doubleUsquared6 karma

Do you still keep in touch with past winners? Any favorites?

Mary_Murphy13 karma

You know, anybody that has even been - being a winner on SYTYCD is a very select group of talented people. I adore them all. And yes, the fact is, we do keep in touch. The only winner that i haven't seen in quite a few years now- oh my god - Sabra. She's the only one I haven't seen or heard of in years. And now it's really tough to get these kids to show up - they have to go through their agents and managers now! All these kids are now getting that kind of work, that's one of the great things about the show, most of the top 20 now are well-rounded dancers which makes them more marketable. They can do contemporary, tap, jazz - it makes them more marketable.

regulate2135 karma

How do you feel that SYTYCD handles the balance between the most technically correct dancers and the audience's favorite dancers? More broadly, how much does stage presence count towards success on the show?

(I love the show - especially the more spontaneous parts of the audition shows - you keep the flow going but aren't rigid about it.)

Mary_Murphy2 karma

I think it helps if you come into the show with everything, all the tools in your pocket. If you're a great performer, that is certainly important. If you are great at technique, it certainly enhances the quality of movement. But if you have a great choreographer and great movement, on top of those things, that's when we usually have magic. Has the best dancer always won? No - SYTYCD is the favorite dancer, so early in the season the judges have a say, and when it gets down to the top 10, then it's completely in America's hands, and we've done our job delivering the top dancers - so we are usually very comfortable turning it over to America at that point.

cornponious5 karma

How many Rush albums do you own?

Mary_Murphy3 karma

I don't own any Rush albums. But I certainly listened to them while I was in college. That's a funny question, hahaha. I've moved out of rock n roll and into r&B at this age. I liked them when I was 18,19,20.

cornponious2 karma

I'm quite fond of the Holy Trinity myself. Might I suggest Permanent Waves? Natural Science, from that album, is one of my all-time favorites. Thank you for answering

Mary_Murphy4 karma

I used to play a mean air guitar back in the day! HAHAHA

I'm from a family of drummers as well! We all play the drums.

we_are_babcock4 karma

Hi Mary. What guest judge has been the most interesting to work with?

Mary_Murphy9 karma

Jesse Tyler Ferguson. Who will be on tomorrow night! I am so excited he is back. I was wondering what happened to him, and if he could fit it in his schedule. But he's my favorite.

GiantSteps14 karma

Hi Mary! I thoroughly enjoy SYTYCD and have been a big fan since its inception, but - and maybe this is just me approaching 40 - I have to ask if you have considered retiring the screaming? Never the hot tamale train, but just the glass-shattering screaming. Thanks for the AMA, love you and all the show regulars.

Mary_Murphy9 karma


Absolutely not. As you've noticed, I save it for very special occasions when I absolutely have to do it. If it happens, organically, it's based on what they do and they deserve every bit of enthusiasm I can give them. And what they do is mind-blowing in 6 hours. I just can't get over it, I get overwhelmed. If I could do backflips for them, I would! Hahaha. I would highly recommend just turning your volume down, in the off chance I might have to let one go. hahah.

GiantSteps15 karma

Lol. Thanks for replying Mary! I can certainly understand you getting overwhelmed. SYTYCD is the only "reality" show I ever watch, I don't know anything about dance, yet watching these kids and the amazing choreography routinely has me saying out loud: "holy s--t!"

Mary_Murphy7 karma

I feel the same way! HAHAHAHAHA.

You have to understand I grew up in a midwestern family, and we only scream bloody murder for exciting football, and in ballroom dancing it's a very normal thing for people to scream for the dancers they love the most. It's been part of my life all the way along. If you only knew what Monday Night Football was like in my home !HAHAHA! And I can honestly say that I even contain myself on SYTYCD. And that's the truth! haha.

TehCourtJester3 karma

Hi Mary! Huge fan of the show since season 1 :)

Are there any other previous contestants you would like to have back as choreographers? Travis has been amazing last season and this.

Mary_Murphy4 karma

Well, we certainly always try out our cast, and this season - Phillip choreographed on the last show, and he was a past contestant. So they can keep following their journey and their dance career. We are certainly proud of them.

ardothewan3 karma

What do you think are the chances the show gets renewed for next season?

Mary_Murphy9 karma

I think we're probably - we always hold our breath, you never know, in television, whether you'll get another season or not. I have a good positive vibe around the show, and certainly a good vibe around the executives at FOX, so we are keeping our fingers crossed. Any television show- it is a business, and the business affairs are going to be really what makes the decision.

dragonfly19933 karma

what is ur favorite thing about your job?

Mary_Murphy11 karma

My favorite thing about my job is that I get to witness magic from time to time in a dancer's life. With a 30 year career behind me. I didn't realize how precious those times are. I think I only walked over the dance floor one time in my career where I felt like one with the universe, and that magic happened. It's a rarity in a dancer's career. But I get to witness it. Something magical every single week. That's the best part about my life and my job. I'm very grateful to be a part of a show that brings magic like this to television.

katimakittykat3 karma


Are there any songs you would like to see the choreographers on the show use? If so, which songs and which styles would you like to see danced to them?

Mary_Murphy6 karma

Right now there wouldn't be any song in particular - but certainly music is so important. And the fact that you know, the songs are being delivered now in the hands of the choreographers to use, sometimes that song brings the choreography to life, or vice-versa, for example Jar of Hearts, that was not heard of for the most part until it was used on SYTYCD. And then that song became famous after being heard on the show.

Frajer3 karma

Do you like Joel McHale and The Soup?

Mary_Murphy8 karma

I love Joel McHale. I've been on his show many times, hahaha with him making fun of me, but he's actually invited me down and I have been on his show, and I told him the very first time he made fun of me, he made me cry, and he said "oh Mary, don't you know, the whole show adores SYTYCD?" so I started to get upset if I wasn't on his show! Haha! So it's cute - I know that MadTV has done a whole SYTYCD thing, their whole crew has told me they love the show, and you know you've made it when they do that type of stuff. But at first when you haven't had anything like that happen to you, it hurts your feelings, but then when you get used to it, it's like "Bring it!" And when you get to know them, you know they don't mean any harm. Just the fact they love SYTYCD means everything to me.

strengthofstrings3 karma

Were there any dancers in the history of the show that you fought hard to keep and were outvoted? And anyone who made it far that you weren't particularly impressed by?

Mary_Murphy14 karma

No, I felt everybody that I wanted to make it in the top 20 this season made it. But there have been seasons where I was an advocate for a certain dancer, and everyone was for them through Las Vegas week, and then when it came to the final vote, the judges did a flip flop. I was devastated when a certain contestant I thought was for sure going to make it in did not. I was outvoted. It certainly has happened to me in the past.

I just want to add that there were a couple people I fought for this season that i fought for, but I wish i had fought harder for. And that was for a young girl called Ya-ya, and a young man called Silky. Both of them were terrific hiphop dancers. I do hope we get another season, and I do hope that they come back. And I just think that Ya-ya was featured in the movie Step-Up that came out a few weeks back! Amazing. She was brilliant in it. And she was an animator. And Silky is a hiphop dancer.

LearnToGrammar1 karma

Is there anyone that was eliminated that you thought could win the whole thing?

Mary_Murphy2 karma

This season? Or any season?


What's your favourite pizza topping?

Mary_Murphy7 karma

Extra tomatoes. Green pepper. Pineapple. Corn. Spinach. And pepperoni! HAHAHA! I make them fresh all the time at home on indian bread, believe it or not! I like to use Naan from the grocery store to make fresh little homemade pizzas. Plus a little mozzarella cheese, of course.


You should try little pita breads too. Spread on some tomato sauce, cheese and toppings and grill until ready. Delicious.

Mary_Murphy7 karma

That sounds like a good plan. I've actually done that as well! HAHAHAHA

You're making me hungry! HAHA

mdinter1 karma

What are some of your favorite routines from the show, and which particular contestants really struck you as stars?

Mary_Murphy3 karma

Certainly. Tyce Diorio's was certainly at the top of my list. There have been many - and I mean many- amazing numbers on this show, feeding me and Mia's addiction. As well as the Hummingbird routine. Sandy Moore's Table Routine. Christopher Scott's Sand Routine - the stage was covered in sand, it was just magnificent.

Well, certainly, Twist has become a star hasn't he! Tarrington, and Catherine McCormick looked like an old time movie star, and she went on to star in a Step-Up movie, and Tarrington was the star of FAME, so they had that star quality when we saw them. I knew Julianne Hough as a child, I knew she was going to be a star. And she's currently going to be the new judge on DANCING WITH THE STARS.

Saboteuress1 karma


Mary_Murphy2 karma

Being with the group from Degrassi in Canada, I certainly loved being on all 4 seasons of SYTYCD Canada and my time up in Toronto. I do hope the show comes back, like it did come back in Australia again, because I miss my Canadian family. Degrassi was certainly a fun role for me, and I love that they included me with the Degrassi family. I miss it all so much up there! And I am still in contact with all of our Canadian choreographers - Liz Brown, John Marciano, Sean Cuseman...