Cat Deeley
Credit: Steve Shaw/Fox

It’s a year of change for Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance, which premieres tonight with a two-hour episode that chronicles auditions in New York and Dallas. The biggest difference in the show’s ninth (!) season is that there will only be one installment per week. That is, the “results hour” — historically airing on Thursday evenings — has been jettisoned completely, with just a Wednesday night episode every week, even during the early audition rounds.

Host Cat Deeley says the change is for the better. “I always felt a bit like, Oh, God, how much further can I drag this out?” she says, laughing. “We amalgamate the results show into the performance show. Now the audience is going to know who’s in danger at the top of the show. It adds another layer of jeopardy to it. For the audience, that makes it that much more interesting.” Always a ham, Deeley jokes that it’ll be a feat for her to fit what had typically been three hours of television into two. “It’s worth watching,” she says, “just to see if I manage to do it. I’m going to do a bit of a hope and a prayer — and fingers crossed — and keep that thing moving.”

Other changes this year include the fact that one female and one male dancer will be crowned winner; and after the pool is whittled down to the Top 10, each finalist will be joined by a SYTYCD all-star dancer, each of whom is an expert in either ballroom, ballet, hip-hop, contemporary, or jazz. Before that, like usual, the Top 20 will be paired amongst each other, with two contestants eliminated each week.

Speaking of dancers, Deeley tells EW that this current crop is smarter than ever. “They really seem to be understanding the show now,” she says. “It’s about standing out from the crowd. You’ve got to have that certain something special. They’re using their brains, doing ballroom with a piece of music from Edith Piaf or a hip-hop routine to a piece of classical music. All of a sudden, it gets really interesting.”

Specifically, Deeley says we should all keep our eye on one dancer in particular — his name is Glitch — who makes it through to Vegas. “He does this thing, and it’s a version of hip-hop but with breaking and animatronics,” Deeley says. “To watch it, it’s so weird. It’s like you see it with your eyes, but your brain can’t compute exactly what he’s doing. It’s impressive and it kind of blows your mind. You can’t help but love him! He’s a total dude, and I mean that in the best way.”

Despite changes to the show’s format and, of course, new dancers, one thing is staying the same — the permanent judges, as both Mary Murphy and Nigel Lythgoe will return. “The only thing that I’ve said to both of them is that in my off season I’d actually been going to therapy and developed an alcohol problem due to the time when they kissed — it’s ingrained in my brain!” she says. “It gives me nightmares! Just seeing them do that freaked me out. It’s like walking in on your mom and dad.” Guest judges will return, including Debbie Allen, Lil’ C, Tyce Diorio, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and Adam Shankman.

With only once-a-week airings, there is a reality that all fans will have to face: You’ll only be treated to one insanely fabulous outfit from Deeley each week. “I’m not going to be able to do a costume change,” she says, before assuring us: “But I will take it to a whole new level.”

As a quick recap, here’s how season 9 of So You Think You Can Dance will unfold:

May 24: Dallas and New York auditions

May 30: Los Angeles auditions

June 6: Atlanta auditions

June 13: Salt Lake City auditions

June 20: Las Vegas callbacks

June 27: Top 20 revealed and Meet the Top 20 performances during 200th episode

July 4: No show due to holiday

July 11: First performance show

July 18: Performance and first results show

After tonight’s special Thursday evening airing at 8 p.m. on Fox, the show settles in on Wednesday’s next week.

Here, as a bonus, judge Mary Murphy explains the changes coming to the show this season:

Tanner on Twitter: @EWTanStransky

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So You Think You Can Dance

Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, and the viewers at home crown America’s Favorite Dancer.

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