'So You Think You Can Dance' judges praise Philly talent

PHOTOS: ASSOCIATED PRESS Jason Kelce: The look of a man who's ready to eat some wings.
PHOTOS: ASSOCIATED PRESS Jason Kelce: The look of a man who's ready to eat some wings.
Posted: January 23, 2014

DESPITE THE frightful weather, the show must go on for "So You Think You Can Dance."

"I used to come here in the '70s when I used to choreograph for Sound of Philadelphia bands like The Three Degrees," said Nigel Lythgoe, creator, executive producer and judge on "So You Think You Can Dance." "But now it's 15 degrees below."

The Fox reality show, which plucks a dancer out of obscurity and awards him or her with a cash prize and the title of America's Favorite Dancer, is in Philly for the first time. No date has been announced for the show's 11th season premiere.

"I've been here [in 2008] with 'American Idol' and found good talent," said Lythgoe, who also serves as executive producer on "Idol." Philly was one major city that his latest show hadn't been to yet.

Lythgoe praised what he was seeing in Philadelphia, especially from University of the Arts students.

By midafternoon, Lythgoe and fellow judge Mary Murphy, along with guest judge Billy Porter, had seen about 10 solo performances and had already sent two dancers through to the Vegas week callback performances where dancers vie for a spot in the top 20. (Others may have gotten through. Some dancers that the judges are on the fence about are asked to come back at the end of the day for another dance challenge.)

Although Lythgoe and the vivacious Murphy are regulars on the series, the Pittsburgh-born-and-raised Porter, who just won a Tony for his performance as the heroine drag queen in Broadway's "Kinky Boots," was new to the proceedings. Porter isn't new to Philly. He's performed with the Philly Pops and directed "Being Alive" at the Philadelphia Theatre Company in 2007. His sister is even a Temple alum.

Porter told me he's been a fan of the show for some time, if only because it's one of the few reality shows that actually requires talent. But Porter also said he looks for more than technical ability when it comes to choosing his favorite dancers.

"I look for the story, I look for the dancer who can relay the journey, whatever their story is, through the footlights," Porter said. "It's especially difficult when you don't have the use of language. One of your senses is cut off so you have to be that much more powerful."

Kelce eats it up

Red Bull may give some wings, but for Eagles center Jason Kelce, it's SportsRadio WIP.

The hirsute Kelce has committed to participating in the 22nd annual Wing Bowl, that bacchanalia of birds and boobs, held Jan. 31 at the Wells Fargo Center.

"No question, I would love to eat in the event. No doubt," Kelce told morning-show host and Wing Bowl head honcho Angelo Cataldi, adding later, "I am saying yes. Definitely. Without question." Kelce would be the first active pro athlete in the competition.

I called up a rep from the Eagles who said the team is cool with Kelce competing, although he was initially supposed to just eat the first ceremonial wing.

The Eagles and Wing Bowl have a long relationship. The event was initially created to distract sad fans from the Eagles' longtime absence from the Super Bowl. Eagles long snapper Jon Dorenbos will serve as the event's celeb commissioner for the second straight year (last year, he wore a dapper-as-all-get-out white suit. I wonder how he'll top it this year). At last year's Wing Bowl, Eagles coach Chip Kelly greeted Philly fans for the first time.

Kelce admitted that he might have to trim his beard before he competes. "There's probably going to be some chicken in there for weeks before you find it all," Cataldi said, prompting me to throw up in my mouth a little bit.

Ask Brad Smith anything

Want to chat it up with Eagles utility player and fashion maven Brad Smith? He'll be doing a Reddit Ask Me Anything, where all questions are fair game, at 2 p.m. tomorrow. Go to reddit.com/r/nfl to ask Smith your burning Eagles questions.

Email: eichelm@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @PhillyGossipDN

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