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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Television dance contest "So You Think You Can Dance" will feature a group of "all-stars" from past seasons in a bid to boost audiences when it returns for a 7th season in May.
Executive producer Nigel Lythgoe told reporters on Monday that Emmy-winning choreographer Mia Michaels will return as both a judge and a choreographer, and that just 10 dancers -- instead of 20 -- would be picked for the main competition from the thousands that audition.
In a major shake-up of the Fox summer TV hit, Lythgoe said he was assembling a pool of dancers from previous series. They will pair each week with the 2010 contestants who are vying for a $250,000 cash prize and a dance magazine cover feature.
"The whole reason for doing it is to make the show more exciting...Some of these brilliant dancers (from past seasons) have just disappeared off the face of the earth. To be able to have this show use its own talent is fabulous," Lythgoe said on a conference call.
In the past, 20 contestants have danced in pairs in styles from jazz and ballroom to hip-hop. Viewers vote on weekly eliminations until the finale.
In the new season, starting on Fox on May 27, the top 10 will draw the name of an all-star, and perform in the style perfected by that dancer. Lythgoe will release the names of the all-stars in coming weeks.
Unlike Fox's top-rated TV talent show "American Idol", where the victor gets a recording contract, releases an album, and can forge a best-selling career, winners of "So You Think You Can Dance" have few such high-profile opportunities.
Ratings for the dance contest have declined over the past two years from about 9.7 million viewers in 2008 to 7.1 million in 2009 when "So You Think You Can Dance" was moved from its regular summer spot to the autumn.
"The whole reason for doing improvements on a show is to try and get more people watching," Lythgoe acknowledged.
Contemporary dancer and choreographer Michaels, whose exit last October shocked fans, will return as both a choreographer and judge. Former ballroom dancer and judge Mary Murphy will add choreography to her judging duties, Lythgoe said.
Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte