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Nigel Lythgoe departs 'So You Think You Can Dance' amid sexual assault allegations

Nigel Lythgoe announced Friday he is stepping down from hosting the popular TV show So You Think You Can Dance.

The 74-year-old producer and choreographer's decision comes around a week after his high-profile co-host, TV personality, actor and singer Paula Abdul, filed a sexual assault lawsuit against him.

Lythgoe has denied the allegations.

"I have informed the producers of So You Think You Can Dance of my decision to step back from participating in this year's series," said Lythgoe in a statement shared with NPR about his decision to resign from the TV show. "I did so with a heavy heart but entirely voluntarily because this great program has always been about dance and dancers, and that's where its focus needs to remain."

Lythgoe said in the meantime he plans to dedicate himself to clearing his name.

Known for dispensing harsh critiques, Lythgoe had been a judge on So You Think You Can Dance since its inception in 2005. He also produced the TV competition shows Pop Idol, American Idol and Superstars of Dance.

Abdul's civil lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Dec. 29, alleges Lythgoe attacked her physically on two occasions — first, during her tenure as a host on American Idol in the early 2000s, when Lythgoe allegedly groped and kissed her in a hotel elevator during a regional audition tour for the show; and second, in 2015, during a dinner shortly after Abdul agreed to be a judge on So You Think You Can Dance.

"As with the earlier incident, Abdul feared she would be retaliated against or blackballed if she spoke out about the incident," Abdul's lawyers, Johnson & Johnson LLP, stated in the complaint.

The 18th season of So You Think You Can Dance is scheduled to premiere on March 4. It will be hosted by Allison Holker and Maksim Chmerkovskiy.

The show's producers, Fox, 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions, did not immediately respond to NPR's requests for comment; neither did Abdul's legal representation.

In a statement shared with NPR, the producers said the upcoming season will proceed, "although without Nigel Lythgoe, to ensure the show remains committed to the contestants, who have worked incredibly hard for the opportunity to compete on our stage."

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Chloe Veltman
Chloe Veltman is a correspondent on NPR's Culture Desk.