The new season of So You Think You Can Dance has aired without co-creator and star Nigel Lythgoe amid allegations of sexual assault.

The British TV producer decided to step back from the 18th series of the US talent show after singer and dancer Paula Abdul accused him of multiple sexual assaults while she appeared as a judge on hit TV shows American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance.

Lythgoe vehemently denied the allegations made in the Californian lawsuit, previously announcing he was dedicating his time to clearing his name and restoring his reputation after leaving So You Think You Can Dance with a “heavy heart”.

In the first episode, British host Cat Deeley introduced judges ballroom champion Maksim Chmerkovskiy, season four alumni Comfort Fedoke and Allison Holker – who is the widow of former judge Stephen “tWitch” Boss who died in 2022.

Holker, who appeared on the second series of the US show, said: “So You Think You Can Dance is a time capsule of my whole life. I have had the opportunity to be a contestant, fall in love, have kids, now my purpose is to carry on that legacy.”

Among the contestants was Jin, whose performance was inspired by her father who died two years ago.

At the end of her routine, the dancer told Holker: “Watching my mother watch the love of her life transition… I really just want to speak to you directly and say I’m really inspired by the way you’ve held yourself in grace and the way you’re holding tWitch’s legacy – thank you for continuing to be a light for us.”

Holker said: “It is not an easy journey for anyone, Stephen ‘tWitch’ Boss was, and will forever be, an icon, a legend, because he was truly the best at what he did.

“But also because he brought out the best in everyone around him. And to this day, right now, for me, my children and everyone here, he’s still doing that. And how we honour him is by giving that light back because that’s what he would want too.”

The show paid tribute to Boss with a variety of clips of him on the show, closing the credits with a picture of him.

Meanwhile Ukrainian ballroom dancer Roman, who left Kyiv and hasn’t seen his family – who are now safe in Germany – since the war started, was also voted to continue in the competition.

Lythgoe was an executive producer of British talent show Pop Idol as well as American Idol, before co-creating and starring on US series So You Think You Can Dance, which launched in 2005.

He was also a producer and appeared as a judge on Popstars, earning the nickname “Nasty Nigel” thanks to his cutting remarks to the hopefuls.

The 2001 talent show opened the door to the likes of American Idol and The X Factor, changing TV on both sides of the Atlantic forever.

Having joined the BBC’s The Young Generation dance troupe in 1969, Lythgoe became a choreographer at the age of 21.

He has since worked on more than 500 TV shows, including Morecambe And Wise, The Two Ronnies and Gladiators, as well as with some of the biggest names in showbiz, such as Gene Kelly and Bing Crosby.