By People Staff
Updated December 01, 2020 03:26 PM
Credit: Mathieu Young/FOX

After five seasons as an Emmy-winning choreographer and part-time judge on So You Think You Can Dance, Mia Michaels took time off last season to work on other projects. Now back as a full-time judge, Michaels, 44, talks to PEOPLE about critiquing, dancing and living life. –Cynthia Wang

Last October, you said you were stepping away from SYTYCD to challenge yourself and start other projects. Can you talk about those now?
I am doing another show, which is a doc series, kind of the making-of reality, but I’m doing a live stage show that’s going to tour and right now we are just debating whether we are going to New York to hit Broadway or if we are going to Vegas. We are in development as we speak, and it’s getting into my brain, into my mind and getting into my heart. It will allow viewers to get voyeuristic in a sense, to see how I create what I create and how the dancers and all the different artists involved do what they do in Mia’s world. I am excited about that project, and of course, I’m doing a book as well, so I’m working on that, and it’s a full schedule trying to do all of this.

Has it been nice to come back as a full-time judge?
Taking that break was really good for me. I was kind of able to deal with a bunch of different things in my life and then just coming back, sitting in that middle seat, I’m having a ball. We laugh more than anything and it’s fun.

Do you like judging a duet, with one person being a returning all-star, as opposed to both vying for marks?
Of course, when the all-stars really stand out or have a really amazing performance, you can say something, but I find that I am a better judge because I am focused on one person and I can see the strengths and the weaknesses in a little more detail than before.

Do you ever review your critiques and want to change your mind?
I think so because when you are in the moment, and when you are live, you see things and every day is different. Some days, you are sassier than others, and some days you are quieter than others! Like when Billy Bell did the krumping, when I look back at it now, I don’t think it was horrendous. He did the best he could and he did an okay job and he got through it and he did better than I expected, put it that way, but I never want to see him do it again and I’m sure he never wants to do it again!

You’ve shared a lot of your life experiences with the audience and contestants. Is it easy to open up like that?
I don’t regret things and I don’t look back and wish things wouldn’t have happened. I think everything makes us who we are. And my mom, before she passed, she said to me, “You’re like a butterfly. Every time you get knocked down, you re-birth more beautiful every time.” And I find that so true because I do feel like a better person, a better a woman, a better artist, because of all the knocks in life that I’ve had, the bumps and the bruises and the scrapes. I am not afraid of them. I have never been afraid of them and I can see now how much they create a special, special spirit and I believe that is an extraordinary quality deep inside me, it comes out in moments and I am excited about who I am becoming as I get older in life.

For more from Mia Michaels, pick up this week’s PEOPLE on newsstands Friday