TORONTO - Decades of dance experience did not prepare Rex Harrington for the "So You Think You Can Dance Canada?" auditions.

The acclaimed ballet star says he was stymied by one over-the-top wannabe performer, who peppered his unconventional tryout with growls, jumps and a roll on the floor.

"It was supposedly a style of something that I had never seen before and I was like, 'Oh my God, what's going on?"' Harrington recalls.

"He scared me. I think I actually ducked down under the table."

Viewers can judge his antics for themselves when the dance competition returns Monday to CTV with a two-hour look at the Toronto auditions.

A fresh batch of hopefuls leap, gyrate, shimmy and spin their way into a fourth season with Harrington appearing on the audition panel.

"It's so much more fun to judge because you can actually give people criticism, or say, 'It's not for you,"' says Harrington, who joined full-time judges Jean Marc Genereux, Tre Armstrong and guest judge Mary Murphy for the Toronto round.

"But I found that they were so prepared. People were astonishing in each sort of genre they came and tried to do."

"And you think you're tapped out (after three seasons) but no, there's people who have come and there's all this new talent. I think it's going to be a really exciting season."

CTV says Season 1 winner Nico Archambault, who appeared as a choreographer in seasons 2 and 3, will join the judging panel during finals week.

Dance fans will have their fill of the franchised reality show this summer as the Canadian version overlaps broadcasts with the U.S. one, resulting in prime time dance-offs four nights a week. The U.S. version just began culling its Top 20 contenders.

Harrington says that of the two, he prefers Canada's take on the series.

"To me it doesn't come across as cheesy as the American one sometimes, you know. I just find the American (one) is a little bit too much flash and trash sometimes," says Harrington, artist-in-residence with the National Ballet of Canada.

"There's something about it that I just find more human in how our dancers connect with each other."

Harrington's involvement with the show comes between performances with the National Ballet's elaborate, big-budget co-production of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland." The acclaimed theatrical spectacle just completed a run June 4 to 12 and returns with a final slate of sold-out performances June 23 to 25.

Harrington alternates the roles of the Duchess and King of Hearts in the Royal Ballet co-production, based on the Lewis Carroll book and described by Harrington as "Broadway-ish" for its dramatic flair.

"It's bringing in people who have never been (to the ballet) and people have been so excited," says Harrington, who lauds the production's use of technology and light projections.

"You just have to roll with the times and use the technology that's there. I think we're only going to see more of it. People in Europe have been doing projections and that sort of thing but not to this level I don't think."

The dancer is also set to take an 11-week leave from the ballet to star in the Canadian premiere of "Tosca Cafe" at Theatre Calgary in September. The blend of ballet, modern dance, Italian opera and beat poetry moves to the Vancouver Playhouse in October.

The tale is based on an actual San Francisco watering hole visited by notable artists, thinkers and socialites throughout the decades. Harrington says he will portray several different characters ranging from a war veteran to Russian ballet legend Rudolf Nureyev.

"When I got the call to come and do this I said, 'I have to.' So I'm getting myself back in shape," says Harrington, who will also be reworking choreography from the show, which originated in San Francisco.

Then there's the wedding Harrington is planning with longtime beau, Bob Hope, for July 2012.

Initial plans to marry this summer fell apart when they failed to book a venue, says Harrington, noting they've now settled on a picturesque estate east of Toronto.

"You're almost in the forest, it's beautiful," he says of the sprawling setting.

Plans may involve a surprise for the first dance, Harrington hinted.

"It might even incorporate something that's been on 'So You Think You Can Dance,"' he teased. "We're going to have fun with it."

"So You Think You Can Dance Canada" returns Monday on CTV with a two-hour premiere featuring the Toronto auditions. The following week includes auditions from Vancouver, Edmonton and Saint John, N.B. The Montreal auditions will be broadcast June 28.