BY Ross von Metzke
September 17 2009 4:00 PM ET
Willem de Vries’s biography proclaims that he started to dance “before he was born, causing his mother endless discomfort anytime a band would begin to play music.” So it shouldn’t really come as a shock that he and his dance partner Jacob Jason would break down the barrier that has thus far prevented a same-sex dance couple from advancing on the Fox reality show So You Think You Can Dance.
On last night’s show, De Vries and Jason wowed the judges and advanced to Las Vegas (the show's equivalent of all those Idol hopefuls “going to Hollywood") -- Nigel Lythgoe even thanked the pair for “showing me that same-sex ballroom dancing can be very strong, and very good."
That’s an about-face from what he said the last time a same-sex pair auditioned for the show. Last season, Lythgoe told partners Mitchel Kibel and Misha Belfer he was afraid the two might “alienate a lot of our audience.” Later, he tweeted that he wasn’t a fan of “Brokeback ballroom.” The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation got on his case and Lythgoe apologized, but this is the first time the Dance judge/producer has been given the opportunity to judge same-sex ballroom with a fresh set of eyes.
De Vries -- who with his partner Jason runs the West Hollywood–based same-sex couples' dance studio Baliamos-- sat down with Advocate.com to talk about his reaction to the judges’ overwhelming praise, what’s in store for viewers once he and Jason hit Vegas, and how GLAAD played a role in Lythgoe’s change of heart.
Advocate.com: Fans of the show saw what happened last time a same-sex couple went in to audition. What made you want to go ahead and go in there anyway?
Willem de Vries: We’re friends with Mitchel and Misha, and so we believe in the style of dance, obviously… we’ve been forerunners in terms of same-sex dancing -- we have a studio which is based around the concept of versatile dancing and the art of leading and following. So we felt it was really up to us to go out there and take a stand and say, “Give same-sex dancing another shot. Give us a chance -- this is what it’s really meant to look like at its best.” There were a lot of people in the community who were disheartened by the way the auditions had gone for season 5. We just wanted people to know there was a place for same-sex dancing on national shows like So You Think You Can Dance.