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While there have been out LGBTQ contestants and choreographers on Fox's So You Think You Can Dance over the years, the reality show has generally remained quiet on the topic -- until now. Perhaps in response to the Trump administration's increasingly intolerant rhetoric, the 15th season of the long-running dance competition was more out than ever, boldly and unapologetically addressing LGBTQ topics throughout.
With arguably the most powerfully moving performance of the season, the wickedly talented, gay, top-six finalist Darius Hickman captivated audiences -- and left the judges in tears -- with his breathtaking performance touching on gender expression. Out, Emmy Award-winning SYTYCD alum Travis Wall choreographed the dance, which drew upon his own experiences getting bullied in his youth for being gay.
"I definitely was nervous," admits Hickman about the moment Wall first discussed the performance with him. "I knew it was a topic that was very important to him, as well as so many of the other people -- so I knew that it needed to show a lot of emotion, I needed to connect with people. I knew it was going to have an impact, but I didn't think it was going to be as big as it was."
The dance (set to Damien Rice's "It Takes a Lot to Know a Man") focused on how those who don't fit into our society's very binary gender norms can feel trapped in disingenuous lives. This struggle was artfully illustrated by Hickman's partner, season 14's Taylor Sieve, attempting to strip him of his femininity. In its gripping conclusion, the risk-taking routine closes with Hickman triumphantly defeating his foe and applying bright pink lipstick.
Hickman -- who himself survived a violent, difficult childhood to become a successful, classically trained dancer--had no reason to worry. He performed the routine with such emotion, grace, and technical skill that he received a standing ovation and the performance quickly went viral on social media.
"I'm very comfortable with myself, thank God," says Hickman, explaining he was more concerned about doing a good job than about putting his own sexuality center stage. "That was my biggest concern, as a dancer. But I was very comfortable with the character, 100 percent."