TV dance show makes peace with U.S. gay community

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Popular reality TV show “So You Think You Can Dance” has made peace with America’s gay community by putting a same-sex Latin ballroom couple into a new round of competition and appointing an openly gay judge.

Contestants Jacob Jason (L) and William de Vries compete on the Fox Network's reality program "So You Think You Can Dance" in this publicity photo released to Reuters September 17, 2009. REUTERS/Kelsey McNeal/FOX/Handout

Producer and judge Nigel Lythgoe caused a furor in May when he told another gay couple he thought their samba routine would “probably alienate” a lot of the show’s five million viewers.

Lythgoe later wrote a Twitter message saying he was “not a fan of ‘Brokeback’ Ballroom,” alluding to the 2007 gay romance film “Brokeback Mountain.” His message prompted a call for action by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), a meeting with Lythgoe and executives at the Fox network, as well as an apology.

The Emmy-award winning “So You Think You Can Dance” currently in its 6th season on Fox, uses a format similar to singing contest “American Idol” to chose America’s favorite dancer through a mix of judges’ decisions and public votes.

On Wednesday’s episode, Jason and Willem De Vries danced an emotional audition routine, causing choreographer and judge Mia Michaels to tear up and drawing a compliment from Lythgoe.

“I celebrate the courage that you guys have to just expose yourselves and your hearts and your passion and who you are,” Michaels told them.

The pair told the panel they were determined to show the judges and America there is “a world of same-sex dancers.”

Lythgoe, who started his career in Britain as a dancer, told the pair; “Thank you for showing me that same-sex ballroom dancing can be very strong and very good.”

But to get through to the grueling next round in Las Vegas, De Vries and Jason had to prove they could dance other styles in a choreography test that also paired them with female contestants. The Top 20 finalists usually perform in male/female pairings.

Their inclusion followed the appointment to the “So You Think You Can Dance” judging panel earlier this week of Adam Shankman, an openly gay choreographer and director of the 2007 movie “Hairspray”.

GLAAD president Jarrett Barrios said on Thursday that the treatment of Jason and De Vries on the show and the addition of Shankman “gives America a bold example of how to treat gay people with the same respect and fairness as everyone else.”

Editing by Bob Tourtellotte