Alauded, landmark LGBTQ performance will enjoy a live encore when the national tour of So You Think You Can Dance Live! 2018 hits Houston on November 23.
Contemporary dancer Darius Hickman will reprise his role in the gender-bending duet to Irish singer-songwriter Damien Rice’s ballad “It Takes a Lot to Know a Man,” which Hickman performed with professional female dancer Taylor Sieve on the August 27 episode of the Fox series.
“I wear whatever I want to wear. It could be sequins, mesh, glitter, or however I am feeling.”
Hickman began the number wearing androgynous false eyelashes, heavy makeup, low-riding white corset, and a billowing chiffon skirt. Quickly, his prancing was interrupted by Sieve, who was dressed in men’s dancewear. She wiped away Hickman’s lipstick, kicked off his skirt, and covered him in a T-shirt and pants, symbolic of the competing male-female dynamics of a queer person navigating today’s society. However, Hickman pushed through the performance, ending on a triumphant note of self-expression.
One SYTYCD judge praised the performance as “a masterpiece.”
About 13,000 fans have viewed that performance on YouTube:
“Its message is very simple,” says Hickman, in a recent telephone interview from Los Angeles, where he was rehearsing for the tour. “Obviously, it is an amazing piece for society and for myself. It’s the common idea of society placing you in a box and restricting people. You should be comfortable to express yourself in whatever way, because it’s what’s on the inside that counts—how you treat people versus your exterior.”
Hickman had never heard of Rice or the song, but he agrees that it made perfect sense for openly gay, Emmy Award-winning choreographer Travis Wall to fashion the dance for Hickman.
“I have always been free-spirited,” he says, eschewing toxic masculinity that would war against his feminine side. “I wear whatever I want to wear. It could be sequins, mesh, glitter, or however I am feeling.”
Wall helped elevate Hickman from the show’s gay black guy with a rough childhood to a true contender by choreographing “It Takes a Lot to Know a Man” for him.
“My childhood was definitely unstable,” says Hickman, explaining that he never knew his father, and his mother abused drugs. Meanwhile, living with his aunt, he suffered physical abuse and recoiled from watching his aunt being attacked by her partner.
Dance was Hickman’s “lifesaver,” he says. “I started at age 13, performing in an arts middle school. My mom was out of prison by then, so she also tried making up for lost time.”
Hickman, who is 19 and single, completed a year of ballet at Butler University in Indianapolis before winning fame on SYTYCD.
The national tour features Hickman along with his fellow Top 10 finalists, including Jensen Arnold, Hannahlei Cabanilla, Genessy Castillo, Evan DeBenedetto, Jay Jay Dixonbey, Magdalena Fialek, Chelsea Hough, Cole Mills, and Slavik Pustovoytov.
“I am excited about coming to Houston so I can meet people who have reacted to my performances on So You Think You Can Dance,” he says. “I can’t believe the response. I have seen my fans on Instagram, but now I will get to meet them in person.”
The tour promises to get up close and personal with fans by recreating some of the hottest show-stopping routines from SYTYCD’s 15th season, as well as original pieces choreographed specifically for the live show.
So You Think You Can Dance Live! 2018 is directed by Raj Kapoor, with dance routines overseen by Emmy-winning star choreographer Mandy Moore.
What: So You Think You Can Dance Live! 2018
When: 7 p.m. on November 23
Where: Revention Music Center, 520 Texas Avenue
This article appears in the November 2018 edition of OutSmart magazine.