Mary Katharine Ham

Guess what I found out this week? Social conservatives can dance.

No, really, they can. I’ve been a big fan of “So You Think You Can Dance” this summer—a sort of “American Idol” for American dancers. I first noticed the phenomenon early in the season when one of the top 20 dancers, Benji, explained that he had taken a two-year hiatus from dancing to do his Mormon mission. When he announced the reason for his break from dance, the in-studio audience for the live show cheered, loudly.

Benji and his cousin Heidi, also among the top 20, had been dancing together competitively since childhood. They danced swing and ballroom by trade, but the show required them to do it all—mambos, waltzes, Broadway, hip-hop and crunk.

Benji and Heidi, along with two other top-20 Latter Day Saints finalists, did it all, and did it well. It paid off for the cousins, who both ended up in the top-four finalist group. Benji, my personal favorite, took the show’s crown home with him, and split the $100,000 prize with his cousin, as agreed upon before the show.

I didn’t know the LDS impact on “So You Think You Can Dance” was so strong until after the season had ended, and a couple of newspapers took note. But regardless of the number of religious dancers on the show, I had noticed that it had a charming innocence about it.

“So You Think You Can Dance” and “American Idol” both have a sort of throw-back, variety-show vibe about them that the American public obviously responds to. “American Idol” earns legendarily high ratings with its mix of small-town-makes-good stories and good, old-fashioned renditions of musical classics.

“Idol” introduces new, young audiences to quality songs of days gone by. Where else would you catch a nation of teeny-boppers hanging on every word of “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered”?

“So You Think You Can Dance” does the same, introducing teens and 20-somethings to the joys of watching a well-danced foxtrot, waltz, or paso doble. I’m betting rentals of Fred and Ginger movies and Broadway classics are way up right about now, and so much the better. It’s great entertainment, and you don’t have to worry about how old your kids are before you sit down to watch it.

Sure, each show has the requisite amount of sex appeal and skimpy clothing needed to survive in today’s entertainment environment, but in both cases, the talent overshadows the sex, which is much more than can be said for the “Fear Factors” and “Real Worlds” of the entertainment universe.

In other news for conservative rug-cutting, MSNBC talk host Tucker Carlson will make his debut this fall on “Dancing With the Stars,” yet another talent reality show that harkens back to the days of Gene Kelly.

Mary Katharine Ham

Mary Katharine Ham is editor-at-large of, a contributor to Townhall Magazine.

Be the first to read Mary Katharine Ham's column. Sign up today and receive delivered each morning to your inbox.