Opinion. The time for same sex couples on Strictly is long overdue

Two women have done it on the telly in Israel, two men followed suit in Italy and, guess what, viewing figures held up well and the End Of Civilisation As We Know It didn’t come to pass.

We’re talking, of course, about Dancing with the Stars, which is what our overseas friends call Strictly Come Dancing.

Weirdly, the BBC remains adamant that a same sex pairing is not on their agenda, even though past contestants have called for the ban to be lifted. In fact, one of last year’s celebs, Reverend Richard Coles, is on record advocating for same sex dance couples, AND HE’S A MAN OF THE CLOTH! What’s more, panto-villain judge Craig Revel Horwood appears to be right behind the idea, while one of this year’s contestants, Dr Ranj Singh, told The Mirror, “I would value a time when same sex couples could dance on shows like Strictly. It is incredibly important.”

Dr Ranj with Jeanette Manrara

Let’s make one thing clear. We do not believe for one moment that anyone at the Beeb who’s involved with Strictly is in any way homophobic. No show that features both Craig Revel Horwood and Bruno Tonioli, not to mention skip loads of sequins, glitter and fake tan, can be accused of turning its back on the gay community, but we do find the resistance to a fella dancing with a fella, or a gal with a gal, rather baffling. This puts the show in something of an embarrassing situation of its own making. Every year there’s a call for same sex couples to be allowed on the show, and each year the press office is backed into a corner and forced to issue a rather po-faced press release about ‘no future plans’ etc.

Now, we do understand that ballroom dancing was originally intended for opposite sex couples and that there are some practical reasons why, from a dance point of view, this can work best. Some dances involve elaborate and often dangerous lifts which, some might argue, are best performed when a man – usually bigger – lifts a woman – usually smaller and lighter. But surely it can’t be beyond the wits of the brains behind Strictly to come up with same sex couples with a sufficient disparity in size and strength to overcome this difficulty. Anyway, past celebs have included plus size women like Lisa Reilly and Alison Hammond, both of whom did brilliantly. Away from the ballroom, Matthew Bourne’s all-male version of Swan Lake, despite much harrumphing from traditionalists, didn’t bring about the demise of classical ballet.

Let us now consider the lead where, traditionally, the man leads the woman. It’s generally considered harder to lead than it is to follow but, then again, I’m reminded of the famous Ginger Rogers quote that she did everything that Fred Astaire did, except backwards and in heels. But whether one person leads and the other follows throughout the whole competition, or whether they mix it up a bit dance by dance, it’s been worked out in Israel and Italy, so it can be done over here.

Gili Shem Tov & Dorit Milman on Dancing with the Stars, Israel

Is the BBC worried about losing its core, Middle England audience? Possibly, but surely the role of our venerable national broadcaster is to push the boundaries of acceptance and tolerance, rather than to pander to prejudice. The Corporation is proud of its diversity policy, but is not immune to mistakes, as is evidenced by the recent controversy over women’s pay.

Perhaps it’s a matter of respecting tradition – but that’s what people said about equal marriage which, according to a small but vocal cabal of frothing-at-the-mouth nutcases, was going to result in people marrying their cocker spaniels or something – yet that seems to have passed off without polite society falling off a cliff into a steaming pit of hellish barbarism.

It also cannot be ignored that the UK is witnessing an exponential increase in two-mum and two-dad families. Life can be tough for the children of same sex parents, but just imagine how validating it would be if people just like their mums or dads played a leading role in the country’s most popular Saturday night entertainment show.

So, come on BBC! We love you, respect you, and wouldn’t want to live without you, but we think you’ve got this one wrong. Let’s make 2019 the year of same sex couples on Strictly and, in the meantime, Keeeeeeep Dancing!

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