Time for same-sex part­ners, says Strictly’s Coles

As new se­ries gets un­der way, BBC con­sid­ers plans to shake up the flag­ship show’s tra­di­tional for­mat

The Sunday Telegraph - - Front page - By Pa­trick Sawer

The time could be ripe for gay Strictly con­tes­tants to be able to dance with a part­ner of the same sex, the Rev Richard Coles has said. Coles, pic­tured with his dance part­ner Dianne Buswell, said: “We’ve had a dis­cus­sion about it … it’s just a ques­tion of do­ing it.”

WITH its recipe of celebri­ties, se­quins and piz­zazz, Strictly Come Danc­ing has brought ball­room danc­ing into a new age, while keep­ing up the tra­di­tional as­pects of style and tech­nique.

But the BBC is now set to court con­tro­versy with some view­ers of the show, with the pos­si­ble in­tro­duc­tion of same-sex danc­ing part­ners.

The move fol­lows a back­lash by LGBT ac­tivists against the les­bian writer and comic Su­san Cal­man for agree­ing to dance with a man.

Richard Coles, Cal­man’s fel­low con­tes­tant on the lat­est se­ries of the show, which opened last night, has now re­vealed that “dis­cus­sions” have been held with the BBC over the is­sue of same-sex danc­ing part­ners.

The Church of Eng­land vicar, who is gay, said: “We’ve had a dis­cus­sion about it ac­tu­ally, and I don’t know. I mean, it’s in no sense that any­one re­sists the idea in prin­ci­ple, it’s just a ques­tion of do­ing it.”

Coles, a for­mer mem­ber of the pop duo The Com­mu­nards, said he would be more than happy to dance with a male part­ner on the show, adding: “I think it’s a good year to do it ac­tu­ally, with the 50th an­niver­sary of the sex­ual of­fences de­crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion Act.”

The BBC has told The Sun­day Tele­graph it has not ruled out in­tro­duc­ing same-sex danc­ing part­ners on to Strictly at some stage in the near fu­ture, but will not do so for the cur­rent se­ries. Cal­man yes­ter­day hit out at mem­bers of the LGBT com­mu­nity who crit­i­cised her on so­cial me­dia fo­rums for tak­ing part in the show be­cause it did not have same-sex danc­ing cou­ples. She said she had spent years cam­paign­ing in favour of gay and les­bian rights and was now just happy to dance.

Cal­man, a reg­u­lar pan­el­list on BBC Ra­dio 4’s The News Quiz and I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, said: “No one can say I haven’t stood up for my com­mu­nity. I think po­lit­i­cally, there’s noth­ing more pow­er­ful than hav­ing an openly gay woman on the big­gest show on tele­vi­sion, whose wife’s on the front row, do­ing what she wants to do.

“No one is hold­ing me hostage in this room, mak­ing me wear a dress and dance with a man. I want to learn how to dance.”

Cal­man, who worked as a lawyer be­fore be­com­ing a stand-up comic, added that she had been sin­gled out for crit­i­cism for tak­ing part in Strictly in a way Coles and other gay men, such as the singer Will Young and the TV judge Robert Rin­der, had never been. “There will be a time for same-sex danc­ing. I think what an­noyed me slightly is that I seem to be get­ting it in the neck,” she said. “Will Young didn’t get it, Judge Rin­der didn’t get it, Richard Coles isn’t get­ting it. It seems to me as a woman, he’s not get­ting it the same way I am. And for me to be get­ting it is, I think, un­fair. I seem to be get­ting the brunt of the LGBT com­mu­nity.”

Cal­man added: “I have protested, I have pick­eted, I have fought, I have been spat on, I have been punched – and I want to dance.”

Coles says he will not be wear­ing his rev­erend’s dog col­lar ev­ery week, with some of the rou­tines re­quir­ing him to dance spray tanned and “bare-chested”.

Sources at the BBC said the cor­po­ra­tion had not “com­pletely ruled out” the prospect of same-sex danc­ing part­ners.

A spokesman said: “Strictly has cho­sen the tra­di­tional for­mat of mixed-sex cou­ples and at the mo­ment we have no plans to in­tro­duce same-sex cou­ples in the com­pe­ti­tion.”

Strictly Come Danc­ing, whose new head judge is Shirley Bal­las, cen­tre, has not ruled out the prospect of same-sex danc­ing cou­ples

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