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 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