Strictly Come Dancing has received 189 complaints following the “offensive” broadcast of its first ever individual same-sex routine this month.
On the 3 November edition of the hit BBC ballroom show, professional dancers Johannes Radebe and Graziano di Prima danced together during a performance by the singer Emeli Sandé. Radebe – who is gay – told Hello! magazine that the groundbreaking routine made him feel that “for the first time in my life, I feel accepted for who I am” and that being able to perform with di Prima, who is in a heterosexual relationship, “says so much about the people of this country”. In a post on Instagram, the 32-year-old, who joined the show in 2018, added that “love knows no boundaries”.
While many praised the move on social media, it also drew criticism, with BBC News reporting that viewers had contacted them to say they would no longer watch the show if same-sex pairings became a regular occurrence. The complaints that came in via the BBC’s official complaints process state that viewers “[found it] offensive to feature two men dancing as a pair”.
In response to the complaints, the BBC has stated that: “Strictly Come Dancing is an inclusive show and is proud to have been able to facilitate the dance between Johannes and Graziano during the Professionals’ dance. They are dancers first and foremost, and their sex had no bearing on their routine.”
Strictly, which is currently on its 17th series, has not yet had a same-sex pairing compete in the show, though six professional dancers did take part in a same-sex performance during a results show in its 16th series. Meanwhile, ITVs Dancing On Ice – which follows a similar format of pairing professionals with celebrities – is set to feature its first same-sex duo in the next series, with Steps singer Ian ‘H’ Watkins and skater Matt Evers competing together.
While in previous years only mixed-sex couples have competed in Strictly, a statement released by the BBC in August said that the show was “completely open to the prospect of including same-sex pairings between our celebrities and professional dancers in the future, should the opportunity arise”.
Radebe was previously eliminated from Strictly earlier in the series along with his partner, Coronation Street actor Catherine Tyldesley, while Di Prima did not have a celebrity partner this year. Former Emmerdale actor Kelvin Fletcher and CBBC presenter Karim Zeroual are among the favourites to win the series, with their respective partners Oti Mabuse and Amy Dowden. The BBC declined to comment.