UK TV show Strictly Come Dancing – forerunner to Dancing With The Stars in the US and other countries – featured its first same-sex dance routine this past weekend.
The hit BBC show has often been criticized by LGBTQ advocates for refusing to have any of its celebrity contestants teamed with professional dancers of the same sex. This is despite often featuring gay contestants.
In 2018, it did feature two professionals dancing together as part of a group routine. However, the broadcaster – perhaps testing how audiences would react – featured a solo spot on Sunday’s results show with two male dancers.
They were Johannes Radebe, who is gay, and Graziano di Prima, who is heterosexual.
Originally from South Africa, Radebe has recently spoken out about being bullied when younger and how difficult it was to grow up as a gay man in South Africa. He says he was out from an early age, but the bullying culminated in another boy calling him “faggot” and attacking him with a baseball bat when he was 17.
He is now based in the UK. He and his celebrity partner Catherine Tyldesley were eliminated from the show last week. However, he told Hello magazine what being asked to take part in the historic dance with another man meant to him.
“I’ve never felt so liberated. For the first time in my life, I feel accepted for who I am. That says so much about the people of this country.
“To be able to dance with a friend I respect and adore is joyous. There’s bromance galore between us, but there were no male and female roles, just free movement. It was beautiful, classy and elegant.”
Both men took to social media to comment on the dance.
Radebe posted photos of him and di Prima with the comment, “Love knows no boundaries.”
Meanwhile, di Prima posted a clip to his Twitter with the message: “REPRESENTATION always matters!🏳️🌈unforgettable moment, loved to dance with you @johannesradebe.”
— Graziano Di Prima (@GrazianoDiPrima) November 3, 2019
The tweet has had over 24,000 likes and thousands of comments. Some expressed disappointment and said they would not watch the show in the future if it featured more same-sex couplings.
I won’t watch if this is the future of the show. I’m sorry
— Marina Rutherford (@marina_r85) November 4, 2019
However, the majority applauded the routine.
I loved watching it – I’d happily watch a lot more of it. I love dance, full stop, especially when done well – as that was.
— Helen (@Dogearedtatty) November 4, 2019
In an Instagram story, Radebe thanked people for their support.
“I see all those messages coming in and I feel the love. I’m going to take time to respond to each and every message. There’s a lot! I’m really grateful and I’m really thankful.”
You can watch the full dance below. The men danced to singer Emeli Sande, performing her track, Shine.
Last year, Italy’s version of Dancing With The Stars, Ballando con le Stelle, featured a gay celebrity partnered with a male professional dancer. The duo reached the competition’s grand final and came third.
The Israeli version of the show has featured a same-sex female competing couple and the Austrian version has featured a male competing couple. Earlier this year, Courtney Act danced with a male partner in the Australian version of the show.
There has yet to be a same-sex competing pairing on the US’s Dancing With The Stars. Nyle DiMarco did participate in a brief, same-sex routine in a January 2016 episode of the show. He went on to win the series with his female dance partner, Peta Murgatroyd.