Arlene Phillips: ‘Strictly should make a statement and include same-sex couples’

The former Strictly Come Dancing judge believes the BBC ballroom show should keep in line with the contemporary dance world

Arlene Phillips (Getty)

Former Strictly Come Dancing judge Arlene Phillips has called for the show to include same-sex couples.

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The 76-year-old, who was an original judge on the show before stepping down in 2008, said same-sex couplings are commonplace in the contemporary dance world and argued the lack of representation on television prevents people from realising just how common it is.

“It’s happening in the dance world. There are many same sex couples in dance competitions, it just isn’t on television,” Phillips told RadioTimes.com.

“It’s common, it’s not even thought about. It’s part of dance, and it’s part of storytelling.”

The same-sex dance partner debate is something that has plagued Strictly Come Dancing in more recent years, with a growing number of people calling for the show to be more inclusive.

Other versions of the hugely popular BBC 1 dance show have seen same-sex partners participate, with drag queen Courtney Act reaching the final of the Australian version, while Germany’s Let’s Dance saw two women, singer Regina Luca and professional Kerstin Ott, dance together.

However, it’s an issue that has proved divisive among fans and even the judges, with former head judge Len Goodman saying he’s more of a “traditionalist” when it comes to dancing – but respected the need to include same-sex couples.

“The poor old BBC, whatever they do is wrong,” he told RadioTimes.com. “If they do it there will be an outcry from lots of people and if they don’t do it there will be another swathe of people. It’s awkward.

“Maybe [Strictly] should try it as an off shoot. A mini-series with same sex couples and see how it goes down. If it seems to work and everyone is happy then bring it into the show.”

However, Phillips, who has choreographed the touring musical Grease, disagreed with the notion of a “Strictly spin-off show”.

“With spin-offs, if you start thinking about same-sex couples spin off, you then think about kids spin off, non-celebrity spin off – you can be spinning off for days,” she said.

“If you’re going to do it, make a statement – don’t do it as a spin off. I don’t think people would think about [same-sex couples]. I think it will be something that is just accepted, and the public will accept it.”

Other judges have agreed with Phillips; Craig Revel-Horwood has previously backed for the inclusion, while Motsi Mabuse said it’s a ratings winner.

“The ratings [on Germany’s Let’s Dance] proved the point that sometimes, if you risk something, it pays off,” she told Radio Times magazine. “It might go wrong – but at least you tried. The worst thing you can do is stay on the same spot.

“I respect traditions but you need to keep developing.”

Strictly Come Dancing continues Saturdays at 6.40pm on BBC One

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RadioTimes.com spoke to Arlene Phillips through Grease, which is touring the UK until 28th October. For more details please visit greasethemusicalontour.com