After 18 series as a Strictly Come Dancing professional, Anton Du Beke is taking on a new role for this year’s series – replacing Bruno Tonioli on the judging panel.
And ahead of the new series – which will commence on Saturday 18th September – the popular dancer has spoken about the show’s increasing push towards diversity in recent years.
For the second year in a row, the show will feature a same-sex couple, while there has also been a number of contestants with disabilities in recent years, including the show’s first-ever deaf contestant Rose Ayling-Ellis in the upcoming series.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Du Beke welcomed the moves towards inclusion. He explained: “There are same-sex people who dance [together] in the UK. There are people with disabilities who dance in the UK. It’s perfectly natural to have a representation of the UK in your line-up, and why wouldn’t you?”
He added that he believes viewers are open-minded, claiming that they are primarily just concerned with “how the contestants are going to get on.”
“That’s it, basically. That’s the interesting part,” he said. “All the other stuff is not.”
And he also said that by some metrics, the show has encouraged diversity from the very beginning, pointing to the huge range of age groups that have been represented in the show over the years.
“You’ve got people of all ages,” he said. “From the start, they didn’t just say, ‘Let’s just get a load of 25-year-olds and put them in a dancing competition.’ That wouldn’t have been very interesting, or reflective of the people watching.”
Anton Du Beke will be joined on the panel by returning judges Shirley Ballas, Motsi Mabuse and Craig Revel Horowood in what’s shaping up to be another exciting series of the ballroom extravaganza.
The celebrities taking part this year include comedian Robert Webb, Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Adam Peaty, McFly member Tom Fletcher, TV presenter AJ Odudu and Dragon’s Den star Sara Davies.