Bruno Tonioli calls Strictly same-sex backlash ‘very sad’

The Strictly Come Dancing judge responded to the news that the BBC has received nearly 200 complaints after airing a same-sex dance routine

Bruno Tonioli

Strictly Come Dancing judge Bruno Tonioli has reacted to the revelation that a same-sex dance routine shown on the series prompted 189 complaints to the BBC, calling it “very sad”.

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On 3rd November, Strictly featured a paired dance routine between Johannes Radebe and Graziano di Prima, performed to Emeli Sandé’s hit Shine. The complaints stated that the dance was “offensive”.

Writing on Twitter, Tonioli said: “It’s hard to believe after such progress in society and many other topics going on that over 200 people felt so upset they complained when 2 men danced with each other… I just don’t know what to say… Very sad.”

The 189 complainants do not represent any kind of consensus – the episode was incredibly well-received at the time of broadcast.

Responding to the complaints, the BBC put out an appropriately short statement, saying: “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.”

Tonioli is an Italian choreographer and dancer who has served as a judge on the series since 2004. He has previously spoken in interviews about his experiences with homophobic bullying as a child.

The dance had been a watershed moment for Strictly, and was the first same-sex performance to have taken place, that wasn’t part of a wider routine, in any of its 17 series.

One of Strictly’s biggest rivals, ITV’s Dancing on Ice, is set to feature a same-sex couple for the first time when it next airs in 2020.

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But there has still never been a same-sex pairing in the main Strictly Come Dancing competition. If the BBC means what it says about Strictly being an “inclusive show”, it will need to ignore the complaints and keep moving in the right direction.