Same-sex dancing on TV – Is it time for a cha-cha-change?

With Strictly Come Dancing‘s glitterball now but a distant memory, the New Year heralds the arrival of Dancing on Ice. The tantalising TV spots are out there and I’m sure you’ll all be tuning in to see those lovely buns and biceps doing some hard work! It made me think though, throughout all these types of dancing shows that grace our screens, when have we ever seen same-sex people dancing? It just doesn’t happen here in the UK.

The likes of ballroom dancing and ice skating are there for pleasure and enjoyment, an artistic expression set to bring our senses alive, yet these both exude heteronormativity with male dancers ‘taking the lead’ at all times. Men lead these women around in their sexy attire and on their teetering and painfully high heels. Men show off their patriarchal ways, they are the all encompassing dominant bull. It’s a stereotype that has always existed and remains unchanged and put this all to music and everyone absolutely loves it.

However, surely we all know that one of the purposes of art is for it to push boundaries? We’re living in a time when there is more equality in the sexes, as well as a much calmer social attitude towards gay people than ever. So why isn’t this being reflected in something artistic as dancing, which let’s be honest, gay people and women alike absolutely love?

I think we are looking at a shift though, as snails paced it may be. Let’s take a look at Strictly this year and in particular, two couples – Richard Arnold & Erin Boag and Lisa Riley & Robin Windsor.

Richard received a lot of confusing critique from the judges, he took on the lead role in his dances with Erin, but the judges would ask him to camp it up one week and then tone it down the next?! Surely this is a man that may actually prefer to be following and not leading, and what would be wrong with that? On one occasion Craig the judge exclaimed, ‘I’m not convinced you wanted to take Erin to the love shack’…this further backs up my point; it must be difficult for a gay newcomer to the world of dance, to then fully engage with a female dancer, taking the lead straight off. I would love to have seen Richard with Anton Du Beke, he may have performed a hell of a lot better, who knows, until the BBC start taking risks we shall never find out. If only Strictly was on a more liberal channel like Channel 4.

We all know that Robin had his work cut out with Lisa too, but he was pretty much thrown about that dance floor and commanded by her (which was just fabulous), and on one occasion proved to Lisa he too could dance in high heels. Robin shows adaptability when he performs, and I do take my hat off to him, he is an amazing role model for gay guys as well as a brilliant dancer.

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Slowly but surely we can see that there does need to be a change here, I’m confident it will come but it’ll only happen from new thinkers instead of old traditionalists that are stuck in their ways.

It’s a joy to see that times may be in fact be changing already. Blackpool, the Mecca of ballroom dancing, last year hosted the first ever Same Sex Open Championships to great delight. Alfons Heider (who it is believed Sacha Baron Cohen based his character Brüno on) also competed on the Austrian version of Dancing with the Stars with a male dancer. Even Israel’s own version of Strictly has had same-sex dance partners. So there is hope out there for us and I believe it’s only a matter of time before we have our gay celebs dancing with male counterparts. Top of my wish list for next years celeb entries to the world of dancing are Ricky Martin or Zachary Quinto please!

by Lee

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