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Strictly Come Dancing announces first ever all-male pairing

·2-min read
Former Bake Off winner John Whaite - BBC/PA
Former Bake Off winner John Whaite - BBC/PA

Strictly Come Dancing has announced its first ever all-male partnership, and the show's latest contestant believes it will help men open up about their emotions.

John Whaite, a food writer and the 2012 Great British Bake Off winner, will have a male professional partner when the BBC show returns in autumn.

Whaite said: "I think that's going to be such a great thing in our culture, where men are sort of conditioned not to open up and not to be emotional.

"I think it might help to combat that. So I'm excited on so many levels to be doing the first all-male partnership."

Whaite, who lives with his boyfriend in Leeds, said he immediately accepted the offer to take part and believed it to be a "great step forward in representation and inclusion". The chef and presenter, whose dance partner has not yet been decided, hopes the audience will see "it's not necessarily about sexuality, it's just about intimacy and respect".

He added: "I'm so grateful, excited and nervous to be joining the Strictly 2021 family. "I've been wearing sequins and jazzy attire since I was three years old and can't wait to hurl myself, full throttle, around the most glamorous dance floor on earth."

Whaite will follow in the footsteps of boxer Nicola Adams, who became the first celebrity contestant to feature in a same-sex pairing when she was partnered with Katya Jones in 2020. Adams said at the time that it was "a brilliant step in the right direction".

It marked a shift by the BBC after it had initially ruled out same-sex couples, with bosses then saying in 2019 that the broadcaster would be "completely open" to dropping the requirement for mixed pairs going forward.

The move sparked a backlash after two male professional dancers were partnered together for a stand-alone number in 2019, with more than 300 viewers lodging complaints about their routine.

The BBC reported that some viewers found it "offensive to feature two men dancing as a pair" after Johannes Radebe, who is gay, danced with colleague Graziano di Prima.

Whaite said he hoped his dance partner would be "up for a challenge, as I want our routines to include lots of spectacular lifts".

Many lifts are customarily performed in a mixed pair, with the male partner leading and lifting the ordinarily lighter female performer, but dances such as the Argentine Tango and the Lindy Hop have a tradition of men dancing with men.

The Argentine Tango is believed to have evolved as a dance for male pairs – a fact judge Craig Revel Horwood has previously pointed out in defence of including same-sex couples on Strictly.

Whaite will join previously announced contestants, including Robert Webb, of the comedy duo Mitchell and Webb, musician and author Tom Fletcher and TV presenter AJ Odudu, on the show.

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