Fun, elegance and joyful abandon are the terms more commonly associated with the BBC’s smash-hit dance competition Strictly Come Dancing, but representation and inclusivity are becoming watch words too, according to co-host Claudia Winkleman.
EastEnders actor Rose Ayling-Ellis, the first deaf person to dance on the show, has taken the competition by storm in recent weeks, raising pulses, awareness and top scores from the judges in equal measure. The cast and crew have been leading by example and making sure they are inclusive.
“We have all done awareness courses,” says Winkleman, in a new interview in The Big Issue magazine out on Monday November 22. “I’m trying to learn as much sign language as possible – not necessarily to do on screen, but for when I’m communicating with her off air. The first thing I wanted to learn – although I haven’t needed to use it yet – was how to say ‘The judges are horrid.’”
This isn’t the first time the show set out to use its sequins and sparkle to address more serious issues of inclusivity. Producers have been praised for introducing same-sex couples, members of the LGBTQ+ community and Paralympian athletes in recent years.
“I’d like to think that it wasn’t controversial,” says Winkleman, in a new interview in The Big Issue magazine out on Monday November 22. “I think it’s important, but I would also say – and maybe I just have a positive outlook – that I think most of the UK just go [shrugs].”
“Strictly decided a while ago to try and widen who was doing it,” she added, “because representation is everything.”