IN a move possibly inspired by Australia’s Marriage Act, Britain’s peak body for ballroom dancing is seeking to define a couple as being one man and one “lady.”
The move has stunned many of the UK’s leading dancers and has been criticised by the head of one of Australia’s leading same-sex competitions.
The BDC is the UK governing body for ballroom dancing – also known as dancesport – and formulates and administers rules for all competitions.
The letter argues organisers should be able to “have combinations of all possible sex partnerships or to limit entry to just one or more combinations” and take into consideration “the physical strength and stamina of a same sex couple.”
Allen compared ballroom dancing to Wimbledon, saying the tennis tournament wouldn’t allow two men to play mixed doubles, reported the Guardian.
Denying allegations of homophobia, Allen said same sex couples would still be able to compete in a separate category and, besides, the BDC had received “many more letters of support for the change than against”.
However, critics have slammed the proposed rule change.
In a letter to the BDC, Australian-born human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell criticised the ban and said it could fall foul of several UK discrimination laws.
“This may be motivated by some judges, competitors and spectators not being comfortable with the participation of same sex dance partners,” he wrote.
Heather Devine, who with dance partner, Chrisi Lyons, is the current European Same-Sex Senior Women’s Champion, said she was distressed the BDC’s proposal and there was no justification for the ban.
“Contrary to claims by some supporters of the new rule, male same-sex dance duos do not have an advantage,” she said.
“Ballroom dancing is not like tennis or football. Power and strength are not the key to winning. Poise, musicality, expression. Timing, floorcraft and presentation are the main judging criteria.”
Amanda Nairn, chair of same sex ballroom dancing organisation Sydney Dance FIENDS, said the proposal was “unfortunate” as it was as step towards the situation in Australia where governing body, DanceSport Australia, defines a couple as “two people, a male and female, dancing together.”
“It’s disappointing the only two institutions in Australia that now define a couple as being a man and a women are the Marriage Act and the governing body of dance sports,” Nairn said.
The situation in Australia was particularly “galling”, she said, as members of Sydney Dance FIENDS had “samba’d our way” down Oxford St with Baz Luhrmann to promote Strictly Ballroom: The Musical.
“I do find it quite sad as we had looked up to the UK as an example of what Australia might be like and it’s bringing it down to what we’re struggling against,” Nairn said.
More than 30 same-sex dancing couples from all over Australia are expected to gather later this month in Sydney’s inner west suburb of Petersham for Sydney Dance FIENDS’ annual dance sport competition.
(Main image credit: Ann-Marie Calilhanna)