Much to the delight of fans, the BBC confirmed on July 8 that Strictly Come Dancing would be returning for its 18th series in 2020. However, the show is going to look very different, with a later start date and fewer weeks on air. But those might not be the only changes to this year's series, as reports have emerged that Strictly will finally introduce same sex couples in 2020.
There's been a huge buzz about LGBTQ representation on Strictly for many years now and, ahead of last year's show in September, the BBC released a statement saying: "Strictly Come Dancing is an inclusive show and we are proud to have featured same sex dancing amongst the professional dancers in group numbers in previous series. We are completely open to the prospect of including same sex pairings between our celebrities and professional dancers in the future, should the opportunity arise."
Later that month, professionals Johannes Radebe and Graziano Di Prima made history when they performed the show's first full solo routine with a same-sex couple (previously, same-sex professional pairings had been featured only in group performances). Radebe and Di Prima's dance was deemed an utter triumph (minus a few complaints from narrow-minded viewers) and left fans even more keen for same-sex couplings becoming a permanent feature on the show.
International editions of the celebrity dancing competition have already introduced same-sex couplings, including Dancing With The Stars Italy and Denmark (in 2019, a male couple won the Danish series), it's seriously time that the UK got with the programme.
In May 2020, The Sun reported that Strictly producers were making moves to bring in a same-sex couple to the UK show. “The plan to introduce a same-sex couple was made after ITV took the plunge,” a source told the newspaper, referring to the decision made by Dancing On Ice bosses to pair up former Steps star Ian H Watkins with Matt Evers in 2019.
The source continued: “Many of Strictly’s stars have called on producers to cast a same-sex couple for the past few years and it’s been decided this will be the year. Johannes made history with Graziano in the last series by becoming the first same-sex dancers to perform and he’s made no secret of how keen he’d be to take on the role.”
Now The Sun has revealed even more good news for fans, reporting that producers are hoping for not one but two same sex couples in 2020: one female duo and one male duo. The newspaper has also reported that Westlife’s Mark Feehily will be part of the first male couple, being paired with Johannes Radebe. “Mark is a massive fan of Strictly, and the boys actually performed on the show last year,” a production source said to The Sun. “When he was first asked, he reluctantly had to decline because of the tour, but now that’s off, he’s free to compete.”
Sadly, however, nothing has been confirmed and the BBC declined to comment when I reached out about the news. But I'll be sure to report on any new developments as and when they arise.