Ballroom dance contests to ban same-sex couples?

British Dance Council proposal may be illegal discrimination

London, UK – 10 July 2014


The British Dance Council will on 21 July consider a proposal from its rules sub-committee which would ban same-sex dance partners from ballroom dance competitions by defining a dance partnership as having to consist of a “man” and a “lady”.

The proposed rule change is:

THAT Rule 52 be titled: “Approved Competitions and Championships” and that 52(a) should read: “This Council recognizes a partnership to be one man and one lady in all adult amateur and professional competitions and championships unless otherwise stated.”

The BDC proposal can be found here:

The British Dance Council is the governing body of ballroom dancing in the UK. It formulates and administers the rules for all competitions.

“I am really distressed that the BDC is even considering banning us. We’ve put in a huge amount of effort. To exclude us will mean that we can’t dance in mainstream competitions any more. This seems so unfair,” said Heather Devine who competes with her female dance partner Chrisi Lyons.

Devine has written to Bryan Allen, President of the British Dance Council:

“Dear Mr Allen
I refer to your letter dated 2 April 2014 to all secretaries of all corporate members of the British Dance Council, which is publicly available on the internet ….I understand that the rules sub-committee, chaired by George Coad, has proposed a rule change and that on 20th July they will decide whether to propose to the Board of Directors that the new rule be adopted; if so, the Board of Directors will then decide on 21st July whether or not to adopt the new rule. I am writing to ask you to reject the proposed rule change…”

“A same-sex dancing ban would probably be illegal sex and sexual orientation discrimination under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 and the Equality Act 2010. We are concerned this proposed ban may be motivated by some judges, competitors and spectators not being comfortable with the participation of same-sex dance partners,” said Peter Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, who is supporting the campaign against the rule change.

The BDC rules committee has already met and proposed introducing the rule that a “couple” must consist of a “man” and a “lady.”

The next steps are:

1. The rules committee meets again on 20 July to decide whether or not to put forward the proposed rule change to the main Board of Directors of the British Dance Council; if they decide to do this, then:

2. The Board of Directors meet on 21st July to decide whether or not to adopt the rule change proposed by the rules committee.

Same-sex dance couples are appalled and angry about the move to exclude them from future competitions.

Heather Devine and her dance partner of 18 months, Chrisi Lyons, are the current European Same-Sex Senior Women’s Champions, consistently reaching the finals of the same-sex A class competitions. They are registered to enter the mainstream UK Closed Championships in Bournemouth in July.

Sarah Hughes and Diane Willmot have competed in mainstream events all over the country since 2005. They strongly object to any retrograde rule change by the BDC which would prevent them continuing to have the freedom to participate.

John Church and his dance partner of four years, Alex, are regarded as one of the keenest and most active of the UK’s all-male ballroom dancing couples. They also resent the rule change.

As well as consistently reaching the finals of the A class same-sex competitions, over the past three years they have been regular competitors on the mainstream dance circuit, where they have achieved a number of breakthroughs for same-sex dance couples. Their accolades include winning a prestigious 2013 UK Closed Championship Title in the Over 35 Pre-Championship category and runners up at the Champions of Tomorrow 2014. In the 2013/2014 DPA (Dance Promoters Association) national league, they reached top position in the over 35 Pre-Championship Ballroom category, where they were up against over 135 mixed-gender couples.

Heather Devine said: “These successes show their dedication to, and passion for, ballroom dancing. They are saddened that the BDC is now considering bringing in a rule change that would exclude them from continuing to be able to dance in mainstream UK dance competitions.”

“Contrary to claims by some supporters of the new rule, male same-sex dance duos do not have an advantage. 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. This means that two men do not have an advantage over a mixed-sex couple,” she said.