BBC defends Strictly's first drag performance after complaints

‘Strictly is an inclusive show’: The BBC defends show’s first drag routine after receiving over 100 complaints from viewers claiming the ‘weird’ dance ‘confused their grandchildren’

  • Strictly made history on Saturday when the professional dancers dressed in drag to perform a medley from Priscilla: Queen of the Desert
  • The BBC defended the dance on Wednesday, saying Strictly is an ‘inclusive show’ and the performance was ‘intended to be a fun and entertaining musicals dance’
  • A majority of viewers praised the ‘fabulous’ routine for being ‘everything they needed’ during the pandemic
  • Some fans complained the ‘weird’ dance had ‘confused their grandchildren’ with one claiming: ‘This used to be a family show’ 
  • Strictly received over 100 complaints to BBC and Ofcom for the performance

The BBC has defended Strictly Come Dancing for being ‘inclusive’ after more than 100 viewers complained about the show’s first ever drag performance on Saturday night. 

Male professional dancers Johannes Radebe, Gorka Marquez and Giovanni Pernice dressed in drag to perform a medley of hits from the musical Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, which some felt was ‘inappropriate’.

BBC bosses spoke out in defence of the groundbreaking routine, insisting ‘it was intended to be a fun and entertaining musicals dance for our viewers who are used to and expect Strictly to be glamorous’. 

A statement released on Wednesday said: ‘We received complaints from viewers who felt it was inappropriate for some of the male professional dancers to be dressed in drag for the opening dance.  

‘Strictly is an inclusive show’: BBC has defended show’s first drag performance after it received over 100 complaints following Saturday’s programme

‘It was intended to be a fun and entertaining musicals dance for our viewers who are used to and expect Strictly to be glamorous. 

‘We feel that it’s important to allow the choreographers and professional dancers to exercise creative freedom when putting together routines for a programme of this nature.

‘Strictly is an inclusive show and we always ensure that the programme’s content is appropriate.’  

The statement comes after male professional dancers Johannes Radebe, Gorka Marquez and Giovanni Pernice dressed in full drag to perform a medley of hits from the musical Priscilla: Queen of the Desert on Saturday night’s show. 

After the performance, some outraged viewers questioned why such a dance should feature on a ‘family show,’ with one claiming the ‘weird’ dance even ‘confused their grandchildren’. 

The BBC confirmed they had received complaints following the groundbreaking routine, meaning the network will now have to issue a public response.  

‘Inclusive’: In a statement shared online, the BBC wrote: ‘We feel that it’s important to allow the choreographers and professional dancers to exercise creative freedom’

Fabulous: On Saturday, Johannes and fellow pros Gorka Marquez and Giovanni Pernice wore headdresses, tasselled tearaway dresses, and heels for a Priscilla: Queen of the Desert dance

Ofcom also received a small number of complaints after some viewers shared their outrage on social media. 

Over the weekend, viewers shared their mixed response to the performance on social media, with one tweeting: ‘My grandchildren are completely confused.’ 

Another added: ‘Strictly gone weird tonight,’ while a third added: ‘Used to be a family show. Will stop watching.’

The BBC’s Strictly statement in full 

‘We received complaints from viewers who felt it was inappropriate for some of the male professional dancers to be dressed in drag for the opening dance. 

‘It was intended to be a fun and entertaining musicals dance for our viewers who are used to and expect Strictly to be glamorous. 

‘We feel that it’s important to allow the choreographers and professional dancers to exercise creative freedom when putting together routines for a programme of this nature.

‘Strictly is an inclusive show and we always ensure that the programme’s content is appropriate.’  

A vast majority of fans flooded Twitter with praise for the dance, with many proclaiming it was a visual feast in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

One fan gushed: ‘Absolutely loving the #Strictly opening number tonight celebrating LGBTQ+. Gio and Gorka just showing off being able to dance that well both masculine and feminine. Bravo.’

Another viewer gushed about the South African performer: ‘Can I just say that Johannes killed it in that opening sequence.’

Controversy: Following the performance, Strictly Come Dancing received over 100 complaints after viewers criticised the show’s first ever drag performance 

Upset: A small number of viewers shared their reaction to the performance, with one claiming it ‘confused their grandchildren’

While one said passionately: ‘OMG sensational! @jojo_radebe is literally living his best life! 

‘@pernicegiovann1 looking good in heels… @gorkamarquez1 gurl where’s your heels!! Well done boys, you were phenomenal and a joy to watch.’

Several viewers heaped praised on the routine, saying it was the best one to appear on the show and was ‘superb’.

One viewer couldn’t contain their joy, as they wrote: ‘THAT OPENING WAS EVERYTHING!’

It was amazing! However a vast majority of fans flooded Twitter with praise for the dance, with many proclaiming it was a visual feast in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic 

Another gushed: ‘Absolutely LOVED this! The sass was something else! 

‘Also omg @pernicegiovann1 has an AMAZING pair of legs who know it was possible to love him even more.’

On Tuesday, Craig Revel Horwood offered his honest opinion on the complaints following the performance.

The ballroom judge, 55, slammed the complainers and said he thinks anyone who didn’t like the performance should simply change the channel, because the dance was a ‘form of theatre’. 

Switch off! Craig Revel Horwood offered his honest opinion on the complaints following the performance, slamming complainers and saying they should have just changed the channel

Appearing on Tuesday’s edition of Steph’s Packed Lunch, host Steph McGovern questioned Craig about complaints made to the BBC about the Strictly professionals’ group dance inspired by the film and musical.

Craig responded: ‘It’s madness, it’s a form of theatre. They’re artists, they’re dancers and they are involving themselves in characters.

‘I was just really sad that I didn’t make an entrance, I was so jealous, I wanted to be in there with a big blue emu on my head!’

Hitting out: Craig said: ‘It’s madness, it’s a form of theatre. They’re artists, they’re dancers and they are involving themselves in characters. I was just really sad that I didn’t make an entrance’

He added: ‘I think it’s mad to complain about something like that… If you haven’t seen that movie, I suggest you go and watch it and see why they were doing what they were doing. It’s not just for fancy dress… I think the people that are complaining just need to turn onto another station.’

While on Monday, Strictly pro Anton Du Beke addressed the criticism, saying on Steph’s Packed Lunch: ‘I don’t know. It’s silly really and it’s a shame. 

‘It is a movie and this wasn’t just camp time, we weren’t just frocking up for sake of it – it is the movie Priscilla and if you’ve seen the movie you’ll know what it’s all about… I thought they did a great job of it.’

Steph furthered the conversation by saying: ‘It’s hard though, when you’re getting trolls who send horrible things to you…’ 

Upsetting: Pro Anton Du Beke also hit out against the negative response to the group performance on Monday, branding the backlash a ‘shame.

‘Don’t read it,’ Anton replied. ‘Easiest thing is don’t read it. It’s the easiest thing to do in the world is to tap away – don’t like you very much – bosh. Just don’t read it. As far as I’m concerned, I’m absolutely marvellous, I don’t need to know the truth. 

‘I do care what people say as we’re in showbusiness and it’s the worst thing. If I have a room of 2,000 people in an audience, I’m concerned about the one person there who doesn’t seem to be laughing at everything I say or clapping every time I dance…it ruins it for myself.

‘You have to do the best you can, perform the best you can and forget about the trolls…

‘They know it’s so damaging because we talk about it so much, and it’s one of those things you can’t say ‘we can’t talk about it’ because we’ve got to highlight it, and it’s easy to say ‘don’t read it’ as it doesn’t really help but…avoid reading it.’

Divided: Viewers shared their mixed response to the performance on social media, with some hailing it as ‘fabulous,’ while others insisted that the dance was ‘confusing their grandchildren’ 

The Strictly professionals delighted fans when they got into drag to embody the queens from the classic 1994 musical Priscilla: Queen of the Desert.

The performance saw them transform into sparkling divas for the show’s first ever pro dance featuring men in drag.

Sporting rainbow fans, Johannes dressed in a plunging silver top and trousers, while Gorka and Giovanni wore matching blue and red ensembles. 

The trio also wore floral head pieces that covered their locks as they glided along the dance floor to the upbeat number.

But adding another glamorous flair, their fellow professionals pulled their trousers off to reveal their outfits also doubled up as dresses.

Iconic! On Sunday Johannes – who took centre stage in the dance- praised his fellow pros for embracing the larger-then-life characters and being ‘fierce enough to strut their stuff’ 

On Sunday Johannes – who took centre stage in the drag dance – praised his fellow pros for embracing the larger-then-life characters as he shared behind-the-scenes snaps from the performance.

In the post, he wrote: ‘I work with a fab bunch of people but I wanted to shout-out to these two for shamelessly putting the motion in every single part, fierce enough to strut their stuff… 

‘We appreciate you @gorka_marquez & @giovannipernice1 and as for partner @aljazskorjanec thank you darling.’

Gorka and Giovanni also shared a closer look at their make-up and colourful outfits, as the former declared his drag name was ‘Miss G’ and the Italian dancer named himself Taramisu. 

Wow! He shared a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the sparkling looks from the dazzling group number 

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