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Strictly Come Dancing will feature a wheelchair-bound celebrity for the first time in this year’s line-up. BBC chiefs are currently casting around for a star to take part in the Saturday night dance competition.
The decision comes after the popularity of the show’s first deaf participant, actress Rose Ayling- Ellis, who won the Glitter Ball Trophy in 2022, and Paralympic swimmer Ellie Simmonds, who made it to week six last year.
But the move to feature a contestant who has not got the use of their legs is seen as a major challenge for the hit show. However, disability campaigners are delighted at the proposal which they say will help “break down more barriers”.
A BBC source said: “This is an extremely challenging project but one that Strictly bosses think is worth it and believe it is going to be absolutely brilliant. It is yet another example of how progressive and inclusive the programme is.
“The original plan was that it would happen last year but the logistics are difficult and to get a professional dancer trained and ready to take this on meant more work than was originally anticipated, so the most sensible thing to do was to put it off for a year.”
Paralympic racing athlete David Weir, 43, who won six gold medals in 2008 and 2012, last night expressed his delight at the decision.
The wheelchair athlete, who was born with a spinal cord transection that left him unable to use his legs, said: ‘It’s a great thing for inclusion and it will be nice to see someone getting a platform and profile on a massive show like Strictly. It will certainly make me watch it. Ellie Simmonds was great last year and it was so good to see her doing a show like that.
“I don’t think people in wheelchairs are appreciated enough. I feel like we are a forgotten entity so hopefully this will help. It should be celebrated”.
In 2018, Strictly broadcast a group routine featuring its professionals teaming up with wheelchair-bound dancers from the inclusive Candoco Dance Company. They performed to David Bowie’s Life On Mars in a routine that was choreographed by the show’s former judge, Arlene Phillips.
Wheelchair dance experts speculate that routines will include spinning around in the chairs rather than the usual pirouettes. They also predict that the disabled contestant may get out of their chair to perform on the ballroom floor.
Wheelchair dancing has become increasingly popular in the UK. Paula Moulton and Gary Lyness are Britain’s first and only top-class Latin Wheelchair Dance Sport couple and compete for Team GB in Para Dance.
In 2020, Strictly featured its first same-sex couple, pairing boxer Nicola Adams with Katya Jones, and the following year it was the men’s turn, with pro star Johannes Radebe dancing with Bake Off star John Whaite.
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