• Kristyn Burtt

A Ballroom Couple is Officially Lead & Follow, Not Male & Female

Updated: Jun 27


The ballroom community made major changes recently and some of the game-changing news fell under the radar. The National Dance Council of America, which is the official governing council of traditional ballroom dance in the U.S., redefined what a couple is in ballroom dancing.


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The new rule states that a couple is defined "as a leader and follower without regard to the sex or gender of the dancer." This rule is enforced for all of the competitions and events sanctioned by the council and pertains to every category rank from professional down to student/student.


While there is some practicality to this rule because more women are involved in the sport than men, this changes centuries of tradition in the ballroom community. There has been quite the debate between the traditionalists and those who are ready to modernize ballroom dancing to more accurately reflect the world today.


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The debate even hit the U.K.'s Strictly Come Dancing when former DUP Health Minister, Jim Wells, stated on a Good Morning Britain segment that "young children" should not be "challenged" with watching two men or two women dance. Show hosts Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid defended Strictly's right to include same-sex pairings, which it did during a pro routine in 2018.


In the Australian version of Dancing with the Stars last spring, they successful featured drag contestant Courtney Act with pro Joshua Keefe. Act was the runner-up on that season.


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What about DWTS in the U.S.? Dance Dish learned that a same-gender couple was under consideration for Season 28, but the dancer they wanted to pair up with a contestant was not available for this cycle. The dancer hopes to do it for Season 29, if the show is still interested.

The ballroom community as a whole has reacted positively to the new rule change, but it's also about changing the perceptions of the viewing public. A show like DWTS can go a long way in helping people to understand that ballroom is lead and follow — the gender does not matter.


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