Graziano Di Prima has brushed off criticism of his same-sex dance on Strictly Come Dancing, saying his detractors are “silly” and will change their minds.
The Italian dancer made history when he performed with fellow professional Johannes Radebe to Shine by Emeli Sande during one of the BBC One series’ results shows last year.
The dance, the first of its kind for the programme, prompted more than 200 complaints from viewers who said it was offensive to feature two men dancing as a pair.
However, Di Prima questioned why he should care when their dance received “millions” of positive messages from viewers thanking them.
He told Attitude magazine: “We weren’t worried about it.
“OK, there were 200 complaints, but there were millions of people writing to us, sending us videos saying thank you and celebrating our friendship.
“And for (Johannes), as a gay man, it means the world…
“There were thousands and thousands of people saying: ‘Thank you guys for doing that, it means the world’.
“Why should I care about 200 people? Are you kidding me?
“Those 200 people, you will see that in the future they will change their minds.
“It is such a silly thing because dancing is for everyone. As long as you feel the energy that dance can give to you, you can dance with whoever you want.”
The BBC subsequently responded to viewers who were unhappy with the same-sex coupling.
A statement released in early December said: “Strictly Come Dancing is an inclusive show and is proud to have been able to facilitate the dance between Johannes and Graziano during the professionals’ dance.
“They are dancers first and foremost, and their sex had no bearing on their routine.”
Radebe will be Di Prima’s best man at his wedding to fellow dancer Giada Lini, which is planned for this year.
He told the magazine: “It was a new thing for the audience but for us, it was normal.
“Afterwards, we were crying and laughing.
“It’s one of those things that I’ll remember for ever.
“I had the chance to dance with my friend and to dance with him was the best thing.
“At the end of the day, you don’t need to have a female and a male to dance; as long as you love dancing.
“Dance is love, that’s it.”
Read the full interview in Attitude magazine, out on January 3.