The British Dance Council is set to consider a proposal that 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 states: ‘This Council recognises a partnership to be one man and one lady in all adult amateur and professional competitions and championships unless otherwise stated.’

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

Heather Devine, who competes with her female dance partner, Chrisi Lyons, said: ‘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.’ Devine and 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 also competed in mainstream events all over the country since 2005 and ‘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, meanwhile, 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.

Heather Devine added that all these couples 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.’

The British Dance Council’s President Bryan Allen said in a letter to secretaries of all corporate members that the rules should ‘take into consideration the feelings of the competitors, the physical strength and stamina of a same-sex couple who might be included in a competition.’