Strictly producers learning sign language ahead of first deaf contestant’s appearance

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Strictly Come Dancing producers have revealed the adjustments they are making to help Rose Ayling-Ellis as she becomes the show's first deaf contestant.

Ayling-Ellis, who plays Frankie Lewis in EastEnders, joins the rest of the celebrities this weekend when the long-running dancing show waltzes back on to screens.

Sarah James, the executive producer of Strictly since 2019, said an interpreter will be brought on to the show, and that staff are undergoing deaf awareness training and learning sign language.

The cast of this year's show. Pic: BBC/Ray Burmiston

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The cast of this year's show. Pic: BBC/Ray Burmiston

She added: "I think already myself and the team have learned a lot from Rose.

"She's an amazing person, she is also very honest about what she needs and what we need to adapt, so it's been an ongoing conversation.

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"All of the team are doing deaf awareness training, which has been brilliant, and we're learning some sign language, and that's been brilliant as well.

"Obviously, Rose will need an interpreter with her at all times so she will always have an interpreter with her in training.

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"And then on the show, you may see an interpreter occasionally on camera – obviously she'll need somebody to interpret the judge's comments and her chats with Claudia (Winkleman, one of the show's presenters).

"But other than that, I know that Rose is looking forward to the show just like everybody else and I can't wait to see what she does."

John Whaite will perform in the show's first all-male same-sex partnership. Pic: BBC/Ray Burmiston

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John Whaite will perform in the show's first male same-sex partnership. Pic: BBC/Ray Burmiston

James also talked about the show's first male same-sex partnership, with Bake Off star John Whaite making history.

It follows Nicola Adams and Katya Adams becoming the first all-female pair to compete last year. They had to pull out mid-series after a positive COVID test.

James said: "It's definitely something that we've always wanted to do and I'm really excited about John doing it.

"I think he's already proven that he's an amazing spokesperson for it and he's a household name and he is just a brilliant guy, so I'm really looking forward to it being John this year.

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"I think Nicola and Katya were amazing last year, and I think everybody really, really enjoyed that partnership.

"It was obviously a shame that it was cut short because of what happened, but they've 100% paved the way, the research that we've done since has proven that everybody really, really appreciated that partnership."

The producer also revealed that the show will have a limited audience once again, and that professional dances will be filmed in advance, rather than live, so training bubbles do not have to be broken.

Strictly Come Dancing will return to BBC One on Saturday 18 September.

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