Jodie Sweetin‘s shocking elimination from Monday’s episode of Dancing with the Stars wasn’t the only thing that made it newsworthy. The show ventured into awesome, boundary-pushing territory when it featured its first set of same-sex dance partners. During a seductive tango, they paired Sweetin with a female dancer and fellow competitor Nyle DiMarco with a male one. It was excellent.
In this episode, the three judges were tasked with choreographing group dances. At this point in the season, six couples remained (there are now five after Sweetin’s elimination), so each judge was able to pick two pairs of competitors for their routines. Judge Carrie Ann Inaba chose NFL player Antonio Brown, his partner Sharna Burgess, UFC fighter Paige VanZant, and her partner Mark Ballas to perform a beautiful contemporary piece. Judge Len Goodman selected Boyz II Men member Wanyá Morris, his partner Lindsay Arnold, meteorologist Ginger Zee, and her partner Valentin Chmerkovskiy for his fun rumba. And judge Bruno Tonioli choreographed a tango featuring Sweetin, her partner Keo Motsepe, DiMarco, and his partner Peta Murgatroyd.
Though Tonioli’s piece began with opposite-sex couplings—Sweetin with Motsepe and DiMarco with Murgatroyd—Sweetin and Murgatroyd soon broke away for a spotlight moment of their own. Then, Motsepe and DiMarco did the same. With this outstanding creative choice, Tonioli challenged and transcended many of the traditional gender roles written into ballroom dance. Typically, the male dancer leads and the female follows. But when same-sex partners come into play, choreographers, viewers, and dancers are forced to rethink this convention—paving the way for new, exciting, and interesting artistic opportunities.
Bravo, Tonioli. And bravo to Sweetin, Murgatroyd, Motsepe, and DiMarco for nailing that tango!
See the full video of the performance below.