Bruno Tonioli: I’m perplexed by criticism of Diversity routine

ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" - Season 29 - Season Premiere
ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" - Season 29 - Season Premiere

Strictly Come Dancing judge Bruno Tonioli says he is bewildered by criticism of Diversity's Black Lives Matter-inspired dance routine.

The performance, on Britain's Got Talent, sparked more than 15,000 complaints to broadcasting watchdog Ofcom.

Tonioli, 64, told Good Morning Britain that the "beautiful piece" was "strong, powerful and moving.

"You cannot stop artists interpreting life. This is a very important moment in history and it's very important for all of us to be aware of it and I think he's done it beautifully," he said of Diversity's Ashley Banjo.

"I don't understand" (the criticism), he added.

His comments come after Banjo said the performance sparked more of a positive than a negative response.

"We stand by every single decision we made with that performance.... I'm proud," the dancer and Britain's Got Talent judge said in a message on Instagram.

He added that the "performance was a round-up of an extraordinary year.

"Everything from lockdown to Covid-19, to the incredible NHS to the spotlight that's been shone on racism. Everything that happened with George Floyd in America, the protests, the riots – ultimately culminating in the idea of unity, hope, finding a cure," he said.

Diversity members have faced "racial abuse" and "threats" since the performance, he said.

Tonioli will be absent from Strictly's Saturday night judging panel when the BBC One show returns because he is in the US.

He will record his own video segment initially – but will not take part in the judging at that point.

"I will watch the show and then we'll do a segment which will be shown on the results show – it's like another view," he said.

"It wouldn't be right for me to interfere in the judging process because I'm not there.

"There are things you see when they're 8ft away from you. Craig (Revel Horwood), Motsi (Mabuse) and Shirley (Ballas) know exactly what they're doing."

Tonioli will appear full-time towards the end of the series.