Friday, 8 August 2008

In a Spin over gay dance in Cinderella on Ice


A GAY love sequence in children's stage fantasy Cinderella on Ice has infuriated family groups and angered federal politicians.

The Russian-based Imperial Ice Stars show -- featuring former Olympic and world champion skaters -- raised some eyebrows at its Arts Centre premiere on Tuesday night.

Dozens of children were among the audience at the ice spectacular, which plays in Melbourne until Sunday before touring the world for the next two years.

Gay lobbyists and a children's advocate applauded the move by renowned artistic director Tony Mercer to include the dance by two gay lovers in a scene.

Mr Mercer said his updated version of Cinderella, which replaces the role of the prince with the mayor's son and the fairy godmother with a gypsy, enabled modern audiences to better identify with the characters.

And gay couples are part of contemporary society, he said.

"I don't think there is anything offensive about including a gay couple," Mr Mercer said.

"You see them day in, day out on the street."

Australian Families Association national secretary Gabrielle Walsh said the gay dance, by skaters Yuri Salimanov and Andrei Benikov, was inappropriate.

"We need to protect our children. They don't need to grow up any quicker," Ms Walsh said.

Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce said the surprise inclusion of gay lovers was out of place in an audience of young children.

"They are making children's lives more complicated before they need to be," he said.

Senator Joyce said producers should have warned parents of the gay dance in the program.

"It is compromising the role of parents," he said.

"It should not be a surprise inclusion in the show."

Australian Childhood Foundation CEO Joe Tucci defended it.

"It's helpful as a way of breaking down prejudices," Dr Tucci said.

Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convener Stephen Jones applauded the move.

"To have visibility in the mainstream media that same-sex couples are the same as everyone else is fantastic," Mr Jones said.

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