Strictly Come Dancing star AJ Pritchard has confirmed that the upcoming series of the BBC One dance competition will see professional dancers of the same-sex team up during routines for the first time.
The 23-year-old dancer and choreographer, who joined Strictly in 2016 and was paired with pop singer Mollie King last year, reveals in the upcoming October issue of Attitude that he's been practising same-sex routines with fellow professional Gorka Marquez ahead of the new series, which kicks off on Saturday night (8 September).
The confirmation follows reports that AJ will dance with Strictly pro Pasha Kovalev during the series, with a source telling The Sun that bosses believe it will be "an ideal way to integrate" same-sex pairing into the format following increasing calls to allow LGBT contestants to team up with a professional of the same gender.
As he poses for an exclusive shoot in the October issue of Attitude - available to download and order globally now - AJ confirms he'd "absolutely" be up for dancing with a male Strictly contestant, and reveals that he's already been practising lifts with Spanish dancer Gorka, who was paired with former Emmerdale actress Gemma Atkinson in 2017.
AJ Pritchard, show exclusively by Markus Bidaux for the October issue of Attitude, out next Thursday (13 September)
"I did a routine the other day with [fellow pro dancer] Gorka Marquez. It had a paso doble/Argentine tango feel and we were technically dancing it together as a partnership," AJ says.
He continues: "The strength of having two males dancing — or two females — is unrivalled.
AJ says he's been practising same-sex rountines with fellow Strictly professional Gorka Marquez (pictured)
"I’m dancing with Gorka, we’re doing lifts, we’re doing a concept that’s not been done on the show before."
While the inclusion of same-sex routines marks a major step for Strictly as the show enters its fourteenth series, BBC bosses have remained adament that the show will stick to the "traditional" format of mixed sex celebrity/professional couplings - and AJ believes that format is likely to continue for the time being.
"You never know though," he adds.
See AJ's full shoot and interview in the October issue of Attitude, out now.