Diversity BLM dance: what was the controversial routine on Britain’s Got Talent, as it wins BAFTA TV Award

The controversial performance took place at the Britain’s Got Talent semi-final in September 2020 and received over 20,500 complaints

Diversity choreographer Ashley Banjo accepted the BAFTA alongside his brother and dance partner, Jordan Banjo on 6 June 2021 (Picture: Getty Images)
Diversity choreographer Ashley Banjo accepted the BAFTA alongside his brother and dance partner, Jordan Banjo on 6 June 2021 (Picture: Getty Images)

On 6 June, British dance crew Diversity won a BAFTA for their controversial performance which took place at the Britain’s Got Talent semi-finals in 2020.

The group won the ITV competition back in 2009 and returned to the stage for a guest performance, however their choreography was less about entertaining the audience and more about using their platform to highlight the Black Lives Matter movement.

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The dance was a representation of the killing of George Floyd and the performance included choreographer and dancer Ashley Banjo being knelt on by a dancer dressed as a police officer - a reference to Floyd’s murder.

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Banjo and his crew have now won an award for their ‘Must see moment’ on television in 2020, despite their dance receiving nearly 30,000 Ofcom complaints.

So, why was it been nominated for an award, what other entries was it up against and how did Banjo respond to winning?

What happened during the controversial dance routine?

Diversity’s performance took place at the semi-finals of Britain’s Got Talent, on 5 September 2020.

At the time, Banjo had replaced Simon Cowell on the show as a judge while Cowell recovered from a back injury.

The dance referenced events that have taken place around the world following the death of George Floyd, who was killed in May last year by police officer Derek Chauvin.

Members of the dance troupe mimicked the incident during which Floyd was asphyxiated as Chauvin knelt on his neck and chest.

In the routine, Banjo lay down on the stage while a performer dressed as a police officer knelt on his back. The words “I can’t breathe” formed part of the backing track, referencing words spoken by Floyd.

Elements of the Black Lives Matter protests, which took place around the world following Floyd’s death, were also incorporated into the dance routine.

Throughout the performance, dancers carried riot shields and viewers also watched as the troupe took the knee.

How did viewers react to the performance?

In the month which followed the routine, complaints flooded in from viewers who claimed the performance was “too political” and inappropriate for a family show.

Ofcom received almost 30,000 complaints about the segment of BGT, but said the programme had not broken broadcasting guidelines.

Despite the complaints, Ofcom confirmed it would not be investigating the show as it felt the main message of the routine was “a call for social cohesion and unity”.

Some complaints suggested that the performance was using the show as a platform to highlight the political issues.

Other viewers went further, suggesting it was racist towards white people, too critical of white police officers and was endorsing a political movement, among other complaints.

Social media was also awash with people sharing their views of the show, with some saying they would not be watching BGT again as it had not reflected the suitability of a family show.

How did Diversity respond to the complaints?

As the troupe’s leader and main choreographer, Banjo responded to the complaints by saying he stood by the performance, saying those who took issue with its subject matter “highlight exactly what needs to change”.

He added that Diversity "wanted to express how the events of this year have made us feel".

Banjo has since revealed he received death threats after the performance.

Which other moments were in the BAFTA shortlist?

Alongside the Diversity performance, Netflix’s record-breaking period drama Bridgerton made the shortlist for the Must-See Moment Award, with its scene of Lady Whistledown being revealed.

In the scenes leading to the revelation, Lady Whistledown is seen disappearing in her carriage, before she removes her hood to show her face.

Penelope Featherington is revealed as Lady Whistledown in the Bridgerton season one finale, with a second and third season now commissioned by Netflix.

Eastenders has made the list of nominations, for the scene in which Gray kills Chantelle.

The storyline covers issues of physical and psychological abuse, as Gray had tormented his wife Chantelle for years before her death.

In a true reflection of the past year, Gogglebox’s reactions to Boris Johnson's news conference on Covid tiers was also nominated. The episode included the Gogglebox participants attempting to make sense of the rules regarding what constitutes a meal in a pub.

Nigella Lawson’s pronunciation of ‘microwave’ was also worth a nomination. On her BBC cooking show ‘Nigella: Cook, Eat, Repeat’ she named the appliance, with the unusual pronunciation “Mee-cro-wah-vay”.

Last but not least, Disney’s Mandalorian has was nominated for the scene when Luke Skywalker appears. In December 2020, 'The Mandalorian' became the most watched streaming series in the US.

How has Diversity responded to winning the BAFTA?

Group leader and choreographer Banjo thanked those who supported them during the controversy, describing it as a “dark time”.

“It was a dark time but that support made a difference and in a way I have to say thank you to the people who complained, the people who put all that abuse out there online,” he said.

The Must see moment award is the only voted for by the public, which he said showed “what change looks like,” as the dance addressing racism won the award.

“You showed the truth. You showed exactly why this performance and this moment was necessary. But for all those people, take a look... This is what change looks like, and I am so proud to be standing here.

“For me, this is about not representing the minority. It felt like we weren’t at the time, but standing here now, this represents the majority, so thank you all so much. Let’s keep having those difficult conversations, let’s keep standing up for what’s right regardless of the colour of our skin and we will achieve that equality.”