Rose's soaring Strictly journey inspires sign language sign-ups

·4-min read

Watch: Strictly Come Dancing: Rose Ayling-Ellis on making history as the first deaf contestant

Rose Ayling Ellis is topping the leaderboard to win this year's Strictly Come Dancing, with a series of perfect tens for her dances with partner Giovanni Pernice.

But she's had a major impact in another way, too - as during her hugely successful run on prime-time TV, the deaf actress has inspired thousands to learn sign language. 

BSL (British Sign Language) classes have seen enquiries shoot up by up to 2000% since Rose, who also plays Frankie in Eastenders, joined the show, according to the director of one firm which offers courses, while Google Trends has also recorded a massive spike in interest. 

Rose Ayling-Ellis is the first profoundly deaf contestant to take part in 'Strictly Come Dancing'. (BBC)
Rose Ayling-Ellis is the first profoundly deaf contestant to take part in 'Strictly Come Dancing'. (BBC)

Read more: Craig Revel Horwood tips Rose Ayling-Ellis for 'Strictly' final after perfect Argentine Tango

Russell Fowler, director of the website BSL Courses, told the BBC that every Saturday following the show, there's a huge rise in sign-ups to learn the language which allows deaf and hearing-impaired people to communicate fully. 

"On one Saturday we had over 1,000 and another time we received 778," he said.

"In August we were averaging around 20 to 30 enrolments a day, but by November, we were receiving an average of 400."

The British Deaf Association estimates there are 151,000 BSL users in the UK, of which 87,000 are deaf.

Many hearing people also learn the movements in order to communicate with deaf people. Contrary to the assumption that it's purely about hand movements, BSL uses space and movement of hands, body, face, and head. However, BSL was not formally recognised as a language by the UK government until 2003. 

Rose dances with Giovanni on the show and scores highly again. (BBC)
Rose dances with Giovanni on the show and scores highly again. (BBC)

Like any language, BSL has regional dialects and differences across countries, with 'accents' including Mancunian and Scottish. 

Rose's huge popularity on the show has changed understanding of deafness. Before the series began, the actress, 27, said: “I hope I will do the deaf community proud and break down more barriers.

“But I am also very excited to learn an incredible new skill." 

Though many didn't understand how she could dance to music without hearing, Rose explained, “It is a common misconception that deaf people can’t enjoy music.

“I have a hearing aid, so I pick up some of the music and I can hear the beat.

“I can hear someone singing, but I can’t identify exact words. I also feel the vibrations.”

Throughout the series, she has praised dance partner Giovanni for his support and patience, and while she has a signing interpreter to help her with instructions, Giovanni has also been learning sign language to communicate as closely as possible with Rose. 

Read more: Rose Ayling-Ellis Wows Strictly Judges With Never-Seen-Before Move As She Jointly Tops Leaderboard

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2021/06/15: Giovanni Pernice attends a gala Performance of Dr Ranj: Scrubs To Sparkles at the Garrick Theatre in London. (Photo by Brett Cove/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Giovanni has been very supportive of his dance partner, Rose. Getty Images)

Interviewed on Strictly’s sister show It Takes Two, Giovanni said, “We just now focus on the muscle memory more than relate it to the music.

"Some people connect movement... to the lyric of the song, but unfortunately we can’t do that.

“It’s all about muscle memory. So in her brain there is still counting, but still remember what she has to do and the technique. It’s quite [a lot] more difficult.”

Rose agreed, “It’s quite a lot ... I noticed that hearing people rely on the music to help them remember what’s next, but I don’t have that.”

In Week Eight, the pair performed their Couple's Choice dance, which included dancing in silence, as a tribute to the deaf community. 

Judge Anton Du Beke called the moving sequence "the greatest thing I've ever seen on the show", and it won the 2021 Heat Unmissables Award for TV Moment of the Year.

Programme Name: Strictly Come Dancing 2021 - TX: n/a - Episode: Strictly Come Dancing - Generics (No. n/a) - Picture Shows:  Rose Ayling-Ellis, Giovanni Pernice - (C) BBC - Photographer: Ray Burmiston
Rose and Giovanni have danced up a storm this season. (BBC)

BSL teacher Jason Tennant is deaf and has always used sign language, He told the BBC this week, 

"We're getting enquiries for courses beginning in September 2022. That's crazy, because we usually start new classes in September or January, but that might change with all the new demand."

He explained that most learners "achieve the basics" within five months of lessons. 

"You'd be amazed with how much you already employ BSL by yourself," he added. "There are universal signs out there that we use already in our everyday life."

Thanks to Rose, Strictly viewers now know the sign for clapping - waving open hands. 

She'll doubtless be seeing a lot of it in Saturday's final, to celebrate her incredible achievements. 

Watch: Strictly viewers praise Rose and Giovanni's 'heart-stopping' lift

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