The choreographer has sat on the judging panel on the BBC’s dance competition series since it first aired in 2004, but appearing on The Reunion on BBC Radio 4 on Thursday (24 December), he admitted that he was sceptical about the show at the start.
“I thought it was the worst idea I’d ever heard in my life,” Horwood said. “My agent said, ‘You’ve really got to take this call from the BBC’ and I said, ‘I don’t want to. If it’s about ballroom dancing, I’m totally not interested. I’m musical theatre and ballet trained.’”
He continued: “So I went up to the BBC to have a screen-test and in front of me was a monitor and I saw two people dancing and I said, ‘Well whoever that woman is walking down the stairs can’t walk, let alone dance and when she got onto the dancefloor it was even worse.’
“I said, ‘Whoever the boy is has the boniest legs I’ve ever seen on any professional dancer ever,’” he continued. “And they said, ‘That’s a bit long Craig, can you truncate it into three words?’ And I said, ‘Yes. Dull, dull, dull.’ And of course, the couple I was talking about was [series one champions] Natasha Kaplinsky and Brendan Cole.”
Horwood also revealed that during the first ever episode of the show, the judges – Horwood, Arlene Phillips, Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli – were provided with scripted responses to give the contestants based on their audition tapes.
“It went so badly, that first show, they decided not to do it,” Horwood explained. “It was much better if we just reacted to the dance as it was, so that’s how it occurred in show two. That’s when we just went à la natch, which I thought was so much better.”
He also admitted to secretly taking ballroom dancing lessons with head judge Goodman after feeling like a “charlatan” on the judging panel.
Strictly has now aired for 18 series, with Bill Bailey last week being named the show’s most recent champion after lifting the Glitterball Trophy with partner Oti Mabuse.