Ahead of Blackpool, Strictly Come Dancing judges Craig Revel Horwood and Bruno Tonioli talk about Ed Balls and Len Goodman's imminent departures
We do like to be beside the seaside… especially when hilarious Strictly judges Craig Revel Horwood and Bruno Tonioli are there with us!
Here Craig, 51, and Bruno, 60, reveal all about sharing dressing rooms, missing Len and why they find Blackpool rather bewildering…
Why does everyone get so excited about Strictly Come Dancing in Blackpool?
Bruno: “It’s the Mecca of ballroom! The building is stunning and there are very few places left with that kind of atmosphere. It’s a turning point: if the couples crack Blackpool they have a shot at the trophy, so it’s always a very exciting night.”
Craig: “It’s amazing for our professional dancers because most of them have competed here throughout their careers. Plus it’s every celebrity’s ambition to get to Blackpool! It’s such a laugh filming there, we always have a good time. There’s very limited space back stage and the judges all get ready together in a Winnebago because there aren’t many dressing rooms. Everyone has to muck in and share, which is rather nice.”
As natives of much sunnier countries, what do you make of Blackpool?
Craig: “My first experience of Blackpool was when I danced in the first tour of Cats in 1989. I found it alarming because you had to put 50p in an electricity meter and being from Australia, I’d never seen one before in my life! So I had to collect lots of 50p pieces and then there was the constant ‘ding ding’ of all the amusement machines everywhere. It’s a world I’ve grown to love – I quite like all the donkeys and kiss-me-quick hats, it’s good fun, but it’s not Bondi, darling!”
Bruno: “Oh bless the little donkeys, I like them too. But anyone going to the beach in November must be nuts! I love the sea, there’s something wonderful about the great expanse and the horizon, but I’m accustomed to a warmer climate…”
The Blackpool after-party is the stuff of Strictly legend – what can you tell us?
Craig: “It’s always brilliant, sometimes we go out, but generally we just go back to the hotel and raise a glass to people’s successes. And then sometimes I’ll spend Sunday in Blackpool too, so I can have Harry Ramsden’s fish and chips.”
Bruno: “I can never go to the party, I always have to get in a car to London to get on a flight to Los Angeles for Dancing with the Stars. I hear some people get quite wild, but I’m sorry it’s not me. I’m like a monk, totally dedicated to my vocation, from September till Christmas.”
Craig: “Yes it must be so terrible for you, Bruno, flying first class, drinking champagne and holding paddles from 1 to 10, give me a break! Not to mention he’s being paid a fortune – he’s not doing it for free darling! Any excuse to have a whinge, Bruno and Len will take it.”
Bruno: “I don’t want to moan, it’s a fantastic job… but I am jetlagged for two months every year.”
What do you make of this year’s contestants?
Craig: “I’m really impressed with the amount of talent we have in the show and the commitment they all make to each dance. It wouldn’t even upset me if Ed Balls reached the final – I think he’s a true legend for coming on the show, it’s just that his dancing is quite peculiar.”
Bruno: “There are so many of them with the potential to be champion and there could be some major upsets if the public don’t vote for their favourites, nobody is safe. The couples need to push the creativity and come out with unexpected performances if they want to win.”
Do you ever regret your comments? Like when you made Natalie Lowe cry with your criticism of her rumba choreography, Craig?
Craig: “No not at all, why would I feel bad about what I believe in? When I was dancing I had fantastic tutors who told me the truth and it made me better, that’s the whole point of judging. It’s a shame that it upset Natalie so much, but you just need to take the note and move on.”
Bruno: “It’s never personal!”
You’ve been judging alongside Len Goodman since the show began in 2004 – does it feel like the end of an era?
Craig: “Yes, every time we do something I’ll say, ‘This is your last time, Len!’ It’s quite sad that he’s leaving because I really love Len, I think he’s absolutely brilliant. I know we don’t see eye to eye very often, but as soon as the show’s over we’re great mates again. I’ll get him a leaving present, in fact I might give him a copy of my autobiography. A signed one, obviously…”
Bruno: “He’s definitely doing the next series of Dancing with the Stars in America, so I will still be working with him – I won’t get chance to miss him! All of the judges get on really well, it would be impossible if we didn’t. Even if we have arguments on the show they’re done the minute we leave the studio, it’s all part of the fun. But Len does hate it when I jump up and down.”
Do either of you fancy a promotion to Head Judge?
Bruno: “Oh God no, absolutely not. It wouldn’t suit my personality – I get excited and I just can’t play the role of the traditionalist. I don’t think Craig should do it either, it would restrict our characters too much. To be honest I would make the public head judge and allow them to make the final decision on the dance off.”
Craig: “I’m very capable of doing it but I really don’t want to – I quite like just being me!”
Who do you hope will take Len’s place?
Bruno: “I can’t name names, but I think it should be someone with a traditionalist approach.”
Craig: “It would make sense to choose someone from the ballroom and Latin world. It doesn’t matter if it’s a man or a woman, but I’d like someone fresh. Back in May 2004 we were all virtually unknown, so I think it would be great to have someone new.”
Does that mean you wouldn’t choose hot favourite Anton?
Craig: “I don’t mind that idea. I’ve booked Anton to judge on the Strictly tour and that was good fun. He’s going to have to give up dance at some stage, let’s face it…”
We want you both to stay on the show forever – please tell us you still love it?
Craig: “Yes, I enjoy it enormously and it’s a lovely little Saturday job!”
Bruno: “I love Strictly, it gives you such an adrenaline rush that I would never be able to go back now! People enjoy it – even on the plane to LA the other day, the captain came out just to meet me, and Rod Stewart came over to ask me what was happening on Strictly. It’s incredible, that’s what keeps you going.”