Craig Revel Horwood’s Strictly Come Dancing half-term report

The strictest Strictly judge tells us what he thinks of this year's class of celebrities

Craig Revel Horwood is the strictest schoolmaster of the Strictly ballroom, always ready with a harsh mark and terse correction for dancers who step out of line. So how does he grade the current class of contestants? Speaking to Radio Times, he gave us his half-term report. Who has a passing pasodoble? Who has a failing foxtrot?

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Judy Murray – D

GREATEST STRENGTH

She’s enjoying herself and doesn’t really care what she looks like, which shows a lot of self-belief and mental strength. She applies herself, but seems to get nowhere.

BIGGEST WEAKNESS

A total inability to learn dance steps.

COULD DO BETTER

She needs to try to relax a bit! She’s just so stiff — she needs to take a chill pill. I know that my comments about her having rigor mortis and resembling Nelson’s column hurt her slightly, but unfortunately for her they were rather accurate. She needs to do some breathing exercises and stretches before stepping on to the dance floor.

BEHAVIOUR

She’s bribing everyone by bringing in shortbread. That does nothing for me—I’m on a diet!

FINAL GRADE

Take away that million-dollar smile and I’m afraid it’ll all go to pot. 


Pixie Lott – A

GREATEST STRENGTH

She has beautiful appendages — her limbs are absolutely supple and controlled and they do what they’re told. She also has a great attitude and Trent Whiddon is the perfect partner for her. They look fantastic together.

BIGGEST WEAKNESS

Pixie could get over-confident. You have to work even harder when you’re at the top. When there are people coming up the ranks and thrilling audiences, you have to work twice as hard to keep up your standards.

COULD DO BETTER

This couple needs to get edgier. They look so perfect you could plonk them on a cake. But they need to push themselves and keep surprising us or they’ll get too sickly sweet.

BEHAVIOUR

Very bubbly, very sweet and very talkative. 


Alison Hammond – B

GREATEST STRENGTH

Doesn’t care about anything people say or do. She is having the best time and won’t stop for anyone. Her strength is her personality and her love of dance. She has a natural aptitude, good rhythm, timing and musicality.

BIGGEST WEAKNESS

Lack of control and not being faster and lighter of foot. Yes, she’s carrying two people around with her and that makes it more difficult, as she’s said herself. But with more work and strengthening exercises, her stamina will improve.

COULD DO BETTER

Practice will increase the accuracy of her steps.

BEHAVIOUR

The life and soul of the party. Loud, brash, in your face. Outrageous backstage, outrageous on stage. 


Simon Webbe – B-

GREATEST STRENGTH

Natural rhythm and, unlike a lot of the rest, has an aptitude for dance. He also puts the effort in, but it can be a bit misdirected.

BIGGEST WEAKNESS

Thinks he’s too cool for school and is too concerned about his image. He takes it a little bit too seriously. He needs to get rid of that and just enjoy the dance.

COULD DO BETTER

Simon has to start paying more attention to the details. His hands are spatulistic and flat without any shaping…

BEHAVIOUR

A very quiet and unassuming guy who didn’t deserve the negative press he got following his rumba with Kristina Rihanoff — that dance is meant to be sexy and raunchy. Yes, the costumes are skimpy, but they’ve been like that since series one! 


Scott Mills – D

GREATEST STRENGTH

He’ll come out dressed as a crab without worrying about looking silly.

BIGGEST WEAKNESS

Scott can’t dance in any way, shape or form. I like to think anyone can be taught, but I fear he may prove some people just can’t be. He thinks otherwise, but there’s no communication between his mind and body.

COULD DO BETTER

He’s pigeon-toed, so he trips over his own feet. All he can do is carry on dressing up and entertaining the troops.

BEHAVIOUR

An absolute scream backstage. He’s brilliant — just as he is on his radio programme, full of life, energy, fun and humour. 


Steve Backshall – B

GREATEST STRENGTH

He made an excellent gorilla! Well, he’s studied animals for quite some time, hasn’t he? So his animal imagery is perfect.

BIGGEST WEAKNESS

Only certain dances suit him — the more boisterous ones. When he has to take a soft approach, that’s when he finds it difficult. He’s got this sort of he-man, growl, tiger sort of attitude that he needs to try to soften. Maybe he can be a sparrow next week. There needs to be less Samson and more Lady Godiva. He should go for ballet lessons — that would help!

COULD DO BETTER

Dancers aren’t bulky, it doesn’t look right. It spoils the look, shortens your arms, shortens the line instead of elongating it. But there’s no way he’s going to lose that! 


Frankie Bridge – A+

GREATEST STRENGTH

She’s absolutely electric, Dynamic, gorgeous, beautiful. I love her. She’s not camera-shy and she doesn’t get stagefright. She’s completely confident in her appearance and her ability.

BIGGEST WEAKNESS

She may have peaked too soon. I worry that if she has a bad week it will knock that confidence and set her back a lot. She’s used to being perfect and I don’t know how she would handle criticism.

COULD DO BETTER

She has to push herself more and go further with her dancing. It’s very safe. She and Kevin Clifton need to get out on the precipice and jump!

BEHAVIOUR

Cheeky, in a really charming way. Full of life, full of smiles. You never see her not smiling. 


Sunetra Sarker – B

GREATEST STRENGTH

She has the capacity to keep improving. She had absolutely no confidence at the beginning — but over the past few weeks it has soared. She thought we were going to be vile to her for some reason and that people wouldn’t vote for her, but some good scores and avoiding elimination have done wonders.

BIGGEST WEAKNESS

When she gets her first knockdown, I don’t think she’ll be able to pick herself back up.

BEHAVIOUR

We have a mutual director friend, so she’s the celebrity I’ve become closest to backstage. 

Caroline Flack – A-

GREATEST STRENGTH

Her pins. Great legs and she knows how to use them.

BIGGEST WEAKNESS

She can be a little self-conscious and that’s holding her back. She needs to lose herself a bit more in the dance, and then she’ll get up there with Pixie and Frankie. Caroline is at a disadvantage because she isn’t used to dancing in front of an audience and the other two are. I fear she’s a potential semi-finalist, but won’t make it all the way.

COULD DO BETTER

It’s rare for us to have three young women on the show all at such a high level, all rivals, trying to win the glitter ball. Caroline’s not as natural as the other two, so she’s going to have to work really hard to overshadow them. She needs to go at those girls and claw their eyes out to get to the top!

BEHAVIOUR

When I watched her on TV I thought, “I bet she’s really gobby,” but she’s not at all. Infectiously fun backstage.



Mark Wright – B-

GREATEST STRENGTH

His smile is his fortune. So when he can’t smile, such as during the tango or paso doble, it doesn’t work as well for him. I thought he would be preening the entire time, but he isn’t like that at all. He’s really loving Strictly and is up for anything!

BIGGEST WEAKNESS

He was very intimidated by the rest of the celebrities, as if he didn’t think he deserved to be there.

COULD DO BETTER

He needs to act out the dance. The Superman routine gave him a lot of confidence in that regard.

BEHAVIOUR

A cheeky chappie — sweet and genuine, which I didn’t think we’d get from one of the Towie lot! 


Jake Wood – A

GREATEST STRENGTH

The dark horse. I thought he was going to be terrible and he’s absolutely fantastic. He takes responsibility, he leads the dance, he’s focused. He is taking it very seriously but you can’t tell he is, he’s an actor. I wouldn’t call him a natural, he doesn’t have that flair, but he is a workaholic…

BIGGEST WEAKNESS

He isn’t coping well being away from his family. He likes to be surrounded by them. If he doesn’t have their support constantly, he might crumble.

COULD DO BETTER

Technically he can get better – and he will. Finalist.

BEHAVIOUR

Doesn’t like speaking much backstage. He likes focusing himself in his dressing room. He closes the door and does what it takes.


Gregg Wallace – C [Expelled]

GREATEST STRENGTH

His enthusiasm was clear to see and I loved it. That is all you can ask – that the celebrities are excited and wanting to learn.

BIGGEST WEAKNESS

He was the archetypical dad dancer.

COULD HAVE DONE BETTER?

His nerves got the better of him and ruined the experience for him…and for us!

BEHAVIOUR

He was in nerve therapy most of the time! And cracking jokes…a lot of bad jokes.

BEST WORK

When his face went in the pie.


Thom Evans – B+ [EXPELLED]

GREATEST STRENGTH

He loves to dance. He may have thought he’d be better than he initially was, but that may work to his advantage as the audience has seen him come from nothing to something.

BIGGEST WEAKNESS

At first he was very shy — he wasn’t showing any personality. He’s started coming out of his shell, but he has to make sure he doesn’t go backwards.

COULD DO BETTER

He has to release the beast inside himself and explode onto the dance floor. He needs to let go of his inhibitions — scream under bridges, run through parks naked. Then he’ll fly through this competition, straight to the final. [Thom was eliminated in week 5]

BEHAVIOUR

A real homeboy. He brings his mum to the show every week. He’s wholesome and handsome, but appears to be unaware of his natural beauty, so it hasn’t gone to his head. 


Tim Wonnacott – D [EXPELLED]

GREATEST STRENGTH

Very watchable and entertaining. Performance-wise he was great. I guess auctioneering was a help to him.

BIGGEST WEAKNESS

He didn’t pay enough attention to grasping the basic steps.

COULD HAVE DONE BETTER?

I doubt if his dancing would have improved much, however many weeks he’d remained in the show.

BEHAVIOUR

Rather talkative and chatty — charming in the hallways, but that was probably his downfall in the classroom.

FINAL GRADE

He had a unique style, which had its charm, but in order to break the rules you have first got to know them. 


Jennifer Gibney – B [Expelled]

GREATEST STRENGTH

She loved performing and had real confidence out on the floor. Her ability to act each dance also helped her.

BIGGEST WEAKNESS

Not great in the technical department. In fact, she never attained any sort of technique at all.

COULD HAVE DONE BETTER?

Her posture was appalling, darling. She needed a rod up her back. If I’d been her teacher I would have strapped two brooms to her to make her keep her posture throughout the dance.

BEHAVIOUR

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A born comedian — approachable, warm and very funny.