Strictly judge Craig Revel Horwood praises pros amid Amanda Abbington controversy

Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood has praised the group of professional dancers who compete along with their celebrity partners as the “backbone of the show”.

Horwood, 59, together with Anton Du Beke, Shirley Ballas, and Otsi Mabuse presided over the most recent season of the BBC’s long-running ballroom dance competition.

The Australian-British dancer, who has the reputation of being the toughest judge, appeared to extend his support for pro Giovanni Pernice amid the ongoing controversy surrounding him and former partner Amanda Abbington.

Without naming Pernice, Horwood told The Sun that the show would not be possible without its team of pro dancers, who have to do so much more than simply choreograph the weekly routines.

“The pros not only have to be creative and be able to be good choreographers, they also have to be psychiatrists, doctors, they have to be nurses, they have to be welfare guidance people.” he explained. “It’s not just teaching dance.”

Earlier this month, it was reported that Abbington, 51, had requested video footage of her training sessions with Pernice as part of allegedly seeking legal advice.

Abbington and Pernice were paired together after the 2023 line-up was announced. However, the Sherlock actor sensationally quit the show after just five weeks, citing “personal reasons” that left her “unable to continue”.

Abbington recently requested video footage of her rehearsals with Pernice (BBC/Guy Levy)
Abbington recently requested video footage of her rehearsals with Pernice (BBC/Guy Levy)

There was plenty of fan speculation over the reason for Abbington’s sudden exit after she failed to mention Pernice in an Instagram post thanking “everyone on Strictly who looked after me and who are so kind and caring”.

The BBC said it had received Abbington’s data subject access request in a subsequent statement while claiming “robust” duty of care protocols and “constant dialogue” between the producers and celebrity contestants.

Horwood’s colleague, and Strictly head judge, Shirley Ballas also extended her support for Pernice in the wake of a rumoured falling-out between him and Abbington.

During an appearance on Lorraine, the 63-year-old praised Pernice as an “absolute gentleman” and a “splendid teacher”, adding that “sometimes partnerships just don’t work”.

Ballas told host Lorraine Kelly: ““I have known Giovanni for many, many years and he is an absolutely splendid teacher.

“My only ever experience with him is that of an absolute gentleman. He serves the show well and gives 100 percent, but you know...”

Kelly replied: “Sometimes partnerships just don’t work, we see that everywhere, on TV, everywhere.”

Pernice’s former Strictly partner Debbie McGee also left a heartfelt message for Pernice amid the continuing saga on X/Twitter, writing that they “had the best of times” when they competed together in 2017.

Commenting on the picture, Pernice thanked McGee for her support. “Love you… thank you,” he wrote.

Addressing the alleged feud for the first time, Pernice thanked his fans for their “messages of support” in a post on Instagram last Thursday (11 January).

“I just wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who has sent messages of support over the last week – I really truly appreciate it – thank you thank you thank you,” he wrote.