It wasn’t until 2008 that Strictly Come Dancing left the TV studios behind to go on what’s become a national institution – the Strictly Come Dancing Live tour.
One person who knows only too well about what goes on during the tour is TV presenter Kate Thornton, who hosted the live shows for several years.
She recently welcomed Strictly judge and pal Craig Revel Horwood on her podcast White Wine Question Time, where the two shared their fond memories of the tour – which including napping together.
“We used to have such a laugh on the tour,” recalled Thornton.
“It would be me, you and Len [Goodman] and Bruno [Tonioli] – and Arlene [Phillilps] for the first few years – and we used to have these blow-up beds and on a matinee day, we'd all go and have a kip in the middle of the day together like old codgers in onesies!”
Revel Horwood, who directs and choreographs the live tours, said the show format was surprisingly tiring, which is why they needed a daily disco nap.
“As much as I just sit there, holding paddles from one to 10 and slag people off it is tiring!” he laughed.
“When you're dancing, you don't get as tired because you're in that euphoric sort of state and it charges you up, but just sat there for literally two hours, looking at the same dance routines and saying the same comments is quite alarming.”
To liven things up the pair would ad lib outside of their script and throw in a bit of banter.
“There is a little bit more leeway for banter,” said the Strictly judge.
“Plus, we're not on that 10 second to 20 second time limitation that we are on the TV. You can have a good old banter and then something might happen during the day while we're shopping or at lunch and we can mention that to like 20,000 people in the arena.”
However, one judge wasn’t quite so keen on the going off script.
Thornton said: “I love doing that, but it used to really throw Len. He’d go ‘No, that’s not what you’re meant to say!’”
Revel Horwood, who was one of the original judges alongside Len on the TV show, said that while the live tour does take place in large arenas, it allows viewers to see a little bit more than they do on TV.
“The beauty about people coming to see the arena tour is that they get to see the full body for the first time and get to see their celebrities in real life,” he said.
“It sounds odd, but when the show is filmed for television and is live on TV, the cameras don't quite pick up the absolute glitteriness of the costumes. I mean, they are blinding and it's just wonderful to see with the naked eye!
“It's sort of nice for the audience to see the whole body as an experience rather than just what the directors at the BBC want you to see.”
As someone who has performed in top West End musicals, Revel Horwood says that the tours allow him to not to take himself seriously and he’s happy to make an idiot of himself.
“I mean, I dragged Anne Widdecombe around the dance floor on tour for literally two months!” he laughed.
“We did 40 shows together, and then that consequently led to me doing two years of panto with Anne Widdecombe! I don't mind what people say about me – I just get up and do it.”
With his reputation for being one of the nastiest judges on Strictly Come Dancing though, Revel Horwood said there were some dangers in going on tour, recalling on incident in Newbury, Berkshire when he was slapped by an 80-year-old woman!
Laughing, as he recalled the episode, he said: “She just came across and just went, 'Are you that Craig Revel Horwood?' from the TV and I went, 'Yeah' and she just went and completely slapped me across the face! I said, 'What was that for?
“And she said, 'For being so nasty to the celebrities on Strictly Come Dancing,' but then in her second breath she said, 'Oh, don't change though. I love you!' That's tough love isn't it?”
While the pandemic has meant major changes for how the TV show will be filmed – including celebrities and dancers staying in a bubble together – the Australian-born dancer said there’s been one good positive to come out of it.
“I've had people ramming the trollies into the back of my heels in supermarkets,” he said. “The beauty about COVID, of course, and the two-metre restriction is that in supermarkets people can't come up to you or touch it - and so I love that!”
Hear Craig Revel Horwood chat more about his time on the show, his drag alter ego and why he thinks tough love is a good thing on the latest episode of White Wine Question Time. Listen now on iTunes and Spotify.