Craig Revel Horwood: 'Dancing is my therapy'

BLACKPOOL, ENGLAND - JULY 02:  Craig Revel Horwood unveils his brand-new wax figure at madame Tussauds Blackpool on July 2, 2018 in Blackpool, England.  (Photo by Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)
Craig Revel Horwood unveiling his wax figure at madame Tussauds Blackpool. (Photo by Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)

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Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood has opened up about his early life, saying that dancing was his therapy in helping him overcome the difficulties of growing up with an alcoholic and abusive father.

The choreographer, who has been a judge on Strictly since the BBC series started, spoke to Kate Thornton on the White Wine Question Time podcast about how his family life led him to want to escape and to dance harder.

He said: "My father was an alcoholic and died subsequently, of alcohol poisoning. He drank himself to death. It was just awful living with him, and living with alcoholism, and abuse. All of us, I've got a family of three sisters, and I've got a little brother. It was just awful, family life was terrible.

"And that's why I went into dancing because I could get away. I could just look into the mirror and escape and not even really see me, just see lines, see how I was doing. And I just felt like I could fly away. In those moments, when I heard music, I just wanted to dance to get away from it, to escape family life.

WATCH: Craig Revel Horwood reveals the hilarious and heartbreaking influences behind his drag persona 'Lavish'

"And that's the real reason I started dancing. It was my real escape, just listening to the music and being able to move to it and not having to use words, not having to use song, nothing, just the expression of your body, your heart beating, and I adored that.

"And it was interesting, years later, my sisters went through therapy. And they said: 'Craig, you need therapy.' I said: 'My therapy, darling, is dancing, and escaping through that.' And actually, I'm very good at chatting to people about it, and I don't care who knows. I think it's really important because we've all been through it.

"[The stories from my past] made me who I am today and that made me dance harder. They made me dance faster. They made me eager or hungry to make something of myself that wasn't just about one thing."

Listen to the full episode to hear behind the scenes Strictly gossip - including the one word Craig isn't allowed to say on the show

He revealed his father's reaction the first time Revel Horwood dressed in drag as a child, leading eventually to him creating a drag persona called Lavish.

He said: "He went mental, chased me around the house. Through the sliding doors. I went and hid under my sister's bed instead of my own bedroom, just shaking, quivering. And he was basically saying: 'If you don't take that sh*t off your face...'

"He was really aggressive. I understand from his side, it must have been hideously embarrassing to have your eldest son in a blonde wig and a feather boa, in your mum's shoes – in his wife's shoes. Sort of doing a kickline and kicking a drink out of someone's hand.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 02:  (L to R) Debbie McGee, Brian Conley, cast member Craig Revel Horwood and Alexandra Burke pose backstage following the cast change press night performance of
Debbie McGee, Brian Conley, Craig Revel Horwood and Alexandra Burke pose backstage at 'Annie'.(Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)

"I understand that there must be an embarrassment, especially in the 70s, it must have been horrendous. That was probably a thing for him, which I understand.

"He later, when I became an actor, singer, dancer professionally, he then fell in love with it. And started to adore this woman called Lavish. He started to buy into it."

Speaking in front of a live studio audience at London's Leicester Square Theatre, Revel Horwood said: "The last time I was on this stage was with Joan Collins, who I based Lavish on and I came up on stage, Joan was sat where you are, and I was literally on my hands and knees like going: 'Joan oh my god, I based my whole life on you and your look and your earrings and your shoulder pads.'

"I was a bit drunk, though! It was amazing just seeing her in real life. She had no clue the she was the inspiration for Lavish anyway!"

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 18: Craig Revel Horwood and Kate Thornton are seen during Yahoo's first
Craig Revel Horwood and Kate Thornton onstage at Yahoo's first "White Wine Question Time" Live podcast. (Photo by Nicky J Sims/Getty Images)

Revel Horwood hinted at the possible return of Lavish when his one man show begins touring next year, since retiring the character in the past.

Read more: After week one Adam Peaty says he 'can't walk' because of tough 'Strictly' training

He said: "She may appear in one way, shape or form in March. I'm just waiting for my surgery! My one man show the All Balls and Glitter Tour finally is going on. It's scaring me to death only because I've been preparing it now for two years and I feel like I don't know any of the lines at all!

"It is a play, the first part I can tell you is sort of like a play. And then act two is very, very different."

Buy it: Dances and Dreams on Diamond Street by Craig Revel Horwood | £10.79 (Was £14.99)

WATCH: Craig Revel Horwood spills behind the scenes Strictly goss and hints at the possible return of Lavish