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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Louis Chilton

Rob Rinder echoes fan complaint about Strictly Come Dancing: ‘They are better than the professionals!’


Rob Rinder weighed in on the controversy over Strictly Come Dancing contestants’ previous dance experience during an appearance at Henley Literary Festival 2023.

The Judge Rinder star discussed class bias in the legal system, antisemitism and more during a lively and wide-ranging talk at the event in Henley-upon-Thames, Oxfordshire. This year, The Independent is the festival’s exclusive news partner.

Rinder, who is also a lawyer and the author of the recent whodunnit novel The Trial, competed on the popular BBC reality series in 2016.

Towards the end of the talk, which was conducted by writer and podcaster Daisy Buchanan, Rinder echoed one of the most frequent complaints from viewers – that the celebrity contestants often have a history of extensive dance training.

Strictly’s on tonight,” Rinder said, at the start of the Q&A portion of the talk. “Angela Rippon all the way. And Krishnan [Guru-Murthy].

“Although why do they do the weird thing where they say, ‘Oh, they’ve got no dance experience’?, I remember the first time I walked into the Strictly room it was like a scene from [the 1980 musical film] Fame. I thought, ‘This whole thing is you’re not supposed to have danced before.’

“You know, Nigel Harmon, he’s a kind, lovely person. But nevertheless, they are better than the professionals! It’s supposed to be a journey.”

Rinder went on to speak highly of his co-stars on Strictly, noting that they “really loved each other” and are still friends to this day.

Describing the moment he walked in to meet the other Strictly contestants with Olympian (and fellow contestant) Greg Rutherford, Rinder said: “We walked in, and thought, ‘What the hell is going on? Everybody can dance.’

Kai Widdrington & Angela Rippon on ‘Strictly'
— (BBC/Guy Levy)

“He walked up and he said, ‘Mate, we’ve made a terrible mistake.’”

Strictly Come Dancing airs on Saturdays on BBC One.

At the talk, Good Morning Britain presenter Rinder then joked about the “psychopathy” of TV executives.

“We’ve segued from Strictly stuff,” he quipped, “but I have seen more psychopathy and sociopathy – I mean that in the true sense, somebody who can deplete the happy molecules from a room – I’ve seen that more in the executive branches of television than I ever did sit across tables from people in Belmarsh [prison].

“That’s not a lie, it’s deadly true,” he added.

Elsewhere today at Henley, David Walliams revealed to an audience that he had been apprehended by Italian authorities while travelling to Venice and held in a cell for seven hours. Fighter pilot Nathan Gray, described as a “real-life Top Gun”, also opened up about the 2002 training accident that claimed the life of his decorated instructor.

Henley Literary Festival continues until 8 October.

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