5 telltale signs of simmering backstage feud between Strictly judges – from star’s slow clap & 'stink eye' to diva jibes | The Sun

THEY dressed as members of the Addams Family on Saturday night – and it seems the Strictly judges’ relationship is just as dysfunctional.

Rumours of a simmering feud between Craig Revel Horwood, Motsi Mabuse and Shirley Ballas were rife after spats between the trio during the live show.

Here body language expert Adrianne Carter shares five clues she spotted which suggest there’s tension in the air…

Eye rolls

During Sunday night’s results show, eagle-eyed viewers spotted Motsi roll her eyes at Craig during a discussion about Molly Rainford’s tango. 

The pair had previously shared a heated exchange after Craig gave the CBBC star a six, while other judges awarded her a nine. 


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Craig felt the dance was too choreographed and didn’t feel “reactionary” enough.

As he explained his score, Motsi visibly rolled her eyes before exclaiming “Oh Craig” as he finished speaking.

Adrianne says: “An eye roll is a classic expression of disrespect for what you just said. 

“It is a member of the contempt emotion family, and someone expresses it when they believe they are superior to the other person. 

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Motsi and Shirley have mirroring body language suggesting they're on the same pageCredit: BBC

“In this example, Motsi shows us how she really feels about Craig's scoring and she really doesn't agree.

"We see Motsi purse her lips, which is a sign of disapproval.

"Motsi and Shirley have a mirroring body language pose too, which tells us they are in harmony with each other on this subject."

Diva jibes

Earlier this month acid-tongued Craig branded Motsi a “diva” in an interview – and the South African judge appeared keen for revenge on Saturday night.

After making himself unpopular with the studio audience by criticising the lifts in Molly’s tango, Craig told the booing crowd to “shut up”. 

He then admitted he “loved it” and urged them to continue, before flicking his Morticia wig and declaring “I’m finished”.

As host Tess Daly came to Motsi, she let rip, clicking in his face while exclaiming, “Woooah, diva, what’s happening?” before dismissing Craig and Anton Du Beke’s comments to praise the couple’s dance.

Adrianne says: "The finger-pointing as Motsi lets rip comes across as rude and aggressive and can make the other person feel like they're being lectured or told off.

"In this instance, Motsi is scoring points over Craig and letting him know very obviously."

Adrianne suggests Craig’s slight shoulder shrug in response indicates he believes the label “diva” does not apply to him.

She adds: “He plays along, but his body language movements indicate that he is only doing so for the cameras.”

Slow clap and 'stink eye'

During Sunday night’s results show, Motsi appeared to ‘slow-clap’ Craig after he gushed over Tony Adams’ improvement from week one.

While his fellow judges enthusiastically applauded, Adrianne says Motsi’s muted reaction was a “token clap”.

“It appears to indicate that, while she does not want to agree, she actually reluctantly agrees,” she says. 

“It is a token clap because it is said by him who she doesn't want to agree with.

"Just before the clap we see Motsi look at Craig and it's not a friendly gaze – it's a hard-staring gaze, which we normally see when someone is looking at something irritating or annoying. I call it 'stink eye'.

"The smile she gives while doing the token clap is a typical deliberate smile – something we do to be socially acceptable, but it's not a genuine smile. It could be described as a token smile."

She adds: “Based on the interactions I've seen I'd be very surprised if there was genuine mutual respect and liking between Motsi and Craig.  

“Contempt is the coldest of emotions and is seen in both of them in various body language movements they make towards each other.”

Girls versus boys

Molly and her partner Carlos Gu well and truly divided the judges on Saturday night, with the two women singing their praises while Craig and Anton were more critical.

Motsi told the couple: “I don’t know what’s up with the boys, I don’t know what they’ve been watching, I don’t know where they’ve been, maybe it’s the costumes, because we girls, we loved it.”

Shirley clapped in approval, and both scored them a nine – as did Anton, despite having picked holes in their performance.

It’s not the first time Motsi and Shirley have stuck together; in week two they both spoke highly of Tony, after Craig branded his routine “stiff”.

Motsi told the ex-Arsenal ace: “Keep on going, don’t look at him, it’s OK,” while Shirley cheered in approval.

Adrianne observes: “Shirley has a dig at Craig by turning and talking directly to him in a confrontational manner. 

“We then see her gesture towards Motsi inclusively at 'we loved it…', excluding Craig from her comments and putting her and Motsi on the same side.

“We see Motsi react to Craig's scoring and it makes her angry – she lowers her head and her brows which are the classic signs of irritation and annoyance. She doesn't really try to hide it either.”

‘Headmistress Shirley’

In week two’s results show, Craig, Motsi and Anton all voted to save Matt Goss and his partner Nadiya Bychkova over Kaye Adams and Kai Widdrington.

However, when asked for her vote, Shirley said firmly that she “didn’t agree” with her fellow judges.

Adrianne says the head judge’s “head tilt and the stern face tell us very clearly that Shirley is not happy with the decision”. 

“Shirley's head tilts down at a low angle, which shows that she feels aggressive and dominant,” she says.

At one point during the show, Motsi referred to her companion as “Miss Shirley”, which Adrianne says felt like she was giving the head judge the “respect she feels she deserves”.

“In turn, Shirley applauds this by tapping her pen,” she adds.

Brewing tension

Last week it was claimed Motsi and Craig were locking horns backstage, with insiders claiming Craig was "unhappy" about comments Motsi made in her book, Finding My Own Rhythm.

In it she takes a swipe at Craig's best pal Bruno Tonioli – who left the show last year after 18 years.

Motsi wrote: "Every year I've done the show, I've never had the same panel.

"The first year, we had Bruno Tonioli. Then Bruno wasn't there. The third year, Anton du Beke was a judge.

"And the fourth year – who knows? We don't talk about Bruno!"

Motsi also made a pointed remark in her book when describing her so-called friendship with her Strictly co-stars.

Motsi – who was a judge on Let's Dance in her native Germany – wrote in her book: "In Germany, the panel on Let's Dance has been together without a change for 10 years and we're extremely close – we're friends and we hang out together.

"In the UK, everybody is very professional and we have a good working relationship."

Motsi shot Craig daggers at his low scores last week – knowing he'd called her a 'diva' in a recent interview – but it's all part of their acts on the panel

An insider told The Sun: "It's been tense between Craig and Motsi lately and the atmosphere hasn't been good backstage.

"They're both extremely professional and so are able to put aside any niggles during filming, but they are both feeling irritated.

"Motsi shot Craig daggers at his low scores last week – knowing he'd called her a 'diva' in a recent interview – but it's all part of their acts on the panel.

"Their issues stem from the release of Motsi's book last month.

"Craig wasn't happy about what Motsi said about Bruno who was a judge on the show for 18 years, and he's holding a grudge.

"He's a fiercely loyal person and is just defending Bruno after all those years working together. 

"He thinks Motsi is too big for her boots, having only joined Strictly four years ago.

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"She's been growing closer to head judge Shirley Ballas this series and spending more time as a twosome, but Motsi's comments in the book were tongue and cheek and she didn't want to upset either Craig or Bruno."

In response to The Sun’s story today about a brewing feud, a Strictly spokesperson said: “This story is completely untrue, Motsi and Craig adore each other.”

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