Strictly Come Dancing host Claudia Winkelman has been secretly learning sign language so that she can bitch about the judges with Rose Ayling-Ellis.

Rose, 27, who plays Frankie Lewis in EastEnders, has wowed viewers with her dance skills and is the show's first deaf contestant.

Claudia, 49, said: “We have all done awareness courses, I’m trying to learn as much sign language as possible – not necessarily to do on screen, but for when I’m communicating with her off air.

“The first thing I wanted to learn – although I haven’t needed to use it yet – was how to say ‘The judges are horrid.’

“But it’s really interesting to find out – for example, she finds it difficult to train when it’s really raining because it messes with the vibrations in her chest.

“I said, ‘What do they do in schools? What do people do at work?’ I had no idea.

“But the way that in the beginning she would always have to see (partner) Gio’s face but now she can dance without seeing his face? She’s incredible.”

This year’s Strictly also features the first all-male couple in former Great British Bake Off winner John Whaite and pro dancer Johannes Radebe.

Claudia insists that the coupling and Rose’s participation just shows how much the Strictly team is doing to ensure groups in British society are represented on the show.

She told The Big Issue magazine: “Strictly decided a while ago to try and widen who was doing it. Because representation is everything.

“John and Johannes are phenomenal. And he is mesmerised by dance, that boy. He will continue to dance. Strictly has been the beginning of the journey but this is not where it ends.

“So, do I think it is important that it happened? Yes. Am I proud to work on such a show? Absolutely. Do I hope representation will continue in every are of telly, or radio, or whatever we do? Yes. It just feels now that’s just how it is. And it has to be.”

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