The 58-year-old, who is best known as the judging panel’s resident “Mr Nasty” on BBC’s popular dance competition, began his career as a dancer in Melbourne before moving to London to dance professionally and work as a choreographer.
Before then, however, the young Horwood tried out many jobs. Aged 16, and living in his home nation of Australia, Horwood was training as a camera operator at a TV station when an older male colleague began to pursue him.
In the “business arrangement”, the man, who was in his 40s, took Horwood on a six-week trip to see shows in New York and London and paid for his dance classes. In return, the pair had a sexual relationship.
Speaking in a new interview, Horwood was asked if he’d reconsidered the “relationship” he had with the man following widespread public discussions about power dynamics and consent in relationships. The age of consent varies from 16 to 17 in different states.
“No, I didn’t feel it was wrong,” he told The Guardian. “For me, it was a relationship in that way. It wasn’t rent on the corner of the street. It was a sugar daddy relationship, simple as.”
Questioned if he’d felt the relationship was “exploitative”, Horwood said: “No. I got something from it and he got something from it, and then we went our separate ways.
“It could have been worse, I suppose. He was supportive of everything I was doing, dance-wise, and getting me through difficult times. Someone I could talk to – so for me, it was a learning experience, it taught me a lot and it wasn’t abusive in any way.”
Horwood first discussed the arrangement in his 2008 memoir All Balls and Glitter, where he referred to the man as Mr X.
“I wasn’t standing on street corners touting for trade but I did accept money from this man. He was a sugar daddy I suppose. We struck a deal and decided terms.
“He knew I didn’t love him or even find him attractive but he got what he wanted and I got away from Ballarat. I don’t regret it because it helped me to grow up… I got to see the world and paid for it in the only way I could, so I didn’t owe anyone anything.”
Strictly Come Dancing returns Sunday 16 September at 6.35pm on BBC One.