Shirley Ballas, the British-born Ballroom and Latin dancer and international coach, has been officially announced as the new judge on BBC One’s Strictly Come Dancing.
Originally from Wallasey, Shirley is a former 'British Open to the World' Champion, European, German, United Kingdom, United States and International Latin American Champion.
She retired from competitive dancing in 1996. Shirley is now an acclaimed and respected international coach to many of the top professional and amateur dancers as well as a highly renowned sought-after adjudicator for Ballroom and Latin American competitions judging all around the world.
Shirley is mother to Mark Ballas, the musician, Broadway star, professional dancer and two-time winner on Dancing with the Stars in the US. Shirley was also guardian to professional dancers Julianne and Derek Hough during their childhood in London. The two-time and six-time winners of Dancing with the Stars respectively are still part of her family to this day.
As well as replacing Len's spot on the panel, Shirley will also take over his role as Head Judge and will have the casting vote in the dance-off.
Shirley Ballas said: “I am so excited and over the moon to have been given this wonderful opportunity. I can’t wait to get in to the ballroom and be part of the incredible and respected judging panel. Strictly is so loved by the British public, I have always been a massive fan. I just can’t wait!"
The BBC has also confirmed that Darcey Bussell, Craig Revel Horwood and Bruno Tonioli will all be back this year.
Darcey Bussell said: “I look forward to meeting Shirley and welcoming her to our Strictly team. Her years of experience in Ballroom and Latin dancing are impressive and I’m sure she will be a great addition to our judging panel.”
Craig Revel Horwood commented: “Fantastic news that Shirley will be joining me and the other judges on the panel. I look forward to working with her on the next series of Strictly!”
Bruno Tonioli added: "I know Shirley well - she is an incredible Latin dancer and trainer and I am sure she will be a great addition to the Strictly team.”
Charlotte Moore, Director of BBC Content said today: “Len’s are big shoes to fill, but the ‘Queen of Latin’ is the ideal new Strictly judge. Shirley Ballas is a British ballroom expert whose credentials speak for themselves; she’s going to be a fabulous addition to the best judging panel in showbiz!”
Louise Rainbow, Executive Producer of Strictly Come Dancing added: “I am thrilled that Shirley has agreed to join our judging panel. The calibre of applicants for this role was exceptional but with her wealth of experience as a World Champion dancer, teacher and judge, she is the perfect fit for Strictly.”
Strictly Come Dancing returns for its 15th series this Saturday on BBC One.