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Shirley Ballas reveals her connections to this year's Strictly Come Dancing stars

Shirley Ballas - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy

Shirley Ballas has revealed her surprise connections to this year's Strictly Come Dancing stars.

The Strictly Come Dancing line up was announced earlier this year with the fifteen celebs taking to the dancefloor for the first time in last Saturday's launch.

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And some of them were no strangers to head judge Shirley.

Speaking ahead of the first live show, she shared: "I know Dan Walker - I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with him. I know AJ - we did Cooking with The Stars together. I know Judi from Loose Women. I have bumped into several of the other contestants here and there, so I’m really familiar with a lot of the cast this year, which is great.

"I think it’s probably the creme de la creme of all casts that [producer] Sarah James has done. Brilliant work by Sarah James by the way."

Meanwhile there's been a change to the judging panel this year with former pro dancer Anton Du Beke joining Shirley, Motsi Mabuse and Craig Revel Horwood.

Anton is standing in for Bruno Tonioli who cannot take part this year due to ongoing travel restrictions.

Asked about the new addition, Shirley said; "I think he’s going to bring a lot of sparkle - he’ll have a lot of fun.

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"Of course his forte is ballroom dancing, so it will be interesting to see what he and I see together. Do we see the same thing? Are we going to critique the same thing? It’ll be interesting to hear his comments.

"I think he’ll bring a lot of fun and a lot of empathy to the celebrities when they come down the stairs and they’re about to be critiqued."

And talking about the other judges this year, Shirley added: "I love going in on a Saturday, going into my room and seeing all my friends - I love to see Motsi. She’s a few doors down and she always has that loud music blaring and dances down the corridors, I love her energy.

"Then we’ve got Craig who is just gorgeous, just gorgeous. He’s always got something positive to say behind the scenes."

Shirley added: "I love all of the behind the scenes people that make this show work. You see the judges, dancers and celebrities but without everyone else behind the scenes, the show would not work - it’s a well oiled machine. I love to see the same people year in and year out - everybody...the whole cast."

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Strictly Come Dancing returns this Saturday at 7PM on BBC One.

Photo: Shirley Ballas - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy

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