Shirley Ballas has been confirmed as Strictly Come Dancing’s new Head Judge.
After months of speculation, the British-born Ballroom and Latin dancer has beaten the likes of Anton Du Beke, Karen Hardy and Brendan Cole to the top job, replacing Len Goodman on the panel.
“I am so excited and over the moon to have been given this wonderful opportunity,” commented Ballas. “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!”
Nicknamed the ‘Queen of Latin’, she is one of the most decorated professional dancers in the world but retired from competitive dancing in 1996.
As well as being a renowned adjudicator for Ballroom and Latin American competitions, judging all around the world, she is also the mother to two-time Dancing with the Stars winner Mark Ballas.
Speaking about Ballas joining the BBC1 show, 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.”
Meanwhile, Craig Revel Horwood added that it was “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, who said he knows Ballas “well”, also described her as “an incredible Latin dancer and trainer and I am sure she will be a great addition to the Strictly team.”
Strictly’s Executive Producer Louise Rainbow 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.”
Charlotte Moore, BBC’s Director of Content, commented: “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!”
In July 2016, former head judge Len Goodman announced he would be quitting Strictly. He had appeared on the show since it first started on BBC1 in 2004 and suggested that his advancing years were a factor in his decision to leave.
He said: “In 2004, I was asked to take part in a brand new BBC Saturday night show and who would have thought me, old Len Goodman, would still be part of this amazing series more than 10 years on.
“This adventure began when I was 60 and now that I’ve reached my 70s, I’ve decided after this year it’s time to hand the role of Head Judge to someone else. It is an honour being part of the wonderful Strictly Come Dancing family and I’m looking forward to my last series very much and to whatever comes next.”
Strictly Come Dancing will return this autumn on BBC1.