Arlene Phillips makes Strictly Come Dancing return nine years after she was dropped from judging panel

Original Strictly judge Arlene Phillips will make her return to the show on Sunday night

Arlene Phillips (Getty)

Arlene Phillips’ departure from Strictly Come Dancing, which saw her replaced by the significantly younger and less experienced Alesha Dixon, sparked an ageism row in 2009.

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But nearly a decade after she left the dancing contest, Phillips, 75, is set to return to Sunday night’s Strictly results show.

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The dance expert has choreographed a routine starring the Strictly pros and disabled and non-disabled dance group Candoco to David Bowie’s Life on Mars.

Phillips, who is currently rehearsing with her troop at Elstree Studios, has described it as a “difficult” decision to return.

“I did this because this is where my heart lies,” she said. “I didn’t do this about resolving anything with Strictly.”

She added to The Sun, “Was it hard for me to say yes? I’ve got to tell you, it was really hard.”

Although Phillips will be behind the impressive routine that will be broadcast on Sunday night’s result show, it is not yet certain whether Strictly fans will catch a glimpse of her in person, as she is in two minds about watching the show in the audience on Saturday night.

“I’m not sure because I am supposed to be at an event anyway that day,” she said.

“But I am not sure, at the moment I haven’t replaced myself. So of course it would be very emotional to be there in the studio.”

Alesha Dixon on Britain's Got Talent

There was significant backlash in 2009 when Dixon, who was 30 at the time, was announced as Phillips’ replacement – so much so that the-then Minister for Women and Equality, Harriet Harman, said she believed Phillips’ dismissal from the panel was due to age discrimination.

The BBC have strongly and consistently denied that age was a factor behind Phillips leaving the show.

However, Phillips herself is still none the wiser why she was dropped from the judging line-up.

Speaking in an interview last year, she explained, “I’ve never really been given a real reason [as to why I was axed]. I don’t think I will ever know the answer.”

Dixon left Strictly in 2012 for ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent, to be replaced by Darcey Bussell.

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Strictly Come Dancing continues Saturday at 6:50pm on BBC One


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