Shirley Ballas reveals what she’ll miss most in Bruno Tonioli’s Strictly absence

Strictly's Head Judge talks to RadioTimes.com about Bruno Tonioli's absence from this year's judging panel.

Bruno Tonioli and Shirley Ballas

Last weekend saw the long-awaited return of Strictly Come Dancing, which marks a series of firsts this time around – from the exciting introduction of the show’s very first same-sex couple to the unfortunate absence of long-time judge Bruno Tonioli.

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Speaking ahead of the show’s launch to RadioTimes.com for The Big RT Interview, Head Judge Shirley Ballas revealed what she’ll miss most about Tonioli, who is unable to appear on Strictly in person this year due to COVID-related travel restrictions.

“First of all, I’ve known Bruno over 13, 14 years now and he is the most spectacular human being you can ever come across,” she said. “And everything that comes out of his mouth on my left is always sincere, genuine and from a good place.”

“I’m going to miss his wafting arms – although with social distancing, he would have had to have exceptionally long arms. But he will be missed for sure.”

When asked how she thinks the judging dynamic will work without Bruno, Shirley said that it “remains to be seen”.

“All I know is we have the most magnificent Craig on the end, you know, and we’ve got this bright bubble in the middle [Motsi Mabuse] and then we bounce off each other all three of us, so I’m not worried about it.”

“It will be nice to have Bruno back whenever he can make it and I know he will be sorely missed, but I know that three judges will belly up to the bar and they will give it all they’ve got to keep the enthusiasm alive,” she added.

Tonioli, who’s missing his first series of Strictly in 16 years, is unable to appear on Strictly in person this year as he’s currently jduging on Dancing with the Stars in the US and cannot fly back and forth between North America and the UK due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions.

However, the Italian dancer will be appearing remotely on the Sunday night Results show each week and “will be making his grand return to the show full time towards the end of the series”, the BBC has said.

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The Strictly producers recently revealed the Strictly Come Dancing line-up‘s first dances and songs ahead of this weekend’s show, with Jacqui Smith set to Foxtrot to Monty Python and Ranvir Singh taking on a Beyoncé number.

Shirley Ballas’ Big RT Interview arrives on RadioTimes.com this weekend. Check out what else is on with our TV Guide, or take a look at our new TV shows 2020 page to find out what’s airing this autumn and beyond.