Shirley Ballas: why the new Strictly judge is already a master of the tabloid-catnip two-step

Len Goodman’s replacement, a Latin specialist, will need to contend with the show’s ‘curse’ – and comparisons to Arlene Phillips

Shirley Ballas
Keeeeep dancing ... Shirley Ballas. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock
Keeeeep dancing ... Shirley Ballas. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

Last modified on Wed 1 Jul 2020 12.55 EDT

Name: Shirley Ballas.

Age: 56.

Appearance: Va-va-voomy.

Shirley Ballas – is this the name of the eponymous protagonist of a new, slightly try-hard comedy series about a glamorous divorcee who moves from the city to the sticks to start again? No.

Oh. She’s the new judge on Strictly Come Dancing, replacing Len Goodman.

Speak to me of her credentials. She’s a charismatic professional dancer of 40 years’ standing, specialising in Latin dance.

¡Muy bueno! She’s also twice-divorced from previous dance partners and has a son who is a professional ballroom dancer on the US version of Strictly, Dancing With the Stars.

Excellent. Yes. Anyway, when asked before the launch of the new series of Strictly what she thought of the show’s “curse”

The one that breaks up marriages because people keep falling in love with their lithe dance partners? Yes, that one.

Thanks for clarifying. Continue. When asked about the curse, Ballas replied that she understood the allure, adding: “We need chemistry on the show.”

Well, she seems to have mastered the tabloid-catnip two-step already. A dancer dances.

I wonder how Arlene Phillips feels about Ballas’s appointment. Because she was dispensed with for what many felt were age-related reasons at 66 and has now been replaced by a similar-looking brunette woman of 56?

Yes. History does not yet record. However, Phillips said in May that “I don’t think I will ever know the answer” to the question of why she was sacked.

How are they going to handle the absence of that other lithe, once-brunette performer, Sir Bruce Forsyth, who has now gone to the great vaudeville theatre in the sky? He stepped down from hosting the show in 2014, but Strictly’s producers have said there will be a tribute to him in the opening episode.

And then the show must go on! It’s the way Brucie would have wanted it.

With Claudia Winkleman and Tess Daly? That’s definitely the way Brucie would have wanted it.

Do say: “Wonderful! I can’t wait to see how the new blood invigorates it all.”

Don’t say: “Maria Callas? Shirley Bassey? Who?”

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