Arlene Phillips reveals she turned down 'Strictly Come Dancing' judge role three times

Arlene Phillips turned down the 'Strictly' judge role three times. (PA)
Arlene Phillips turned down the Strictly judge role three times. (PA)

Arlene Phillips has revealed she turned down the role of judge on Strictly Come Dancing three times before finally being persuaded to join.

The renowned choreographer sat on the judging panel of the hit celebrity dance show when it launched in 2004.

She was replaced in 2009 by former winner Alesha Dixon, who is 35 years her junior, in a move that sparked a public outcry over alleged BBC ageism.

Now Phillips, 78, has revealed to the Celebrity Search Engine podcast that she was initially hesitant to take part in the show at all.

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She told host Abbie McCarty: "I said no three times.

"So I went to do this pilot, and Len Goodman was there, there was another kind of judge stand-in person, and there were some of the dancers we know, Anton [du Beke] was there, Brendan [Cole] was there… it felt like chaos!

Judges, (left-right) Craig Revel Hallwood, Arlene Phillips and Len Goodman during the final dress rehearsal for the first ever tour of Strictly Come Dancing Live! at the SECC in Finnieston, Glasgow.
Arlene Phillips was one of the original Strictly judges, along with Craig Revel Hallwood and Len Goodman. (PA)

"Then Len turned to me and he said, 'I don't know about this, are you going to do it?', and I said, 'I don't know, are you?' and he said, 'I'll do it if you do it!'

"And then we both agreed to do it!"

Goodman, 77, departed in 2016, and original judges Craig Revel Horwood and Bruno Tonioli currently sit alongside choreographer dance teacher Shirley Ballas, 60, and dancer Motsi Mabuse, 40.

Phillips said the show "was one of the most exciting things I've done in my life".

But the choreographer – who has worked on West End shows and films including the 1982 musical movie production of Annie – last year called the BBC's handling of her replacement in 2009 "shocking".

Arlene Phillips (left) joins in with a group of dancers as they perform during a protest calling for more funding for the performing arts in Parliament Square, London.
Arlene Phillips has been campaigning for more funding for the performing arts during the coronavirus pandemic. (PA)

She revealed she had obtained the internal BBC report into her being dropped from Strictly, under the Freedom of Information Act.

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Phillips said: "I’ve got the Freedom of Information and looking at the chaotic way that led up to it was shocking.

"Most is redacted. There’s some information there and even that’s chaotic, let alone what was redacted from the report.

"Nowadays, they could have given me the chance to resign or build a story around it.

"I didn’t have a contract that automatically rolled on to the next year, but I think it was handled so poorly.

"You then never forget those moments of turmoil."

Watch: Arlene Phillips discuss getting vaccinated against COVID-19