Strictly Come Dancing: Shirley in, Natalie out, who's touring and rumours

Strictly Come Dancing has finally announced Len’s replacement – and fans are ecstatic with the choice of the ‘Queen of Latin’ Shirley Ballas.

To be fair, I didn’t give them much choice other than overjoyed type options …

I think the @SCD_Support group summed it up by being all of those plus doing a happy dance, which was very neglectful of me to omit from the choices.

I’m sure I can speak for many of us who – while we get that it’s entertainment – didn’t want the show dumbing down by adding a judge with zero ballroom and Latin credentials, meaning carte blanche for every dance to be a showdance.

By choosing Shirley, who “was a complete natural” in auditions apparently, the producers sent a clear message that the show will retain its roots in traditional ballroom.

Shirley will take Len’s Head Judge slot, casting the decisive vote in the event of a tie in the dance off, ensuring that the technically better dancer will continue in the competition. I might not always agree with it, but it is the fairest way.

So for the casual observers, who is Shirley Ballas?

  • Originally from Wallasey, Shirley is a former British Open To The World champion, European, German, United Kingdom, United States and International Latin American champion.
  • Acclaimed and respected international coach to many top professional and amateur dancers
  • Highly renowned sought-after adjudicator for ballroom and Latin American competitions judging all around the world.
  • Nicknamed the Queen of Latin, a multiple world Latin champion and British National Champion.
  • Won nearly every major title she competed in worldwide by the age of 21.
  • With two different partners, reached the finals of the British Open To The World Latin American championships in Blackpool an impressive 17 times.
  • The youngest ever female to reach the British Open To The World dance championship finals.
  • Mother to Mark Ballas, musician, Broadway star, professional dancer and two time winner of Dancing With The Stars; Guardian to multiple DWTS winners Derek and Julianne Hough during their childhood in London.

To see her in action, a Shirley superfan put together a montage to celebrate her:

And Shirley says: “I am so excited and over the moon to have been given this wonderful opportunity. I can’t wait to get into 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!”

Bruno, Craig and Darcey all look forward to Shirley joining them on the panel – but naturally, Anton is a bit depressed. He’d been in the frame along with Brendan Cole, Karen Hardy and Gary Edwards, but it seems he may be standing in front of the judges table a little longer.

In other Strictly news, we say farewell to the lovely Natalie Lowe, who has been with the Strictly family for seven series. Highlights included taking Ricky Whittle to the final in her first year, with some stunning choreography. Their quickstep was an absolute joy. But what made her shine was taking non dancing sportsman, completely out of their comfort zone, and turning them into dancers.

She will be greatly missed – on TV at any rate. Happily, you can see her live with two former champions, Jay McGuinness and Louis Smith, in the forthcoming show Rip It Up.

Two other former Strictly professionals have also teamed up for a series of shows: Kristina Rihanoff and Tristan MacManus are touring here and in Ireland, while Neil and Katya Jones, along with Robin Windsor are also currently on tour with Keep Dancing (coming to a theatre near me soon, yay!). And if you’re a Giovanni Pernice fan, he’s on tour too! Find out more @GiovanniTour17

Onto the rumours then and the usual reality show *spits* names are coming up. However, it seems cheeky Olly Murs, seriously fit Paula Radcliffe and the scatty and loveable Scarlett Moffatt (I let her off the ‘reality show’ inclusion because she’s scatty and loveable) are being bandied about.  Beware though Scarlett – your impressive 600 odd medal haul from your childhood dancing will inevitably lead to cheat accusations.

Strictly Come Dancing returns for its 15th series this autumn on BBC One. *Orders in more chocolate*