Shirley Ballas admits her first audition for Strictly was an absolute disaster
Shirley Ballas says that she thinks new judge Anton Du Beke will "bring a lot of sparkle" to his judging role on Strictly Come Dancing.
Like Du Beke, who has been a professional dancer on the show since it began in 2004, Ballas is a professional ballroom dancer and she is excited to see what critiques they will have in store for the contestants.
"Of course his forte is ballroom dancing, so it will be interesting to see what he and I see together," said Ballas.
"Do we see the same thing? Are we going to critique the same thing? It’ll be interesting to hear his comments.
"I think he’ll bring a lot of fun and a lot of empathy to the celebrities when they come down the stairs and they’re about to be critiqued."
Ballas, 61, joined Strictly Come Dancing in 2017, replacing Len Goodman on the judging panel.
However, ahead of the first Strictly Come Dancing live show on Saturday, Ballas has admitted that she had to audition for her judging role twice after her first audition was "an absolute disaster", but says that the day she got the job was one of her greatest Strictly memories.
Ballas said: "My greatest memory from Strictly so far has to be the day I got the job. That is a memory I will never forget.
"The audition was an absolute disaster… I got to do it twice, but the second one was better. To get the actual call to say ‘we think that you would be good for the job’, and at 57 who would have thought?
"Now I’m going into my fifth series and I love it more than life itself."
She added: "I just love every single second of the music, the atmosphere, the celebrities, the professionals (who are the best in the world by the way) and everybody who helps make that show run."
Going into her fifth series, Ballas will join Craig Revel Horwood, Motsi Mabuse and Anton Du Beke, who is standing in for Bruno Tionoli, on the judging panel for the 2021 competition.
Ballas revealed that when she visits the Strictly studios on a Saturday ahead of the live shows, she loves the energy on set and that she can always expect great music in the hallway and positivity from her fellow judges.
"I love to see Motsi. She’s a few doors down and she always has that loud music blaring and dances down the corridors, I love her energy," she said.
"Then we’ve got Craig who is just gorgeous, just gorgeous. He’s always got something positive to say behind the scenes, and this year we’ve got Anton Du Beke – so I'm really excited about seeing my fellow judges.
"I love all of the behind the scenes people that make this show work. You see the judges, dancers and celebrities but without everyone else behind the scenes, the show would not work – it’s a well oiled machine. I love to see the same people year in and year out – everybody… the whole cast."
Taking part in Strictly this year are celebrities including McFly's Tom Fletcher, actress Nina Wadia and chef John Waite.
This year's contestants also include television presenter and journalist Dan Stevens, who Ballas reveals she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with, and fellow Cooking with the Stars contestant AJ, with Ballas describing the celebrity contestant line-up as "probably the creme de la creme of all casts".
She added she is "so tremendously excited", saying: "I absolutely cannot wait. One, to be going back to work, two, to see all my friends, and three, to watch the journey of this spectacular line-up of celebrities."
Looking back on previous series, Ballas says her stand out moments have included Ed Balls dancing to Gangnam Style and contestants such as Reverend Coles, Ann Widdecombe, Kevin Fletcher and Bill Bailey.
"I loved the Reverend Coles when he came down in the cloud – I thought he was very brave. Gangnam Style with Ed Balls was brilliant!
"Another one was Ann Widdecombe – you don’t always have to be the best dancer to have the most memorable numbers. Good or bad… are you memorable? That is the question.
"Kelvin Fletcher with his Samba when he came out…there are so many others. Bill Bailey when he did rock of the ages with the rock music and tango – that was a standout moment."
Asked about what makes Strictly contestants come back to the show year on year, Ballas said, "They love all of the baubles, the bangles, the beads – I say that every year but it’s true.
"The lights, the camera, the action, the dresses, the different types of dances that they do, the camaraderie, the stories – I think the show hits all sorts of emotions, and it goes across every age – from two all the way up to grandpa and grandma. It’s got something for everybody."
Strictly kicks off on Saturday night on BBC One
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