SHIRLEY BALLAS has replaced her friend Len Goodman as head judge on BBC1’s Strictly Come Dancing show.
She’s known in the dancing business as the Queen Of Latin, and she’s been entering competitions since she was eight.
Shirley is no newcomer to TV having been a judge on America’s Dancing With The Stars. She lives with her son Mark.
Were you prepared for Saturday night fame?
I must confess, that bit of the job was surprising and took a little getting used to. Put it this way, I won’t be reading any more tabloid newspaper stories.
Were you comfortable replacing Len Goodman?
He’s my friend and I’m not trying to fill his shoes because he was iconic. I can only bring the best part of me to the show.
What style of dancing was your first love?
I initially trained in ballet, then tap, ballroom and Latin. I was best at ballroom, but at 17 I had a great partner, and Latin suddenly made sense. I started to specialise then.
Were you precocious as a young girl?
No. Far from it. I was raised by a single mother who did whatever she could so that I could go to dance classes. I just threw myself into it and worked really hard.
And is your mum still a fan of dance too?
Oh yes. She’s 80 and, at my recent birthday party, as soon as the music came on she threw off her shoes and started a jig. It was lovely to see.
Have you had enough time for relationships?
As soon as I heard the music at seven years old I was hooked. From then on the only time I have ever taken time off was when I had my son Mark. So, I’m really married to my ballroom world.
How do you switch off?
I love watching Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire movies, but rather than sit down with a DVD I’m usually out doing yoga to switch off. I’ve seen every theatre dance show there is, and I go to enjoy incredible talent not to criticise.
Are you enjoying giving out criticism?
When I started dancing my teacher was very strict so I try to be as firm on Strictly. I look for the fundamentals, making sure leg, feet and arms all have coordination. I think I am extremely fair, but I take no prisoners.
What drives you to get people to dance?
First of all it’s great exercise. It’s also a brilliant way to meet people and hear wonderful music, and everyone loves music, don’t they?
You have 24 hours left to live. How do you spend it?
I would go to the yoga studio and spend the whole 24 hours there doing exercise. Just a whole day of yoga. Can you tell I love it?