After months of speculation, ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ has at least revealed who is to replace Len Goodman as the panel’s head judge – and they’ve picked from the world of dance rather than from the world of celebrity.

Shirley Ballas, a former champion ballroom dancer who is nicknamed ‘The Queen of Latin’, is not exactly a household name, but it is she who is to step in when ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ returns later this year. A respected figure in the dance industry as a coach and as a judge, Ballas retired from dancing competitively in 1996.

Born in Wallasey, Merseyside in 1961, she will replace the head judge spot vacated by Len Goodman, who stepped down from the role after 12 years and 14 series on the BBC’s perennial Saturday night ratings winner.

Taking to her Instagram account on Tuesday (May 9th) when the announcement was made, Ballas said she was “over the moon” to be offered the job. “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!”

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While a professional dancer had always been mooted for the vacancy, most speculation had centred around former ‘Strictly’ pro dancers Anton du Beke, Brendan Cole and Karen Hardy, with some suggesting that Arlene Phillips, a former judge on ‘Strictly’ when it started more than a decade ago, would be returning.

Ballas will join fellow judges Bruno Tonioli, Darcey Bussell and Craig Revel Horwood when the 15th series of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ begins on BBC1 in September.

Releasing their own statements, her future colleague Bussell said: “Her years of experience in ballroom and Latin dancing are impressive and I’m sure she will be a great addition to our judging panel.” Bruno Tonioli said: “I know Shirley well – she is an incredible Latin dancer and trainer and I am sure she will be a great addition to the ‘Strictly’ team.”

The director of BBC Content, Charlotte Moore, said: “Len’s are big shoes to fill, but the Queen of Latin is the ideal new ‘Strictly’ judge. Shirley Ballas is a British ballroom expert whose credentials speak for themselves; she’s going to be a fabulous addition to the best judging panel in showbiz.”

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