Belfast Telegraph

Strictly's new head judge - who is Shirley Ballas?

The decorated dancer will join the judging panel in series 15.

Strictly Come Dancing has named its new head judge as Shirley Ballas, a renowned star of the dance world who is dubbed the Queen of Latin.

Shirley, 56, has plenty of prestigious titles under her belt as well as experience mentoring three professionals from US series Dancing With The Stars – her son Mark Ballas, and American siblings Julianne and Derek Hough, who she was guardian to when they were sent to London as children to study with her.

The ballroom and Latin dancer and international coach was born in Wallasey and became one of the most decorated professional dancers in the world.

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She is a former British Open To The World champion, as well as a European, German, United Kingdom, United States and International Latin American Champion.

Shirley was a three-time Latin American Champion at the British Open To The World in Blackpool, where she reached the finals 17 times, is the only person ever to have won the contest with two different partners, and remains the youngest ever female to reach its finals.

She is also a 10-time United States Latin American Champion, multiple-times British National Champion, and by the age of 21 had won nearly every major title she competed in worldwide.

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Julianne Hough arrives at the European premiere of 'Rock of Ages', at the Odeon, in Leicester Square, central London.

After retiring from competitive dancing in 1996, Shirley became an acclaimed and respected international coach to many top professional and amateur dancers as well as a sought-after judge for ballroom and Latin American competitions around the world.

Her son Mark, a musician, Broadway star and professional dancer, has won Dancing With The Stars twice and Shirley still counts the Houghs, who have won the US series eight times between them, as part of her family.

Shirley will begin work on the 15th series of Strictly Come Dancing later this year, and will have the deciding vote as head judge.

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