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Bussell dances on to Strictly panel

Former ballerina Darcey Bussell has spoken of her excitement after signing as the new judge for BBC1's Strictly Come Dancing.

The ex-principal dancer for the Royal Ballet has been confirmed to replace Alesha Dixon, who quit the show earlier this year. Bussell, 42, was the best-known face in ballet for many years and has previously been a guest panellist on Strictly.

She said: "I had such a lovely experience in 2009, when I was a guest judge, that coming on board now feels very natural. Strictly combines quality dance and great entertainment, which is such a positive for everybody involved. I am very excited and really looking forward to being part of the Strictly team."

Bussell is also well-known to young fans through her series of children's books, The Magic Ballerina. She retired from ballet five years ago with a performance at the Royal Opera House broadcast live on BBC2.

But she has continued to perform, notably with her theatre tour alongside singer Katherine Jenkins, Viva La Diva. She even took to the dance-floor when she appeared on Strictly in 2009, performing a jive with pro dancer Ian Waite.

Bussell will join judges Bruno Tonioli, Craig Revel Horwood and Len Goodman. Dixon quit the show after being lured by Simon Cowell to join the panel for ITV's Britain's Got Talent. Bussell joined the Royal Ballet in 1988 and went on to perform as a guest artist with leading international companies such as the New York City Ballet.

BBC1 controller Danny Cohen said: "Strictly Come Dancing is a real jewel in BBC1's crown and I can think of no one better to join our Strictly judging panel than Darcey, the UK's queen of ballet.

"Darcey has all the poise and glamour along with the experience and credentials to deliver meaningful and insightful critiques of our couples' performances. She's a huge fan of the show and will be a fantastic addition to the Strictly family."

The BBC's head of in-house entertainment, Katie Taylor, said: "I know she will sparkle in our ballroom."

At one stage there had been speculation that 68-year-old choreographer Arlene Phillips - who was axed from the programme in 2009, fuelling an ageism row - could stage a return to the show.

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