New Strictly Come Dancing judge Shirley Ballas has Blackpool pedigree

New Strictly Come Dancing head judge Shirley Ballas
New Strictly Come Dancing head judge Shirley Ballas
0
Have your say

Popular BBC show Strictly Come Dancing waltzes back onto our TV screens tonight.

The first live episode of the series, which sees celebrities paired up with pro dancers as they compete for the famous glitter ball trophy, will see Shirley Ballas deliver her first verdicts as the new head judge.

Davood Ghadami and Nadiya Bychkova rehearse ahead of the first live show of the series

Davood Ghadami and Nadiya Bychkova rehearse ahead of the first live show of the series

But when the show heads back to Blackpool in November, it will not be the Queen of Latin's first time in the resort.

She is no stranger to the Fylde coast, having reached the finals of the British Open To The World in Blackpool 17 times.

The three-time Latin American champion at the competition is the only person to have won it with two different partners, and remains the youngest ever female to reach its finals.

The 57-year-old is also a former European, German, United Kingdom, United States and international Latin American champion.

Anton Du Beke and Ruth Langsford during rehearsals for Strictly Come Dancing, which starts on Saturday evening on BBC One

Anton Du Beke and Ruth Langsford during rehearsals for Strictly Come Dancing, which starts on Saturday evening on BBC One

After retiring from competitive dancing in 1996, Ballas 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.

She also mentored 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.

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

Several of the show's 14 previous series have seen one episode of Strictly Come Dancing filmed live at the Tower Ballroom.

Aston Merrygold and Janette Manrara practising their moves

Aston Merrygold and Janette Manrara practising their moves

This year, the show is coming to Blackpool on November 18.

Tonight live show starts at 6.25pm on BBC One.