Take a look back at Shirley Ballas' impressive career - and watch her dance!

Strictly’s head judge Shirley Ballas is one of the world’s most renowned and decorated professional dancers, and uses her wisdom to coach celebrity contestants on the BBC show.

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But when did the Queen of Latin start dancing and what did she achieve in her career? Take a look back at her early dancing days and watch her incredible Rumba skills!

WATCH: Shirley Ballas dancing the Rumba in a competition

When did Shirley start dancing?

Born and raised in Wallasey, Merseyside, Shirley began dancing at the age of seven when she attended a lesson at a local hall. She started dancing competitively from the age of eight, and when she was 15, she moved to North Yorkshire to partner British Ballroom Champion Nigel Tiffany.

Two years later, their dancing partnership ended and she began competing with Sammy Stopford, with whom she was married to for five years.

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By the time she was 21, Shirley had won nearly every major title she competed in and still remains the only person to have ever won the British Open to the World Latin American Championships in Blackpool with two different partners. As well as this, she holds the title of the youngest ever female to reach the British Open to the World Dance Championship finals.

A young Shirley Ballas
A young Shirley Ballas

Shirley with her dance teacher Margaret Redmond and first dance partner David Fleet

Over the course of her career, Shirley has won several championship titles, making her a former British Open to the World Champion, as well as European, German, UK, USA and International Latin American Champion.

While partnered with ex-husband Corky Ballas, whom she married in 1985, the pair won the Professional Latin at Blackpool Dance Festival in both 1995 and 1996.

When did Shirley retire from dancing?

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Shirley retired from competitive dancing in 1996 and has since become a highly acclaimed international coach as well as one of the most sought-after Ballroom and Latin American competition judges in the world.

Shirley and Corky Ballas dancing together
Shirley and Corky Ballas dancing together

Shirley dancing with Corky Ballas

When did Shirley join Strictly?

Shirley joined the popular dancing show in 2017, taking over from Len Goodman as head judge. She judges alongside Motsi Mabuse, Craig Revel-Horwood, and former pro dancer Anton Du Beke.


Shirley joined the show in 2017

Before joining the show, Shirley spoke about her approach to judging. She said:  "It's all about the four F's; fun, firm, feisty and fair. I may look and come across as quite strict, but I want the celebrities to know that when they are stood in front of me my heart will be pumping a thousand miles an hour for them in that moment and I'll want to give them comments to inspire them."

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