Strictly Come Dancing judge Shirley Ballas defends 2023 cast over dance experience

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Strictly's Shirley defends 2023 castRay Burmiston - BBC

Strictly Come Dancing's head judge Shirley Ballas has defended this year's cast members over their level of dance experience.

Prior to a new series, there is usually intense public scrutiny of at least some Strictly celebrity cast members' level of prior dance expertise.

This year, that scrutiny seems to have fallen on the likes of Layton Williams and Nigel Harman, who've previously danced in various West End roles, and Angela Scanlon, who was previously a member of the O'Shea Irish Dance Company.

shirley ballas ,strictly come dancing
Ray Burmiston - BBC

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But speaking to The Mirror, Shirley said she felt it's "unfair" to single anyone out before the first show has even aired – because the ballroom and Latin dances that Strictly contestants have to learn are usually totally different from anything the contestants have done before.

"I think it's very unfair at this point to single out anybody, because most children had a little bit of training," she said.

"If somebody goes to stage school for singing and acting, there's always normally a little bit of dance included. It might not be their forte. It's nothing like learning ballroom dancing. It's a total discipline all of its own."

Shirley also pointed out that even among professional dancers, there are differences between style and genre that take time to learn.

layton williams
Cameron Smith - Getty Images

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"If you take a jazz dancer, they dance on their own, they do their thing, unless they're in a group," she explained. "You take ballroom dancing, you really have to learn to dance with a partner – that's four arms, four legs, two heads, two quarters... you've got to be intertwined and working together."

Shirley's comments follow Layton confirming that he hasn't previously studied Latin or ballroom dancing, as had been rumoured.

"Lemme clear up this *fact* real quick. I had my 1st introduction to Ballroom and Latin class in rehearsals yesterday (along with the rest of the @bbcstrictly cast) and it was so much fun," he wrote on social media recently.

Meanwhile, Adam Thomas played down any suggestion that he would have an advantage over his Strictly castmates, thanks to his wife Caroline running a dance school.

"I don't know what I've got myself into, because I cannot dance to save my life – as you'll probably find out sooner or later," Adam said on Instagram earlier this month.

"But you know what? I have been wanting to do this show for so many years now, and I can't believe it's actually happening... I cannot wait to get on that dance floor and show you all how I cannot dance to save my life! But you know what? It's all about stepping outside your comfort zone, getting out there and doing your best – and having fun whilst doing it. And that is what I'm going to be doing."

Strictly Come Dancing airs on BBC One, while spin-off Strictly: It Takes Two airs on BBC Two. Both shows are available to stream on BBC iPlayer.

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