Strictly Come Dancing judge Shirley Ballas promises to be 'feisty and fair'

image captionBallas was in a dance class when she found out she had been hired as a judge

New Strictly Come Dancing judge Shirley Ballas has said she will be "fun, firm, feisty and fair" when she takes over from Len Goodman.

Ballas, 56, said she fell to her knees when she was told she was the new judge - because she "couldn't believe it".

The 'Queen of Latin' said that while she "may look and come across as quite strict", she wants to give the celebrities "comments to inspire them".

But she promised she would be "honest and as forthright" on the BBC One show.

"If I ask [the celebrities] to do something and they don't deliver it the following week, I'm not going to tell them that it's okay," she said ahead of the programme's return on Saturday.

"I'm not that kind of judge. I will be expecting things from them and I hope that they will be expecting things from me, to be as honest and as forthright as I can [and] help them become the best dancer they can be."

This year's celebrities include pop stars Mollie King, Alexandra Burke and Aston Merrygold, along with comedians Susan Calman and Brian Conley, presenters Ruth Langsford, Simon Rimmer and Charlotte Hawkins, and Paralympian Jonnie Peacock.

Actors Chizzy Akudolu, Gemma Atkinson, Davood Ghadami and Joe McFadden are also taking part, with TV and radio personality Debbie McGee and Anglican vicar the Reverend Richard Coles completing the line-up.

image captionThe "class of 2017" includes three pop stars, a vicar and a Paralympian

Former Latin dance champion Ballas was in a dance class when she got the call telling her she had landed the job and immediately rang her son Mark, a professional dancer.

"As soon as he answered he said, 'You got it didn't you?' I didn't even have to say it out loud," she is quoted as saying in promotional material for Strictly's new series.

"Mark was the one who had encouraged me. He always said 'you can do this' and 'it's going to be an amazing journey'."

'Can't wait to get started'

After retiring from competitive dancing in 1996, Ballas became a coach to many top professional and amateur dancers and competition adjudicators.

The main appeal of doing Strictly Come Dancing, she said, is that it's not just about the dancers and celebrities.

"There could be young or old people out there who are watching and they might also be inspired to take up dancing. I find that so special.

"Being able to inspire people is a really big part of what I want to share on Strictly and I can't wait to get started."

image captionShirley Ballas joins Bruno Tonioli, Darcey Bussell and Craig Revel Horwood on the panel

Ballas was judged by Len Goodman when she started competing at the age of nine. She later trained with him as a dancer when she was a teenager.

"We have remained friends and at any dinner party we were at together, he was the life and soul of the party," she said of the 73-year-old, who stepped down as head judge after last year's series.

"Len always had great things to say about my dancing and I'm a big fan of his sense of humour and his insight into ballroom dancing. He played such an iconic role on Strictly and I know the viewers adored him."

Strictly Come Dancing's launch show is on 9 September on BBC One at 19:00 BST.

It will be the first edition to air since the death of Sir Bruce Forsyth, who co-hosted the programme with Tess Daly from 2004 to 2013.

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