‘Strictly’s’ Shirley Ballas Weighs In On the Bruno Tonioli Problem

Getty Bruno Tonioli and Shirley Ballas

Ballroom dancer and “Strictly Come Dancing” judge Shirley Ballas has weighed in on the Bruno Tonioli versus Anton Du Beke problem and she offered up a solution while praising her colleagues.

Here is what Ballas thinks should be done.

For ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ Season 20, Ballas Thinks They Could Have 5 Judges

Longtime “Dancing With the Stars” judge Tonioli was also a longtime judge on the British counterpart, “Strictly Come Dancing.” He was on the judges’ panel from season one up until season 17. During season 18, he was a virtual guest judge since the pandemic travel restrictions prevented him from being in England to be an in-person full-time judge.

But for season 19, Tonioli was not asked back and was instead replaced by Anton Du Beke, a former professional dancer for “Strictly Come Dancing.” The question lately has been if Tonioli would be asked back to the show, especially in light of the fact that he was a part of the “Strictly Come Dancing” 2022 live tour that ran from January 20 to February 13. Unlike its U.S. counterpart, the “Strictly” live tour includes judges and Tonioli was asked to participate alongside fellow judges Shirley Ballas and Craig Revel Horwood.

On the red carpet for the Royal Television Society Awards on March 30, Ballas was asked about the situation at “Strictly Come Dancing” with Tonioli versus Du Beke as the fourth judge and she offered up a solution.

“I hope Anton stays, but we could have five seats,” Ballas told The Mirror.

The fifth judge she speaks of, in addition to Ballas, Horwood, Du Beke and Tonioli, is Motsi Mabuse, a South African professional dancer who competed as a pro on the German version of the show before becoming a judge there and later joining “Strictly Come Dancing.”

Ballas’ remarks come on the heels of Horwood seemingly changing his tune about Tonioli’s return. A February 2022 report from The Sun said that Horwood had been “a very, very vocal advocate for welcoming Bruno back” and that permanently replacing him with Du Beke would “ruffle” Horwood’s feathers.

But then in March 2022, Horwood told The Sun that he hopes Du Beke is on the judges’ panel for the 20th season.

“I was pleased they got him off the dance floor and then put him where he belongs. I hope he comes back next year. I loved it, absolutely,” said Horwood.

Ballas Has Nothing But Praise for Tonioli

In the same conversation with The Mirror, Ballas, who is the mother of former “Dancing With the Stars” professional dancer Mark Ballas and the ex-wife of former DWTS pro Corky Ballas, had nothing but nice things to say about Tonioli, calling him “a force to be reckoned with.”

“I just did the tour with Bruno and he was on point and on form,” said Ballas. “There is nobody like Bruno. He is a force to be reckoned with.”

She also said she hopes the “Strictly Come Dancing” executives lift the plexiglass screens between the judges that they’ve been using as part of the pandemic protocol.

“It would be lovely [to lose the screens], but we have a long three-and-a-half months to get through,” said Ballas.

“Strictly Come Dancing” returns in the fall for its 20th season. The BBC announced the professional lineup on March 31: Dianne Buswell, Nadiya Bychkova, Graziano Di Prima, Amy Dowden, Karen Hauer, Katya Jones, Neil Jones, Nikita Kuzmin, Cameron Lombard, Gorka Marquez, Luba Mushtuk, Giovanni Pernice, Jowita Przystal, Johannes Radebe, Kai Widdrington and Nancy Xu.

“We could not be more proud of the Strictly professional dancers and we are so happy to have so many returning for 2022,” said executive producer Sarah James in a statement. “The world-class skill and extraordinary care they bring to everything they do, from working with their celebrity partners to choreographing and performing remarkable and unforgettable routines, never ceases to amaze us. They really are the best in the business and we can’t wait to see what they bring to the Strictly ballroom for our twentieth fabulous series.”

“Dancing With the Stars” has not yet been renewed for season 31. If it is renewed, it will return in September 2022.

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