Shirley Ballas discusses balancing Strictly and teaching dance
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Last month, Strictly Come Dancing fans took to social media speculating that Shirley Ballas, 62, had a personal gripe with Fleur East, 35, which was affecting her judging on the show. At the TV Choice Awards, Shirley vehemently denied these rumours and defended her “constructive criticism” of the radio star.
Earlier in the competition, Fleur found herself in a shock bottom-two selection against DJ Richie Anderson, 35.
The judges’ scores had placed Fleur sixth on the leaderboard, and Richie eighth out of 14 competitors.
Ultimately, the audience vote pitted the two radio presenters against each other, with judges Craig Revel Horwood, Anton Du Beke and Motsi Mabuse all voting to save Fleur.
Although it would not affect the outcome, head judge Shirley revealed she would have voted to save Richie.
This was enough for fans to decide Shirley and Fleur must have been feuding and that the judges’ decision to vote for Richie was more personal than professional.
At the TV Choice Awards on Monday evening, Shirley told The Sun that the feud rumours were “a load of rubbish”.
She said: “What I love about Fleur is you could see talent from the beginning.
“I’ve known the competitive boys and girls on the show for so many years and when I give constructive feedback they’re making notes and taking it on board and look at that Samba.”
In the most recent results show, Shirley spoke about her “tough” criticism for Fleur in earlier weeks.
She said: “I know and I heard that she keeps notes and she studies, she’s really, really been listening to the judges.”
The judge also applauded Fleur’s professional partner Vito Coppola, saying the Samba was “choreographed beautifully”.
Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk at the TV Choice Awards, Shirley declared that her job on Strictly is simply to give “constructive criticism” and hope the aspiring dancers can take on the challenge.
She also praised the singer, noting that Fleur’s progress is the epitome of constructive criticism being put into practice.
She said: “She took that criticism so well and look at the performance she turned in this week.
“I’ve never seen a Samba like that in my life from anybody, whether it be Dancing With The Stars or Strictly or any shows around the world, like that lady did.
“To all the people out there: constructive criticism pays.”
Fleur’s Samba routine earned the radio presenter a near-perfect score of 39 out of 40.
While this is Fleur’s highest score of the series, it also cemented her place in Blackpool as the competition heads North this weekend.
Alongside Fleur is Ellie Taylor, Hamza Yassin, Helen Skelton, Kym Marsh, Molly Rainford, Tyler West and Will Mellor.
Strictly Come Dancing continues on Saturday on BBC One at 7:45pm.
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