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Strictly's Shirley Ballas: Why we sent Chris home, the royal judge I'd love to see, and what will make this year's final so tough

Strictly Come Dancing's head judge shares her semi-final insights...

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The Strictly Come Dancing semi-final on Saturday made for an exciting evening, with the four remaining couples all tasked with learning two new dances. That meant double the fun for viewers, but double the work for the celebrities, who all poured their heart and soul into their performances. One couple had to leave on Sunday, though, and judges chose to save TV presenter Karim Zeroual and his partner Amy Dowden, sending comedian Chris Ramsey and Karen Hauer home. HELLO!'s exclusive columnist, head judge Shirley Ballas, was at the centre of the action, and tells us what she thought of the dances and the drama, as well as sharing what the remaining couples need to do to be in with a chance of lifting that glitterball trophy…

Shirley's column

I wasn't surprised to see Chris in the dance-off and I don't think he was surprised, either. He thought he was going to go out in week two, but he went from being a complete beginner to the semi-final which shows anything is possible if you dare to believe. I was extremely proud of him, I think he's an example for everybody. He was kind, he was clapping for the other couples, and he's been like that throughout the competition. I know Craig gave his Rumba a four, but I liked the emotional expression, I thought it was quite moving and that's as important as technique. It just didn't have enough content. Both couples performed really well in the dance-off but there really wasn't a comparison between Chris and Karim, Karim had to be saved and all the judges agreed on that.

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He was second on the leader board so I'm not sure why the public isn't voting for him, he's an amazing dancer and Amy is an amazing teacher. He looked a little upset to be there again but he has a strong mind, so he pulled it together and he did well. Craig said his Argentine Tango was too aggressive, but I thought it was very good. I think his American Smooth would have been better without the lifts, with his height and size it just doesn't work. Amy should have had a completely vertical back and she was leaning forward, which put pressure on his neck. The couples sometimes put too much pressure on themselves to do something impressive when they should keep it simple.

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MORE: Chris Ramsey is the latest celebrity to be voted off Strictly

All of them had to do two dances this week so they've all done extremely well. It's really hard for beginners to go from one dance a week to two. Ballroom is Emma's strength, for sure, Latin isn't her forte although from week one it's definitely got better. Her footwork needed a bit more attention and there were just a few timing issues here and there with her Waltz, especially at the beginning which stopped it being a ten for me. Kelvin's Paso Doble also stopped short of being a ten because I think it needed a little bit of flow, I don't think there was quite enough finish to his movements. He got his first perfect score for his Quickstep, though. All his dances have been very good and he brought everything he's learned throughout the series to that routine on Saturday. He's the ultimate sportsperson, he wants to do well but he's also very nice and the public seems to be enjoying him because he's never been in the bottom two.

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Any three of these couples could win, but they're all winners in my mind for making it to the final, it's so difficult. It's been three-and-a-half months and their bodies are exhausted but they've got to keep going. Of course, anything can happen on the night, but I think it all depends on who brings the best freestyle. They'll dance a judge's pick, which is one of their best dances, and then they've got to do the most amazing freestyle. They'll have to bring creativity, all the skills and musicality they've learned over the course of the series and show us something we haven't seen before. And this time, the judges are just there for guidance, the audience decides who will win. All the couples are really going to have to bring their A-game because this is one of the toughest finals Strictly's ever had!

READ: Who is Strictly star Chris Ramsey's wife Rosie Winter?

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I'm not surprised that it's come down to Emma and Anton, Karim and Amy and Kelvin and Oti. I think any of the couples who were in the competition from about week five could have gone to the final. Kelvin did stand out from the first week, though, and it's unbelievable to think that this was a man who wasn't even lined up to do the show, he stepped in for someone else! Karim is an incredible dancer as well and I'm delighted for Anton that he's finally got the opportunity to win with an amazing dancer, I know he's going to go for it. I do have somebody in mind that I hope could win but I'm not going to reveal who – I want to let the audience have their say. Everyone is going to be putting their best foot forward and going for that trophy, nobody wants to leave without it at this point.

I have a beautiful emerald green dress to wear, I just hope I don't have another wardrobe malfunction. On Sunday, just as the show was about to start, my dress had a weak zip and it broke. I had about six people trying to sew me into it backstage!

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#AskShirley

If you could choose anyone to be a guest judge on Strictly who would it be and why?

It would have to be The Duchess of Cornwall because she is an avid fan of the show, she's followed it from the beginning, she's intelligent and she obviously has a keen eye. I think it would be nice if she could step in for a week! If I could have one Strictly wish, it would be to dance on the show with my son Mark. He's been in the Dancing with the Stars final 11 times and won twice, appeared in Jersey Boys and is in the band Alexander Jean with his wife BC Jean who wrote the Beyoncé song If I Were a Boy. It would be great if he could perform live on the show and come down from the stage to dance with me, that's my dream.

If you have a question for Strictly's head judge, tweet it using the hashtag #AskShirley and it could be answered in the column next week.

Come back then for Shirley's perspective on what's sure to be a showstopping final!

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