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Exclusive: Strictly's Shirley Ballas addresses Giovanni Pernice's shock exit ahead of milestone series

The BBC show celebrates its 20th anniversary this year


Shirley Ballas, Giovanni Pernice split image© BBC
Nicky Morris
TV and film writer
June 25, 2024
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Strictly Come Dancing judge Shirley Ballas has addressed the departure of professional dancer Giovanni Pernice, saying that "ten years is a long time" on the show. 

Giovanni was the longest-serving male dancer on the programme, having joined in 2015. The BBC announced earlier this summer that he will not be joining the cast of 2024

Whilst chatting with HELLO! on the red carpet of the TRIC Awards on Tuesday, Shirley was asked if Giovanni will be missed, to which she responded: "I think that ten years is a long time on the show and we should just all be starting to celebrate the show as it starts again.

Shirley dazzles every week with her glam hair, makeup and wardrobe choices© Instagram
Shirley is the head judge on Strictly

"I think it's going to be absolutely remarkable," she added.

The head judge also teased new "twists and turns" in the upcoming season. "I'm most excited to let you all see what the BBC has come up with," said the former professional dancer. "The show will always be tweaked, never completely changed. They'll be twists and turns and maybe a few more different themed weeks."

Giovanni Pernice in white and black suit© Karwai Tang
Giovanni will not appear in the new series

The 63-year-old added: "It's going to be absolutely off the charts. Just when you don't think it could get any better, it does."

Shirley also noted that her dream celebrity contestant is Princess Anne, who she thinks would make a "world champion ballroom dancer". 

Shirley Ballas in a blue and white dress© Karwai Tang
Shirley teased 'twists and turns' in the new series

Shirley's comments come just days after she hailed Giovanni as the "perfect gentleman" when addressing allegations about the Italian dancer's poor behaviour on the show, which he has strongly denied.

Speaking at a Q&A to promote her new crime novel, Murder on the Dance Floor, Shirley said: "You know, I can only talk from my own perspective. I have known Giovanni for ten years. He has always been to me — and I will make that clear, to me — a perfect gentleman.

She continued, per The Sun: "I know he is a hard worker. He wants people to do the very best that they can do. Obviously, in my life, I was bullied a lot. I don't condone bullying on any path.

man talking whilst sat on sofa © Ken McKay/ITV/Shutterstock
Giovanni has denied allegations about his conduct on the show

"But I don't believe gossip because things are blown way out of all proportion and it can turn into a great big snowball. So my feeling for Giovanni is, let them do this investigation and the truth will come out. So we don’t judge anybody until I know absolutely, 100 percent."

Reporting by Bryony Gooch.

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