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Shirley Ballas says bullying and misogyny persists in the dance industry

Strictly Come Dancing’s head judge recalled the ‘immense bullying’ she faced as a dance teacher.

Shirley Ballas on Desert Island Discs with Lauren Laverne

Shirley Ballas has said there is a “handful of misogynistic people with egos that just will not deflate” while talking about bullying in the dance industry.

The 63-year-old, who is head judge on Strictly Come Dancing, recalled the “immense bullying” she received just before she landed a job on the BBC One show.

Speaking to host Lauren Laverne on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, Ballas said: “I was going through immense bullying in the industry from men at the top.

Shirley Ballas
Shirley Ballas is the head judge on Strictly Come Dancing (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

“I’ll just go as far as that, and they were stopping my work.

“I was like an elite teacher, I was teaching the top couples in the world.

“And then there were threats going to certain couples saying, ‘There’s nine of us and one of her, if you train with her, we’re going to make sure you don’t make it in the industry.’

“Men and women stopping me judging.”

She added: “So there was an awful lot of things going on like that for no particular reason, other than that they didn’t want a woman in any high places.

“And that’s how I felt and that’s my perspective on it.”

Asked if she thinks the industry was misogynistic, she said: “100% for sure and I don’t think it’s much better today. I still think that bullying goes on.

“There’s a lot of great people in my industry. There’s a lot of people who want to see people do extremely well and I think we have this handful of misogynistic people with egos that just will not deflate.

“Even the other day, I was reading messages of a couple that had been to a competition overseas of different professionals that had written these most horrendous messages to them.

“It (bullying) still goes on today. I don’t know how people get away with it, until it becomes name and shame and I’m pretty much close to doing that, I’ll tell you.”

Recently, Ballas opened up about the hateful messages she has received online while being a judge on Strictly.

In October she told Channel 5 News she had hired a personal assistant who “syphons through” the hateful messages sent to her.

Also in October, the dance champion and judge released book Murder On The Dance Floor, co-authored by Sheila McClure, which follows the fictional story of dance superstar and one-time world champion Lily Richmond.

Ballas told the PA news agency that the book offers a behind the scenes glimpse into the dance industry, adding that it is a lot more “sinister” than people realise.

Desert Island Discs airs on BBC Sounds and BBC Radio 4 at 11.15am on Sunday.

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