Shirley Ballas pays tribute to Aljaž Škorjanec as he leaves Strictly An absolute star

Strictly: Aljaz admits he zones out during the judges feedback

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Professional dancer Aljaž Škorjanec confirmed he had stepped down from Strictly Come Dancing earlier this week after starring on the BBC programme for nine years. The ballroom dancing competition’s head judge Shirley Ballas paid a touching tribute to the “remarkable” dancer at the Royal Television Society Awards on Tuesday. 

Speaking to at the red carpet event held in London, the 61-year-old judge shared her thoughts on the Slovenian dancer’s exit from the popular show. 

Shirley said: “I have known Aljaž for a very long time, he is a personal friend of mine and was remarkable on the show.” 

The dancer quickly became a fan favourite and even won the prestigious Glitterball Trophy in 2013 on his first attempt alongside model Abbey Clancy. 

Discussing his decision to leave the competition Shirley added: “We all make choices to go in the directions we want and we just wish him all the best.”

Shirley, who has been a judge on Strictly since 2017 after replacing Len Goodman as head judge, exclaimed: “He has been an absolute star on the show for sure. 

“You never know, the wheels will keep turning and we will get some new people and people will fall in love with them, and we can only wish Aljaž the best.” 

Shirley also reflected on the success of last year’s series which saw Rose Ayling-Ellis and pro dancer Giovanni Pernice triumph over the other contestants in a stellar final against John Whaite and Johannes Radebe. 

An average of 11 million people tuned in to watch soap star Rose make history as the first deaf winner of the show.

Shirley said: “When you are in it, it is absolutely stunning and amazing. 

“I mean this series was diversified and it had something for everyone on it. 

“I think we had a fantastic final with a unique winner and I think there was something for everyone.”

Looking ahead to this year’s series, the judge teased: “You have to watch out for this year as it’s going to be even stronger.” 

Aljaž announced he was leaving Strictly on Monday following his wife Janette Manrara’s decision to quit last year.

He wrote: “On a beautiful sunny day in May 2013 one phone call changed my life forever!

“It went like this… We would like to offer you a position on @bbcstrictly as a professional dancer. A dream became a reality and it was the biggest opportunity for a 23-year-old boy from Slovenia.

“It didn’t matter how many beautiful ballrooms I performed in during my competitive career, stepping onto the sacred Strictly floor was the most nervous I had ever been.

“A little while ago I made the tough decision that Strictly 2021 would be my last.”

The dancer said the show gave him the “opportunity and freedom” to create and express himself in front of millions of people. 

The official line-up of celebrities and dancers for the 2022 series of Strictly is yet to be announced.

Strictly Come Dancing 2022 will air later this year on BBC One. 

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