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  5. International Women's Day - Get to know ISTD President Shirley Ballas

8 March 2024

International Women's Day reminds us to look at the achievements and abilities of women around the world, as well as striving for equality in all aspects of society. With 93% of ISTD members being women, celebrating women in dance is paramount to the ISTD, and in no one is this more apparent than new ISTD President, Shirley Ballas. 

"Women should be celebrated every day in my opinion, not just today. We are creators of life, without women the world wouldn’t turn."

Shirley Graduation 1

Shirley Ballas at ISTD Graduation Ceremony, February 2024

What made you start dancing?

While at the girl guides club practicing CPR I heard music coming from the next room. I took myself out of the class to look through the window in the door to see these adults dancing, what I now know was the Waltz. I asked the gentlemen whether they did children's classes to which he replied "We're starting this Saturday".


Where did you first learn to dance?

I first started to dance aged seven, at St Chad's Church Hall in Leasowe.


What dance styles have you trained in?

I have trained in many styles of dance from a young age including Ballroom and Latin, American Smooth and Ballet.


What is your favourite thing about dancing?

There are many things I love about dancing, but for me my favourite thing is simply moving the body to music. Interestingly, if you look up "dance" in the dictionary, you will see 'movement to music'.

"Whenever I hear the 'Y.M.C.A.', I am always on the dance floor. I also love a little Samba to 'It's Not Unusual' by Tom Jones. I do love a good spin across the floor... there's always time to practice spotting!"


What has dance taught you, aside from the movement skill?

Dance is a universal skill that teaches so much. However, one main lesson I learnt from dance was work ethic.


How does dancing make you feel?

Dancing transports me to another world. I get lost inside the music and, whether I'm dancing or just watching dance, my spirit is lifted each and every time.


What interests do you have outside dance?

I love to stay fit and I’m a huge yoga fan. I try to do a one hour session of Hot Pod Yoga every morning before I start my day.


"Be open to taking advice, listen to others, but remember to always be your true authentic self."


What would you consider a highlight in your dance career?

It’s hard to choose just one as I’m grateful to have been lucky enough to have many highlights in my career. I think being the only woman to have ever won the British Open to the World Latin American Championships in Blackpool with two different partners will be something I’m forever proud of. Also being in the final over 17 years was epic! And, of course, getting the role as Head Judge on Strictly Come Dancing when I was at a low point in my life in 2017 will always be a highlight.


What advice would you give to our ISTD teachers?

Remember knowledge is power. Enjoy every moment of studying and learning to forever develop yourself and your skills. 

Go for it and don’t let anyone hold you back. Be open to taking advice, listen to others, but remember to always be your true authentic self.


Shirley Corpus Christi

Shirley Ballas at Corpus Christi Primary School in Brixton for a Find Your Dance Space event

Is there a particular (female) dancer who inspired you growing up?

World Professional Latin Champion Hazel Fletcher was a true inspiration to me. Hazel, and her partner Alan, first judged me and my girl partner when I was 11 years old at the Capitol Ballroom in Liscard, in my hometown of Wallasey. I’ll never forget how nervous I was to dance in front of them. They were, and still are, true icons of the dance industry. Later, when I was 19 years old, I was on the same team as Alan and Hazel, representing the UK in Australia, in my first World Championship. Alan and Hazel came first and my partner and I were just behind them. That’s a memory I treasure so deeply in my heart.

Is there a particular (female) dancer who inspires you now?

I am forever blown away by the creativity of Daniella Karagach Pashkova, Emmy Award Nominee and Dancing With The Stars Champion. I’ve known her since a young dancer and have loved seeing her grow into the beautiful lady she is today. I also adore the technical skills and amazing creativity of Yulia Musikhina.


Shirley HQ
Shirley Ballas at 
Corpus Christi Primary School in Brixton for a Find Your Dance Space event

If you could give advice to yourself when you were developing your dance skills, what would it be?

I was extremely focused and worked hard through out my career from a young girl. I’d say be focused, be knowledgeable and have a strong work ethic.  


As ISTD’s new President, what are you looking forward to?

I’m excited to work with the ISTD to achieve excellence in our dance industry. I’m hoping that along with both the experienced and newly graduated teachers, we can inspire dancers of all ages and all backgrounds to be all they can be through the knowledge of dance. It is a true honour to be part of the ISTD in such a prestigious role. 


Shirley Graduation 2
Shirley Ballas and Chief Executive Ginny Brown at ISTD Graduation Ceremony, February 2024

More information on International Women's Day can be found on their website. 

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