Behind the Sequins
by Shirley Ballas
Queen of Latin Ballroom, Shirley Ballas has a spectacular dance career spanning over 40 years – she has Cha-Cha’d her way across the world’s dance floors to become a multi-award-winning ballroom champion and one of the most renowned dancers in the world. In 1996, Shirley retired from competitive dancing to become a highly-acclaimed coach and now holds the enviable position of Head Judge on BBC One’s prime time show Strictly Come Dancing.
In Behind the Sequins, she leads us through her dramatic and determined life, from growing up in a rough estate on the Wirral and leaving home at 14 years old, to conquering the high-octane world of ballroom and coping with betrayal, bullying, two broken marriages and a personal tragedy that left Shirley and her family devastated.
Speaking from the heart, Shirley leaves her dancing shoes at the door to tell you the story of a fiery, strong-willed grafter who could make the brat pack blush.
I’ve always been a fan of Strictly Come Dancing and was intrigued to know more about head judge Shirley Ballas.
I found the early chapters learning about Shirley’s heritage and humble beginnings particularly interesting. She grew up on a housing estate with her mother working round the clock to support Shirley and brother David. It was without question, her mother’s work ethic which gave Shirley the sheer determination to become one of the world’s most successful ballroom dancers.
Although Shirley is incredibly proud and confident in her ability as a dancer, teacher and judge, she seems far more insecure about decisions she made in her personal life. I thought at times that Shirley was too critical of herself. She had an extremely successful career and was happy to pass on her knowledge and skills to anyone who shared her love of dancing. Her home was always open to aspiring dancers and although she worked away for weeks at a time, she managed to maintain a close relationship with her mother, brother and son.
This is a fascinating account which is honest and insightful. It is well written and shows how hard a successful dancer has to work in a harsh, male dominated industry. Shirley’s personal life features heavily along with family tragedy, broken marriages and global travel. I especially loved Shirley’s mother, an extremely strong lady who devoted herself to her family.
Shirley’s son Mark went on to become a highly successful dancer himself and appears as a professional dancer on Dancing With The Stars in the American version of Strictly.
Thank you to Random House UK (via NetGalley) for a copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly.