Title: Behind the Sequins – My Life

Author: Shirley Ballas

Pages: 352 Pages

Publisher: Random House

The Blurb

Leave it all on the floor…

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.

The Review

When Len Goodman stepped down as head judge on Strictly I was gutted. I loved Len and his old school cockney charm. I wondered who would be able to tale his place. Would whoever it was be able to live up to his standards. I was worried. However, within minutes of Shirley Ballas’ first appearance and her first dance critique I knew I liked her. She would give clear constructive criticism. She wasn’t too nice and she wasn’t too harsh. She really managed to find a good balance straight away. It probably helped that she was a fellow northerner – opposite side of the Mersey but still an honorary Scouser.

Shirley Ballas further won my approval when a family friend – an elderly lady in her 80s – was struggling to climb down some steps at Lime Street Station. Shirley Ballas saw her and helped her, linked her arm and made sure that my friend got to the place she needed to get to safely. So besides being a great judge, dancer, choreographer and teacher she also proved herself to be a pretty decent human being too. It is for this and many other reasons that I will forever be a fan.

In her book Behind the Sequins we get to read a real rags to riches story about a young working class girl growing up on a rough council estate and manages to change her life through dance.

Shirley Ballas’ perseverance and determination saw her get to the top of her field, achieving the pinnacle of awards several times both in the UK and internationally and then use that talent as a dancer to teach others. To unselfishly impart that knowledge to the next generation. Her love of dance and what it can do is palpable and it dances off every page.

Ballas, however, did not have an easy life. Sometimes life has been downright cruel – relationships, other competitors in the world of dance but none so moving as when she discusses the loss of her brother. She really lets her heart bleed on to the page.

I defy anyone to read Behind the Sequins and not be moved by Shirley Ballas’ story and also be in awe of her durability in a world where everything is fast moving and trends come and go. Class – which is what Ballas oozes – lasts forever.

Behind the Sequins is a brilliant read and a must for any fan of Strictly.

Behind the Sequins: My Life by Shirley Ballas is available now.

For more information regarding Shirley Ballas (@ShirleyBallas) please visit her Twitter and Instagram page.

For more information regarding Random House (@penguinrandom) please visit www.penguinrandomhouse.com.

The Rumba

For actress Julia Cooper, reviving her fledging acting career is the sole purpose that she took part in Britain’s second most popular dance program – Who Dares Dances. Well that and helping raise money for a good cause. Little does she expect to fall – and fall hard – for fellow contestant, children’s TV presenter, Harri Morgan. Yet when he spurns her advances she is confused; he acts like he likes her but then doesn’t make a move. Yet when they are paired to dance together in the celebrity challenge they are forced to dance the Rumba…the most sexual of all dances. With all this heat burning up the dance floor Julia is bound to find out once and for all if Harri has feelings for her.

The Waltz

For writer Lucy Everett, taking part in Who Dares Dances is a massive challenge. Not because of the difficult routines, although they are a worry but because until just a few years ago Lucy suffered with agoraphobia. It has taken years of therapy to get her out of the house but Lucy feels if she can do this then she can do anything. Well, that is until she starts to have feelings for one of her fellow contestants.

Olympic swimmer Max Parry has caught Lucy’s attention. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depends on how you look at it) Max appears to be interested in Lucy’s dance partner Daniel. However, Lucy cannot shake these feelings that she has for him. Will it hinder her chances in the competition?

The Charleston

Life is difficult for struggling comedienne Meredith Denning. Her career is going nowhere and she is on a deadline that has been imposed by her parents. By the time she reaches 26 she has to give up her dreams of working the comedy circuit and get a “real job.” With the help of her aunt Venetia she gets drafted into the latest series of Who Dares Dances and is paired with professional dancer Daniel Cunningham.

However, the lecherous TV producer Bob Landry keeps making lascivious passes at Meredith and when she makes it clear that she wants nothing to do with him he sets out on a personal vendetta to sabotage her chances. Can Meredith keep her eyes on the prize? Or are they set to wander to her beautiful dance partner?

Review

It is that time of the year again when that magical feeling is in the air. Yes Christmas but also it is the time of the year when the best reality show is shown on television: Strictly Come Dancing. Personally, I cannot resist the glitz, the glamour and the glitterball.

So, for that reason alone, I was very excited to read a collection of stories that centred around the world of dance. The three short stories – all titled with dances that suited the theme of the book – were pleasant reads. Initially, I was put off by the love story featured. For me, it felt like the love blossomed far too quickly but then I had to re-align my thinking because essentially it is a collection of three short stories. Of course it is going to happen suddenly! Once I got over that I began to really enjoy the stories.

Each couple had stumbling blocks that they had to overcome but they were not obvious, grating or frivolous. It made the characters seem a lot more three-dimensional.

I liked the constant character threads that ran through each three stories. The self referential style was enjoyable and it was nice revisiting the previous characters stories. In particular how Daniel Cunningham was the quiet constant until he got his moment in the final book as the hero.

The dances provided a sexy background without being too oppressive and domineering to the storyline, so if you are a fan of chick-lit but not really of dancing then these stories won’t overwhelm you with confusing terminology and detail. I think I personally would have liked to have read more detail on the dances but I also understand how that would be hard (and probably tedious) to weave into the narrative.

Overall, these short stories are a fun read. They aren’t too taxing but Georgia Hill still manages to make you root for the characters, their flaws and essentially for their love stories

Say it with Sequins: The Complete Collection by Georgia Hill is available now.