Former Strictly contestant opens up on judge dropped from series Adore her

Strictly Come Dancing: Tom Fletcher discusses tricky rehearsals

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Ali Bastian, 39, came third in the 2009 series alongside Strictly Come Dancing partner Brian Fortuna. Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, the actress applauded former judge Arlene Phillips, who was dropped from the show following the 2008 series so winner Alesha Dixon could take her place. Although she wasn’t a judge during Ali’s time on the programme, the Doctors star met her during the Strictly tour and described her admiration for the 78-year-old.

Ali recalled her experience on the show, where she talked fondly of the judges, who at the time were Craig Revel Horwood, Len Goodman, Alesha Dixon and Bruno Tonioli.

Discussing her favourite, she explained: “I actually love Craig, because he comes from a showbiz background.

“And I just felt like when he gives notes, he – even though there can often be like some theatrics around the notes when they’re delivered, I really feel like he means what he says.

“And actually, they can be really helpful.

“And when he says he likes something I really believe him.

“And he’s actually a really nice guy – he’s really nice. It wasn’t until we all toured afterwards that we really got to know them [the judges].

“Because when you do the show, you’re kept quite separate.

“But then when you tour, everybody bonds so much more.

“So I was really happy that I did that tour.”

The former Hollyoaks star added: “And also, we had Arlene back on that tour as well.

“The year I did it was the first year that Arlene wasn’t a judge, but then she came on the road with us and I think she’s brilliant.

“I absolutely adore her. She’s a real pro as well and I really have a lot of respect for her.

“And I felt like when we were touring as well, she was really trying to help me and she could see that there was fire in my belly and I needed some help lighting it up.

“And so every night like after the show, she’d actually come and talk to me and give me tips and give me notes and things.

“Even though at that point, by the time you’re touring, it’s like, everybody could just bust out the same show every night, but she really cares.

“And she really wanted to help cultivate us as dancers and support us. And I felt like I learned a lot from her.”

But Arlene will be putting the ballroom behind her temporarily as she prepares herself for this year’s I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here.

The popular ITV show, fronted by Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly, will take place in Wales for the second year in a row after COVID-19 travel restrictions prevented use of the usual Australian setting last year.

Strictly Come Dancing continues on Saturday at 6.40pm on BBC One, while I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here returns to ITV on Sunday.

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