Strictly's Shirley Ballas says Amy Dowden's return is a dream come true

The TV judge added that the dancer is 'one of the strongest women I know'.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MAY 07: Shirley Ballas attends the National Lottery's Big Eurovision Welcome event outside St George's Hall on May 07, 2023 in Liverpool, England. Joel Dommett and AJ Ododu host
Shirley Ballas is thrilled for Amy Dowden that she is returning to Strictly this year. (Getty Images for The National Lottery)

Shirley Ballas has shared her admiration for Strictly Come Dancing's Amy Dowden, saying she has achieved her "dream" by returning to the show after cancer treatment.

The pro dancer was forced to miss taking part in the BBC series last year as she was going through chemotherapy for breast cancer, but has been confirmed for the cast in the forthcoming series.

Head judge Ballas also teased what Strictly fans can expect in the 20th anniversary season, which will include a special extra episode.

Strictly Come Dancing fans were devastated for Amy Dowden when she had to miss last year's show because of undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

So when her name was confirmed for this year's series, it came as welcome news to many - not least, Strictly's head judge Shirley Ballas who called Dowden "one of the strongest women I know".

CARDIFF, WALES - OCTOBER 09: Amy Dowden attends the BAFTA Cymru Awards 2022 at St David's Hall on October 9, 2022 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)
Amy Dowden is making a welcome return to the Strictly Come Dancing cast. (Getty Images)

Appearing on Friday's Loose Women, Ballas was asked about Dowden's return to the pro dancer cast and said: "The wonderful Amy Dowden, MBE. I've known this young lady all her life and she is so inspirational. She's kind, she's caring and even in her darkest moments, which I know she had a few, she's always concerned about everybody else."

Ballas added: "She's unique, she's special and I am delighted she's back on the show. It's a dream of hers, she didn't want to stop dancing and now she's right where she needs to be.

"She's one of the strongest women I know and she said to me, 'Shirley, I love dancing, I am not giving it up.' She's another one that will be dancing until she's 100, she's amazing."

This year, Strictly will mark its 20th anniversary with some big plans including a special extra episode - and Ballas teased that fans should look out for some former stars returning to the show.

She said: "We will have a special, there'll be an extra show this year. There are all sorts of different things that are going to be on the show this year it's been tweaked.

Strictly Come Dancing 2023,07-10-2023,TX3 - LIVE SHOW, Motsi Mabuse; Shirley Ballas and Anton Du Beke,BBC,Guy Levy
Shirley Ballas is looking forward to Strictly's 20th anniversary. (BBC)

"There'll be lots of looking back, that'll be the extra show, they'll go back over 20 years, you'll see some of your favourites, it's going to be absolutely phenomenal. Just when you think it couldn't get any better it does."

Ballas also appeared to hint at the recent controversy between Giovanni Pernice and Amanda Abbington as she said: "It's the most wonderful experience, the majority of people of course come off the show and they've absolutely had a ball.

"But it is tough, it's difficult. I would recommend it to everybody."

She also shrugged off any suggestion that she could leave the judging panel soon, saying: "I'll retire when I'm ready. In my industry, you can kick your clogs at 94 or 95, you can still keep teaching. So no, I have no intention of retiring soon."

Loose Women airs on ITV1 at 12.30pm on weekdays.