Strictly judge Darcey Bussell to 'get tougher' on contestants


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The Independent Online

New Strictly Come Dancing judge Darcey Bussell has denied being too nice when she appeared as a guest judge on the show and warned that she is about to get tougher.

The former ballet star, 43, who had a role in the BBC1 show in 2009, replaces Alesha Dixon on the panel of the new series.

"It was odd when I came in last time because I was only brought in at the end, by which time the contestants were all very good. It would have been wrong to have been too critical at that point," she told the Radio Times magazine.

"Now that I am in from the start it will be very different. When you have been brought up in a world where everything you do is scrutinised and judged you have to develop a thick skin, which is what I am going to encourage the contestants to do. They have to learn to take in our comments and thrive on them.

"What I am looking forward to is spotting people with potential and being tough on them in order to bring it out of them. If they don't improve and get better week on week, then they're out as far as I'm concerned."

Bussell, who was told by a teacher to give up ballet because she was not good enough when she started out at the Royal Ballet School aged just 13, told the magazine that she will draw on the nerves she experienced before her performance at the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games.

"I had a year to get in shape, but I hadn't 'danced' for nearly four years. My body changed so much when I stopped dancing - I became soft! And finding the courage to get into an all-in-one leotard was a big deal," she said.

"There were a lot of things I had to get over. With three months to go I was on the verge of calling Kim (Gavin, the ceremony's director) and telling him to find someone else. I totally lost it, but looking back I am so glad I didn't chicken out!

"It is something great for me to draw on for Strictly because I can really empathise with the contestants - getting into the tiny costumes, waking up unable to move with every muscle in my body aching, being absolutely terrified before going on stage - those are all things I have now experienced."

The new series of Strictly Come Dancing starts on Saturday with Olympic stars Victoria Pendleton and Louis Smith among the contestants.

Click here to see the Strictly contestants in pictures