28/04/2017 07:49 BST | Updated 28/04/2017 07:54 BST

'Strictly Come Dancing': Shirley Ballas Named New Favourite To Replace Len Goodman On Judging Panel

Maybe it won't be Anton DuBeke after all.

A surprising new name has entered the race to replace Len Goodman on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’

Former International Latin American Dance champion Shirley Ballas has emerged as a front runner to sit on the panel of the BBC ballroom competition, after wowing bosses at her screen test. 

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Shirley Ballas is in line for a judging role on 'Strictly Come Dancing'

According to The Sun, the Shirley proved to be a “complete natural”, and outshone pro dancers Brendan Cole and Anton DuBeke, who also tried out for the job.

Others who auditioned are said to have included former pro Karen Hardy, Strictly’s current Head Choreographer Jason Gilkison - both of whom have been linked to the job before - as well as Ireland’s ‘Dancing With The Stars’ judges Loraine Barry and Brian Redman. 

But while Shirley is seen as the current favourite, a source added to The Sun that “nothing has been signed off yet”, and BBC chiefs will have the final say on who will get the job. 

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Len Goodman stepped down from 'Strictly' in December

British-born Shirley has previously made guest appearances on ‘Dancing With The Stars’ in the US, where her son Mark is one of the professional dancers.

She was also married to ballroom champ Corky Ballas, who later went on to have a relationship with former ‘Strictly’ pro Kristina Rhianoff.  

Len announced he was stepping down prior to the start of the last series of ‘Strictly’, having been on the panel since it began in 2004. 

However, it is currently unclear if the panel’s new recruit would end up being Head Judge, with previous reports claiming Darcey Bussell is in line to take up the job, after Craig Revel-Horwood and Bruno Tonioli ruled themselves out. 

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Shirley's son Mark is a pro dancer on the US version of 'Strictly'

Speaking of having a new face joining them on the next series, she recently told the Sunday People: “It’s gone very quiet all of a sudden on the rumoured names front. I’m nervous – it’s a good nervous, not bad nerves – but, yeah, I’m getting excited.”

Former pro dancer and ‘It Takes Two’ regular Karen Hardy has made no secret of how much she wants to replace Len, claiming she wants to even up the gender balance on the panel. 

“I just hope a lucky star will shine down on me as I would love to do it – it would be an absolute honour to stay part of a show I’m so passionate about,” she told the Sunday Post.

‘Strictly Come Dancing’ returns to BBC One in the autumn. 

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