Arlene Phillips reveals whether she’d ever return to Strictly Come Dancing

Arlene Phillips has ruled out a return to the Strictly Come Dancing judging panel, saying it will “never happen”.

The 78-year-old dancer and choreographer, who was recently made a dame in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, was on the BBC One dancing series from 2004-2008 with her departure sparking allegations of ageism against the BBC.

Phillips was 66 when she was dropped from the Strictly line-up and replaced by the then 30-year-old Alesha Dixon in 2009.

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Dame Arlene told Good Morning Britain: “I love Strictly and I just don’t think about being asked back because it’s never gonna happen. But I’m passionate about the show. And I loved my time on it. I loved every minute of judging”.

She was awarded her damehood for services to dance and charity and said “inside it’s a warm glow and there’s always the tinge of sadness, my parents didn’t find out about this, and know about it”.

She added that it was “hard to believe” she had been made a dame saying: “I always think that somebody coming from my background, and just this little kind of hard-working girl has been made a dame”.

Strictly Come Dancing Live! final dress rehearsal – Glasgow
Arlene Phillips was a judge on the BBC One dancing series from 2004-2008 (Michael Boyd/PA)

Dame Arlene also voiced her support for theatre impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber, who last week said he was determined to open his theatres on June 21 and was prepared to be arrested if authorities tried to intervene.

On Monday night Boris Johnson confirmed a delay to the ending of England’s lockdown, with July 19 now the date earmarked for lifting the remaining restrictions.

More than 30 guests can attend weddings, wedding receptions and other commemorative events such as wakes, but the capacity of venues will be limited by the requirements around social distancing.

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She said: “Firstly, he has done so much for the reopening of theatres. I directed a socially distanced production of Hair at the London Palladium on Sunday night. It was a revelation.”

Phillips’ dismissal from Strictly caused a national controversy, with the then Labour deputy leader and equalities minister Harriet Harman standing up in the Commons and demanding she be reinstated.

The BBC denied ageism was a factor in the line-up change.