Bruno Tonioli confirmed he left Strictly Come Dancing because his travel commitments made it “impossible” to continue, but praised his replacement, Anton Du Beke, for doing a “fantastic job” on the judging panel.
he 66-year-old Italian dancer and choreographer has been a judge since the popular BBC One show launched in 2004.
He announced his departure on The One Show on Thursday night, saying he would instead focus on his other judging role on Dancing With The Stars, which films around the same time of year in the United States.
Tonioli said: “What happened with Covid, the travel situation is so unpredictable. I used to leave on a Sunday and come back on Thursday to do the show in London.
“It was impossible because the rules changed, going through the airport was not like before, it created an untenable situation. I miss it so much.
“Unfortunately Dancing With The Stars has moved to Disney+ which is a big deal. Due to the travel situation I will be there.
In 2020, the uncertainty of pandemic travel meant Tonioli could only appear via video link to give his verdict on performance during the Sunday evening results show.
And last year he was replaced by longtime professional dancer Du Beke who joined the panel alongside Craig Revel Horwood, Motsi Mabuse and Shirley Ballas.
Video of the day
“I think Anton did a fantastic job, he deserves to be in that seat…that’s a 10 from me, keep going, make me proud,” Tonioli said.
In a message to the other judges, Tonioli added: “Shirley my love, you will be much safer with Anton.
“Motsi don’t worry about Craig, he’s just jealous because he can’t wear your clothes, Craig is just Craig and behind the scenes he’s more fun than me, he’s so cool and laid back.
Tonioli said Strictly fans could still see him in related events such as the after-show arena tour he was a judge on earlier this year.
“I might do the trick, I’m not gone forever, don’t count me out, I’ll always be part of the family. We created the show.
“I’m not going anywhere, there’s no way I can’t. The panel was so good last year, they were brilliant, they have my full support, so hopefully we do something else.
Tonioli joined Strictly in its first series in 2004 alongside original judges Dame Arlene Phillips, Len Goodman and Revel Horwood.
Du Beke said he was happy to be back on the show’s judging side: “Woohooo! This is BRILLIANT news. Everyone knows how much I love the show and I’m thrilled to continue as a as a regular judge. And I can make the final again – now I know how Giovanni feels!”
Revel Horwood, who now becomes the only remaining original member of the Strictly judging lineup, said he was “delighted” to be back and added: “It’s going to be fabulous!”.
Chief Judge Ballas said, “Being a judge on Strictly is such a joy and honor for me, and I can’t wait to be back in the studio waving my paddle.
“Every year the wonderful production team outdo themselves and I know they have some brilliant projects in store for 2022. I’m so excited to get started.”
Mabuse took over from Dame Darcey Bussell in 2019, after serving as a judge on the German version of Strictly, Let’s Dance.
She said: “Last year’s series of Strictly was one of the highlights of my career, it had such a real impact that it was amazing to see. I’m so proud to be a part of this show and can’t wait to come back for my fourth series!”