Dame Darcey Bussell steps down as Strictly Come Dancing judge
Dame Darcey Bussell is stepping down as a judge on Strictly Come Dancing after seven years on the panel.
The former ballerina, 49, said she was leaving to focus on other dance commitments, and that her departure was not due to an “upset or disagreement” on the show.
She said: “It has been a complete privilege for me to be part of Strictly, working with such a talented team.
“I have enjoyed every minute of my time and will miss everyone from my fellow judges, the presenters, the dancers, the musicians, the entire back stage team, and especially the viewers of the show, who have been so supportive.
“I am not leaving because of any upset or disagreement at all, I am just stepping away to give more focus to my many other commitments in dance, after seven truly wonderful years that I can’t imagine having gone any better.
“I know I will miss being part of this unique show and the fact that it celebrates dance is something I am so passionate about. I hope that I may be very lucky to be asked back again one day.”
Dame Darcey – who received her damehood from the Queen last year for services to dance – was a guest judge on the programme in 2009 and joined the panel permanently in 2012, replacing Alesha Dixon.
During her time on the show, she also worked alongside long-running head judge Len Goodman, who left in 2016, and she has taken part in the live Strictly arena tour for the past two years.
It is not known who will replace her alongside judges Shirley Ballas, Bruno Tonioli and Craig Revel Horwood, although former Strictly dancers Karen Hardy and Brendan Cole have been suggested by bookmakers Coral, as well as former judge Arlene Phillips.
Last year, Dame Darcey was forced to deny rumours of a rivalry with head judge Ballas.
Dame Darcey told The Telegraph: “Of course I get on with Shirley. She’s hysterical, she’s got a great sense of humour, and I totally respect her amazing amount of knowledge.
“She’s great to be with.”
Asked why male co-stars never appear to face the same reports, she replied: “Funny that.”
Charlotte Moore, director of BBC content, said: “It has been an absolute honour to have Darcey, a national treasure and British dance icon, bring her passion for dance and her graceful presence to the Strictly Come Dancing judging panel for seven consecutive years.
“She will be thoroughly missed by us all and will of course remain part of the Strictly family in the future.”
Suzy Lamb, MD, entertainment and music, BBC Studios, said: “We feel very fortunate to have had Darcey on the Strictly judging panel for seven glorious years.
“Her exceptional knowledge of dance and generous spirit have helped many a celebrity keep dancing.
“Darcey is much loved by the entire Strictly family and I know will be missed in both the ballroom and in sitting rooms across the country.”
Strictly host Claudia Winkleman tweeted: “We love you Darcey. You’ll be so so missed. Xx.”
Oti Mabuse, one of the programme’s professional dancers, posted: ““@DarceyOfficial you will always be loved and appreciated thank you for being so elegant,funny, positive and encouraging to us. We will never forget you and making personally 4 years a memorable journey #damedarcey @bbcstrictly.”
Strictly professional dancer Pasha Kovalev will also be missing from this year’s show, after announcing in February that he was leaving after eight series.