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Strictly Come Dancing's Brian Fortuna quits show

Strictly Come Dancing's Brian Fortuna and Ali Bastian
Image caption Fortuna and Bastian were winners of the 2009 Strictly Christmas special

Strictly Come Dancing's Brian Fortuna has announced he is leaving the show after changes were made to the format.

He quit after he and some colleagues were asked to perform professional-only routines in the next series, rather than dancing with celebrities.

Dancers Ian Waite, Matthew Cutler, Darren Bennett and Lilia Kopylova are yet to reveal if they have accepted.

The number of celebrity dancers is to be cut from 16 to 14, and three new male dancers will partner them.

The new recruits will step into the shoes of 2009 semi-finalist Fortuna, Waite, Cutler and Bennett who have been asked - along with Kopylova - to form the new group and perform "show-stopping dance spectacles" each week.

But Fortuna said on Tuesday night that he had chosen to leave Strictly and concentrate instead on the West End stage show Burn The Floor, which will see him perform with his 2009 Strictly partner, actress Ali Bastian.

A spokeswoman for Waite said he would "consider" the offer once he had received details, while Cutler's spokeswoman refused to comment.

Bennett and Kopylova are yet to make a statement about the changes.

Fortuna said: "I really enjoyed working on Strictly over the years - loved the fans and loved all the people I got work with - but there are changes planned for the next season so I've decided not to return to the show," he said.

"Both Ali and I are looking forward to seeing all our fans at the Shaftesbury Theatre."

He and Bastian began dating during their time on the show.

Fortuna joined Strictly in 2008 when he partnered M People singer Heather Small.

A BBC spokeswoman said: "We would like to thank [Brian] for all his hard work over the last two series."

Latin champion

The BBC said the three new male professionals would each bring their own area of dance expertise.

Robin Windsor has been touring with Burn The Floor, a show he helped to choreograph.

Jared Murillo was a principal dancer in the first two High School Musical movies, while Artem Chigvintsev is a Latin champion and graduate of the US dance show, So You Think You Can Dance.

BBC controller of entertainment commissioning Mark Linsey said: "I'm delighted to be welcoming three new, fantastic dancers to Strictly and am really excited about the introduction of a professional dance group, giving us even more opportunities to feature different areas of expertise and more genres of dance than in any other series."

The changes come a year after Strictly was embroiled in a row over alleged ageism when producers replaced veteran choreographer Arlene Phillips with former winner Alesha Dixon on the judging panel.

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