Bruno Tonioli leaves Strictly Come Dancing for good, replaced by Anton Du Beke

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Bruno Tonioli jumping on the judges' desk on Strictly Come Dancing
Image caption,
Bruno Tonioli's exuberance made him popular with viewers

Bruno Tonioli is leaving Strictly Come Dancing for good, with Anton Du Beke taking over his seat as a judge.

The Italian, who also appears on the US version of the show, has not been on the BBC panel in person for two years because of Covid travel restrictions.

Tonioli told BBC One's The One Show on Thursday he will now concentrate on his role as a judge on Dancing with the Stars, which is filmed in Los Angeles.

But he added he was sad to leave Strictly, saying: "I miss it so much."

He said that during the pandemic, doing both was "impossible because the rules changed, getting through the airport was not like it used to be, it created a situation that was unsustainable".

Explaining his current situation, he said: "Unfortunately Dancing with the Stars has moved to Disney+, which is a big deal. Because of the travel situation, I will be there."

The 66-year-old appeared via video link in the 2020 series of Strictly, while Du Beke took his place last year.

Tonioli's permanent exit leaves Craig Revel Horwood as the only judge to remain since Strictly's launch in 2004.

Image caption,
Tonioli (left) on series one in 2004 with fellow judges Arlene Phillips, Len Goodman and Craig Revel Horwood

Tonioli's exuberance and enthusiasm, often jumping to his feet when delivering his verdicts, provided a balance to Revel Horwood's more strict demeanour, and made him popular with viewers and dancers.

He travelled back and forth between the UK and US to appear on both Strictly Come Dancing and Dancing with the Stars for 14 years, but that became impossible when the pandemic took hold.

Du Beke will keep his seat after moving behind the judges' desk last year following 16 years as one of the show's professional dancers.

Tonioli praised Du Beke, saying: "I think Anton has done a fantastic job. He deserves to be on that seat. It's a 10 from me. Carry on. Do me proud."

Du Beke said in a statement: "Everyone knows how much I absolutely love the show and I'm utterly delighted to be continuing as a regular judge."

Image caption,
Anton Du Beke is "utterly delighted" to be carrying on as a judge on the show

Tonioli also offered messages to the other judges - Shirley Ballas, Motsi Mabuse and Revel Horwood - saying: "The panel were so good last year. They were brilliant. They have all my support, so hopefully we will do something else [together].

"Shirley my love, you will be much safer with Anton. Motsi, don't worry about Craig, he is just jealous because he cannot wear your clothes.

"Craig is just Craig and behind the scene he is more fun than me. He is so cool and laid back."

The next series will also be without two other familiar faces, Aljaž Škorjanec and Oti Mabuse, who have announced their departures as pro dancers.

Tonioli added that he may not have disappeared from the show altogether, saying: "I may do the tour. I am not gone forever. Don't count me out. I will always be part of the family. We created the show."

Strictly's 20th series is expected to begin in the autumn.