Strictly’s Bruno Tonioli reveals real reasons he left the show

Former Strictly Come Dancing judge Bruno Tonioli has revealed why he decided to exit the BBC One show, claiming it is a ‘miracle’ he lasted 18 years on the panel. The Italian dancer and choreographer, 66, had been on the judging panel since the hit series began in 2004, before announcing his shock departure in May.

Opening up about his reasons for stepping down, Bruno said he and BBC bosses both agreed things were not going to work after he was struggling to divide his time between the UK and his role on US show Dancing With The Stars, which films around the same time of year in America, reports the Mirror.

He said: “There is no animosity, it was a mutual decision with both of us saying, ‘Listen, this is not going to work like it used to’”, Bruno told the Daily Mail. The judge had previously held a spot on the Dancing With The Stars panel since its launch in 2005, resulting in frequent flying back and forth between the UK and the US while both shows were running.

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“I just couldn’t do the flying any more,” he said. “I don’t know how I survived that schedule. To be honest, it’s a miracle.” He added: “I have no idea what it did to my health, don’t go there!”

Anton Du Beke was announced as Bruno’s replacement in May. The long-serving dancer had proved a hit with viewers after standing in for Bruno in the 2021 series when Covid travel restrictions put a stop to his border hopping.

Bruno admits he faced difficulties during his last sting with Strictly in 2020. He said pandemic travel uncertainty meant he could appear only via video-link to give his verdict on the performances during the Sunday night results show.

Bruno has been part of Strictly’s judging panel since day one

To illustrate the toll the “insane” schedule took on him, the star reflected on a scary moment during a live Strictly show, saying: “There was a moment in the middle of a run when I blanked. I did not know where I was or what I was doing. It only lasted a second, then I saw the audience looking at me and it all came back to me.”

He went on to explain the added stress of maintaining his flamboyant character while on air: “I’m playing a character. My accent becomes stronger, the facial expressions and body movements become bigger.” He added: “You have to pump yourself up and keep it up for two hours. That’s so hard when you have all the added stress of the travel.”

Despite the difficulties of balancing his judging commitments, Tonioli was clear that above all else Strictly had been a life-changing, positive experience. He said: “Strictly changed my life, it was like being born again. I was a successful choreographer but this was like going back to the beginning as a performer. I loved it.”

Bruno also spoke warmly about his successor and, reflecting on Anton Du Beke’s judging role during 2021, said: “He did a very good job because he made it his own.” When asked if he felt in any way jealous of Du Beke, Tonioli said: “You don’t think like that. It’s like James Bond, right? You have Sean Connery and Daniel Craig but they are both still Bond.”

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