Darcy Bussell quits as Strictly Come Dancing judge

Darcey Bussell attends the National Television Awards. Picture: Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images
Darcey Bussell attends the National Television Awards. Picture: Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images
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Dame Darcey Bussell has stepped down as a judge from Strictly Come Dancing.

She will leave the hugely popular BBC show after seven years on the judging panel.

Strictly Come Dancing judes Dame Darcey Bussell, Craig Revel Horwood, Bruno Tonioli and Shirley Ballas. Picture: Ray Burmiston'''TV Still''BBC

Strictly Come Dancing judes Dame Darcey Bussell, Craig Revel Horwood, Bruno Tonioli and Shirley Ballas. Picture: Ray Burmiston'''TV Still''BBC

The former ballerina, 49, said she was leaving to focus on other dance commitments.

Dame Darcey said: “It has been a complete privilege for me to be part of Strictly, working with such a talented team.

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“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 was a guest judge on the programme in 2009 and joined the panel permanently in 2012.

It is not known who will replace her alongside judges Shirley Ballas, Bruno Tonioli and Craig Revel Horwood.

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, managing director of entertainment and music at 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.”

Dame Darcey’s turn as a judge on Strictly Come Dancing bookended a career that began with her selection, aged only 20, as the Royal Ballet’s then-youngest ever principal.

She studied at The Royal Ballet School from the age of 13 before being chosen as principal of the Royal Ballet in 1989.

Dame Darcey danced on stages across the world and appeared in roles including The Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, Giselle in Giselle and Swan Lake’s Odette.

In 2006 she announced she was retiring as the company principal from The Royal Ballet and in June 2007 she performed her last dance.

A few months later she was invited on to BBC radio’s Desert Island Discs where she told the show’s former host, Sue Lawley, that she knew it had been the “right decision”.

She explained age had been a consideration and that her body “just doesn’t recover as quickly as it used to”.

Dame Darcey also danced for the Queen Mother at her 90th birthday tribute in 1990.

In 2012 she led a large group of ballet dancers during the Olympic closing ceremony.

She joined the Strictly panel permanently in 2012, after having made several guest appearances on the show prior to that.

Replacing Alesha Dixon, who left after three years to join the Britain’s Got Talent judging panel, Dame Darcey marked the occasion by dancing the American Smooth with former professional partner Ian Waite.

2018 saw her made a Dame in the Queen’s New Year Honours list, honoured for her services to dance.

She said she was “truly humbled” to accept the honour “on behalf of all the dance organisations that I am so fortunate to be part of”.

It came 11 years after she was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours and 22 years after she received her first accolade of an OBE in the 1995 New Year Honours.

Dame Darcey married Australian businessman Angus Forbes in 1997 and the pair have two children who they have raised between London and Australia.

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