BBC Strictly Come Dancing stars who were 'axed' - ageism row, backstage feud and fiery exit

-Credit: (Image: BBC)
-Credit: (Image: BBC)

Strictly Come Dancing fans are always on the edge of their seats, waiting to find out which judges and professional dancers will grace the dance floor each new season. Since its debut in 2004, the beloved dance competition has witnessed its fair share of drama, with well-loved judges being shown the door and dancers exiting amidst a blaze of controversy.

One particularly contentious sacking even sparked a debate about ageism, causing quite the stir among viewers. This week, tongues were wagging once again as it emerged that Giovanni Pernice, who has been dazzling audiences since 2015, is missing from the latest line-up.

The revelation came amid a whirlwind of speculation after his celebrity partner Amanda Abbington made an unexpected departure, with rumours swirling about Giovanni's intense training methods. But Giovanni isn't the only big name to have felt the heat.

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Below we look at the stars that have made an unexpected departure from the show over the years.

Arlene Phillips

The bombshell dropped in 2009 when it was announced that Arlene Phillips would no longer be judging on Strictly, with Alesha Dixon set to take her place. The BBC faced a barrage of criticism over this move, with accusations of age discrimination flying thick and fast, something the corporation vehemently denied.

Arlene, a renowned choreographer and talent scout, had been a staple on the judging panel from the show's inception, sitting alongside Craig Revel Horwood, Bruno Tonioli, and Len Goodman. Reflecting on her departure during Elizabeth Day's How To Fail podcast earlier this year, Arlene remarked: "I didn't leave."

"I was uninvited to return. And I think there's a big difference. If I had left the show, it would have been my choice.

"I actually feel even to this day, I wish it had been discussed. I wish that they had come to me and said, 'We're not going to keep you on', and what the reasons were, and then I could adjust myself to it."

Brendan Cole

During his 14-year tenure, Brendan Cole was known for his confrontational stance with the judges and even publicly criticised the show regarding the dancers' pay. It's rumoured that he was embroiled in a backstage row with head judge Shirley Ballas, who secured the top spot he was reportedly eyeing.

However, in a heartfelt moment on ITV's Lorraine back in January 2018, Brendan disclosed his departure from the show, admitting: "I'm a little bit in shock. I'm quite emotional, a bit raw about it," and shared his acceptance of the inevitable: "I've always known this day would come... I'm sure I'll never know the ins and outs. I'm a very strong character within the show, I have my strong views."

Giovanni Pernice

In related news, Giovanni Pernice, a crowd-pleaser on Strictly Come Dancing, will be notably absent from this year's series. The BBC has left out the charismatic dancer from its 2024 roster of professionals amidst speculation of his non-participation.

Giovanni Pernice, the famous 33 year old Italian professional dancer, who made his name on BBC One's celebrity dance competition - Strictly Come Dancing in 2015 and was crowned champion in 2021 with partner actress Rose Ayling-Ellis, recently faced allegations against his teaching methods on the show.

The star refuted these claims in an Instagram post: "Those who have followed my journey on Strictly Come Dancing over the last decade will know that I am passionate and competitive. No one is more ambitious for my dance partners than me.

"I have always striven to help them be the very best dancers they can be. This has always come from a place of love and wanting to win - for me and my dance partners."

James Jordan

Former Strictly star James Jordan, who was dismissed from the show after eight years in 2014, found himself replaced by other personalities within the show despite his wife Ola being offered a significantly enticing deal. A insider disclosed back then: "The BBC have decided they don't want James as a high-profile dancer this year. They have taken a look at who they have and who fits the bill best. Frankly, the BBC are sick of the James and Ola show.

"He is fuming. He very much sees himself and Ola as the stars of the show and can't understand why he hasn't been invited back. He has spent years working with them and feels he has given so much. This has come as a real shock to him."

Chloe Hewitt

Chloe Hewitt was dropped from Strictly Come Dancing ahead of the 2018 series. The Sun had previously reported that one of the professional dancers was on the verge of being cut, with speculation rife that either reigning champion Katya Jones, Diane Buswell, Amy Dowden or Chloe could be leaving.

Chloe joined the show at the same time as AJ Pritchard, but unlike AJ, she struggled to make her mark, according to show insiders. An insider shared: "While AJ has done well on the show, Chloe has been overlooked two years in a row when it came to celeb pairings. So while others perform every week, she has only danced with other pro dancers in the group numbers, and hasn't really made her mark.

"The bosses weren't that impressed and so they have not given her a new contract. By now she would expect to have one if she was returning."