Kevin Clifton has announced he is leaving Strictly Come Dancing after seven years.
The professional dancer, 37, said it had been “an absolute dream and honour” to be on the BBC ballroom contest but that it was time to focus on other parts of his life and career.
Clifton revealed his news in a long message on Instagram addressed to “the entire Strictly family”.
The dancer, who is in a relationship with his former Strictly partner Stacey Dooley, wrote: “The past 7 years have been some of the most wonderful years of my life.
“I am grateful to the BBC and Strictly Come Dancing for giving me the opportunity to have been a part of something truly special.
“Since first being called ‘Kevin From Grimsby’ by Sir Bruce Forsyth in 2013 I have experienced the highs of 5 finals, winning a Guinness World record on It Takes Two, the Strictly Arena tour glitterball and then the ultimate of winning the 2018 series with Stacey Dooley.
“After finishing last series with the Children In Need trophy and the Christmas Special I want to leave on a high and have therefore decided the time has come to move on and focus on other areas of my life and career.”
Clifton thanked his fellow pros and celebrity partners for “inspiring me every day” and said the whole team behind the scenes had made Strictly the “loveliest show to work for”.
“Thank you to anyone who has ever voted for me and my partners. It means the world.”
He went on: “To me Strictly always has been and always will be the best show on tv and has been an absolute dream and honour to be a part of.
“Pre 2013 I used to watch every week. Now I look forward to returning to being a fan and cheering on my friends who keep dancing.”
Strictly posted a message on Twitter saying Clifton would be “sorely missed”.
— BBC Strictly ✨ (@bbcstrictly) March 6, 2020
Strictly judge Motsi Mabuse was among those to comment, writing on Instagram: “Good luck for your new journey!! Your presence is so unique! You were always 100% committed! All the best and you will be definitely be missed.”
Zoe Ball, who hosts the show’s spin-off It Takes Two, posted simply: “KING KEV.”
Clifton joined the series in 2013 when he was partnered with Good Morning Britain presenter Susanna Reid.His other celebrity dance partners included Frankie Bridge, Louise Redknapp and Anneka Rice.
He was paired with Dooley in 2018 and the pair won the coveted Glitterball.