‘The schedule was insane’ – Bruno Tonioli on why he left Strictly

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Former Strictly Come Dancing judge Bruno Tonioli has spoken about his decision to leave the BBC One show, revealing it is a “miracle” he lasted 18 years on the panel.

The 66-year-old Italian dancer and choreographer had been a judge since the popular dancing show launched in 2004, before announcing his departure in May.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, Tonioli spoke candidly about his decision to leave the show and move his focus to his judging role on US show Dancing With The Stars, which films around the same time of year in America.

Strictly Come Dancing 2019
Bruno Tonioli had been a member of the Strictly Come Dancing judging panel since the show’s launch in 2004 (Guy Levy/BBC/PA)

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’.”

Tonioli has also 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.

“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 Tonioli’s replacement in May, following long-standing professional dancer Du Beke’s success as a temporary replacement for Tonioli during 2021 as a result of Covid-19 pandemic travel restrictions.

Tonioli also faced difficulties while appearing on the show in 2020, after pandemic travel uncertainty meant he could appear only via video-link to give his verdict on the performances during the Sunday night results show.

To illustrate the toll the “insane” schedule took on him, Tonioli 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.”

Strictly Come Dancing Launch 2019 – London
Anton Du Beke will replace Tonioli on the Strictly judging panel (Ian West/PA)

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.”

Tonioli 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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