Bruno Tonioli says it was a ‘miracle’ he lasted 18 years on Strictly Come Dancing: ‘The schedule was insane’

The judge quit the BBC One show earlier this year (Pictures: BBC)

Former judge 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 , with taking over as his replacement.

Professional dancer Anton, 55, replaced Bruno in his role last year with the judge juggling commitments on Dancing With The Stars and unable to travel due to Covid restrictions. 

In a new interview, Bruno has revealed how difficult the juggling was, speaking candidly about his decision to leave the ballroom dancing 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.

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 has 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.

Anton Du Beke is taking over Bruno Tonioli’s seat (Picture: David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock)

‘I just couldn’t do the flying any more,’ he added to .

‘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!’

While Anton stood-in as a temporary replacement for Bruno during 2021 as a result of Covid-19 pandemic travel restrictions, there were also difficulties faced 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.

Bruno was jetting between Strictly and Dancing with the Stars in America (Picture: ABC via Getty Images)

To illustrate the toll the ‘insane’ schedule took on him, Bruno 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.’

‘I did not know where I was or what I was doing.’ (Picture: ABC via Getty Images)

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, Bruno was clear that above all else Strictly had been a life-changing, positive experience, saying: ‘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 reflected on the impact it had to keep playing the ‘character’ (Picture: BBC/Zhivko Mironov)

Reflecting on Anton taking over, Bruno added that ‘You don’t think like that,’ about jealousy between the two.

‘It’s like James Bond, right? You have Sean Connery and Daniel Craig but they are both still Bond.’

After much speculation, Bruno revealed the reason for his decision to quit Strictly Come Dancing on  in May, sharing at the time: ‘Unfortunately Dancing With The Stars has moved over to + to stream live, which is a big deal and very, very exciting. 

‘And again, because of the travel situation, I can not really guarantee that I’m going to be there, because anything can happen.’

When Anton was confirmed as Bruno’s replacement, he added in a statement: ‘Everyone knows how much I absolutely love the show and I’m utterly delighted to be continuing as a regular judge.’ has contacted BBC for comment.

Strictly Come Dancing returns to BBC One later this year.


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