Bruno Tonioli reveals it was 'miracle' he lasted 18 years on Strictly Come Dancing panel

Credit: PA

Former Strictly Come Dancing judge Bruno Tonioli has said it is a "miracle" he lasted 18 years on the panel.

Speaking about his decision to leave the BBC One show, he stressed the decision was "mutual" and that "there is no animosity".

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

Speaking to the Daily Mail, Tonioli spoke about leaving Strictly and moving 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’."

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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. 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.

Bruno Tonioli during the 2019 Strictly final. Credit: PA

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 much-loved persona 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."

Rose Ayling-Ellis, who competed alongside Giovanni Pernice, was the first deaf winner of Strictly Come Dancing. Credit: PA

Despite the difficulties of balancing his judging commitments, Tonioli was clear that above all else Strictly had been a life-changing, positive experience.

"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."