Strictly Come Dancing kicks off tonight (September 25) – but viewers will doubtless react to a huge AJ Pritchard-shaped hole in the pro line-up.
Former professional dancer AJ was missing from the Strictly line-up last year, and viewers were left distinctly unimpressed.
So why did he leave?
Here’s everything you need to know about why AJ is not in Strictly 2021.
Why did AJ leave Strictly?
AJ announced he had quit Strictly Come Dancing in March 2020, just weeks after being confirmed as one of the professionals.
The Stoke-on-Trent-born professional dancer took part in the BBC One show for four years.
Furthermore, the dancer revealed he wanted to focus on other projects and “explore opportunities”.
In a statement shared to his social media pages, AJ wrote: “I have some news for you all.
“Please see the below statement from my team. Also sending my love to everyone in this difficult time, please keep safe. AJ.”
What did his statement say?
The statement said: “After four years on Strictly Come Dancing, AJ has decided the time is right to leave the show and follow his dreams.
“To explore opportunities in the presenting world alongside his brother Curtis.
“AJ would like to thank the team at Strictly and everyone at the BBC for giving him such a brilliant opportunity.
“AJ would also like to send his love and gratitude to all who have followed and supported his career.
“He is excited for you all the join him on the next chapter of his journey.”
What did Strictly say about AJ quitting?
As a result of AJ’s departure, Strictly said in a statement: “We would like to thank AJ for four fantastic years on Strictly Come Dancing.
“He is a brilliant dancer who reached three semi-finals during his time on the show.
“He will be missed by fans and the Strictly family. We wish him all the best for the future.”
Will he miss Strictly?
AJ went on to reveal what he’ll miss about the BBC One programme.
He explained: “I miss my friends on set and behind the scenes, but I’m really excited to be a normal person and watch it from home and not have the stress.
“It’s going to be really fun to sit down and watch it and relax.”
He continued: “I was there for four years, and for me I felt like I left on a real high and I feel there’s other things I want to do with my career and other projects I want to push, and things I want to do with my brother.
“So I feel happy that I did the right thing. It’s going to be fun to see it as a normal person, like how fun it was to hear the announcements as a normal person!”
Could he ever return to the show?
AJ recently revealed that it is something he’d consider, however, he wouldn’t return as a pro dancer.
Chatting to Eamonn Holmes, he was asked: Eamonn asked: “Will [your] journey ever take you back to Strictly?”
AJ responded: “I feel like not in the same capacity.
“It’s great seeing the show and I think what’s really nice, when you’re in the show it’s such a machine [that] you don’t appreciate how much kind of goes on.
“But when you’re able to step back and watch it, you can really just kind of love it and see it and see all the hard work that comes together to create it.”
What is Strictly favourite AJ doing now?
AJ and his brother, Love Island star Curtis Pritchard, announced they were heading on tour together in 2021.
It’s been put on hold, though, due to the pandemic.
The boys did release their own podcast, AJ v Curtis, though.
AJ’s stint on I’m A Celebrity
AJ moved from Strictly on the BBC to I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! on ITV last winter.
Despite denying the claims ahead of the official announcement, he headed to the Welsh castle to take part in the Ant and Dec fronted show.
He became the seventh contestant to be eliminated.
After I’m A Celeb, AJ – and brother Curtis – signed up to appear on Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks.
However, their acting skills were widely slammed by fans of the show.
BBC One’s Strictly Come Dancing continues on Saturday at 7pm.
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