AJ Pritchard announced his departure from Strictly Come Dancing on Thursday, and his co-star Oti Mabuse says the news was a shock to everyone.
"AJ was always honest about the fact that he wanted to be a presenter but we didn't expect it at all," Oti told HELLO!. "To see him achieve his goals and go after his dreams is incredible. He has got an incredible work ethic and whatever he wants he will achieve because he has the drive. He is an incredible dancer and we wish him the best of luck."
SEE: Oti Mabuse invites fans to her virtual dance classes - and you don't need a big space to join in
Oti and AJ have worked together for four years
Oti, who has launched her own virtual dance classes during the coronavirus pandemic, first became part of the Strictly Come Dancing family in 2015 and was joined by AJ in 2016, so the pair have worked together for almost four years.
AJ broke the news on social media with a statement from his agent reading: "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 to join him on the next chapter of his journey."
Oti also opened up about her big dream. "I've always wanted to open a dance school," she told us. "My husband teaches all over the world but now that the UK is home, we would love to open a school here. We'd like it to be an academy for young kids that need some form of art and performance. That is the dream in the next eight to ten years."
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For now though, Oti is championing her Strictly community with a series of free virtual dance classes during coronavirus. Alongside her husband Marius, fellow Strictly dancer Karen Hauer and her partner David Webb, the group are leading various day sessions as part of 'Home Festival', where they will host online dance, fitness and yoga tutorials. Guest stars including Olympian Greg Rutherford and makeup artist Bryony Blake will also stage different activities such as baking and makeup tutorials. Each Home Festival will run every Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 10am on the class host's Instagram channel.
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