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Why did Arlene Phillips leave Strictly Come Dancing?

The professional dancer was a judge for a number of years until 2008

Francesca Shillcock

We've been loving the return of Strictly Come Dancing and seeing the brand new celebrity contestants take the floor with some show-stopping routines. We've also enjoyed seeing our favourite judges – including new recruit Anton Du Beke – reprise their role on the panel to give their verdicts each week.

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But die-hard Strictly fans will know that for the first few series, Dame Arlene Phillips was included in the original lineup of judges, alongside Craig Revel Horwood, Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli.

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The choreographer was on the show from 2004 until 2008 before making way for former champion and Mis-Teeq star Alesha Dixon to join in 2009.

But why did Arlene leave? Following whispers of an upcoming "comeback" to the show, we found out the story…

Arlene, 78, joined when the BBC ballroom competition first aired in 2004 bringing impressive credentials to the table. Throughout her career as a dancer and choreographer, she worked with some of the biggest names in the industry including Whitney Houston, Elton John and Freddie Mercury, to name a few.

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Arlene Phillips was a Strictly judge for four years

In 2008, it was announced that after four years, BBC bosses had decided not to bring back Arlene for the 2009 series. It was reported at the time that they had decided to pick Alesha in order to bring a younger feel to the show, which sparked some criticism from Arlene's fans who accused the show of ageism. Arlene told reporters at the time the decision was handled "poorly".

It's not yet been confirmed if the rumours she is joining the 2021 series are true. However, if Arlene does make an appearance, it won't be the first time she's been involved with the competition since her departure.

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In 2018, the former judge worked with the professional dancers to choreograph a routine for a Sunday night results show. But it wasn't easy for Arlene to return. "I did this because this is where my heart lies," she told The Sun at the time.

"I didn't do this about resolving anything with Strictly. Was it hard for me to say yes? I've got to tell you, it was really hard."

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