Strictly legend’s shock return confirmed 3 years after quitting BBC series

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In news that will bring joy to Strictly Come Dancing fans across the country, one iconic professional is returning to the ballroom.

After announcing his exit in 2022 and shattering hearts, Aljaž Škorjanec is coming back for the show’s 20th-anniversary series.

The news was confirmed on Monday night’s episode of The One Show and follows the exit of Giovanni Pernice just weeks ago.

Giovanni, 33, is currently at the centre of a probe following allegations of inappropriate and controlling behaviour towards celebrity contestants, prompting him to step down after eight years.

The Italian pro, who joined Strictly in 2015, has emphatically denied the accusations against him and has said he looks forward to clearing his name while the BBC investigates.

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Meanwhile, the remainder of the 2023 cast will return, including longest-serving pro Karen Hauer and Amy Dowden, who took a break last series to undergo breast cancer treatment.

Janette Manrara and Aljaz Skorjanec at the Pride Of Manchester in 2023
The dancer welcomed a baby with former Strictly icon Janette Manrara last year (Picture: Dominic Lipinski/Getty Images)
Giovanni Pernice for Strictly Come Dancing
Giovanni Pernice will not be returning to Strictly this year (Picture: BBC/Ray Burmiston)

With no other new additions to the cast, it appears Strictly legend Aljaž, 34, is back to make up the numbers.

Shimmying his way onto The One Show studio floor, Aljaž couldn’t hide his excitement when asked about his comeback by host Alex Jones.

‘The nation will be thrilled,’ said Alex, to which Aljaž replied: ‘So am I!’

‘It’s been a little while now since I’ve known and I couldn’t wait to tell everyone,’ he said with a smile.

‘I’m probably more excited now than I was when I first started.’

The choreographer was then asked what he’s ‘most looking forward to’ as Strictly gears up for a glitzy extravaganza to mark two decades on screens.

Sara Davies and Aljaz Skorjanec on Strictly Come Dancing
The Slovenian dancer’s last series was in 2021 when he was paired with Sara Davies (Picture: BBC/Guy Levy)
Clara Amfo and Aljaz Skorjanec on Strictly Come Dancing
Pictured here with Radio 1 DJ Clara Amfo, Aljaž first appeared on Strictly nine years ago (Picture: PA)

‘I think everything. I think Strictly, like we all know, gets bigger and better every year, especially this year for the anniversary, it’s incredible, and I think it’s a part of British culture now.

‘Why we all do it is for everyone at home watching and it makes so many people happy, it brightens up so many people’s days, so that’s what I’m looking forward to the most, really.’

The Slovenian dancer’s face lit up as he proceeded to speak about his daughter, Lyra, whom he welcomed last year with wife and fellow Strictly legend, Janette Manrara.

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On whether becoming a dad has changed him as a person, and whether fatherhood has taught him any lessons he can take into the ballroom, Aljaž joked: ‘The one thing she’s definitely taught me is how to stay up for three days at a time.

‘I’m probably gonna have more energy to train than I’ve ever had before!’

Aljaž said Lyra, who will turn one on July 28, has now started to walk and has a ‘beautiful little wiggle’, so we’re sure she’ll be boogying along with her daddy on Saturday nights come autumn!

Aljaz Skorjanec on The One Show
His face lit up as he spoke about his baby girl and how she’ll be able to watch him on TV (Picture: BBC)
Aljaz Skorjanec with baby daughter Lyra
Lyra will turn one later this month (Picture: Instagram)
Aljaz Skorjanec and Janette Manrara with baby daughter Lyra
Aljaž joked that being a parent means he now has more capacity to stay up late (Picture: Instagram)

Following the exciting announcement, Aljaž said in a statement shared by the BBC: ‘I could not be more ecstatic to be back with the Strictly family!

‘This year is such a special one for this legendary show, I can’t wait to be a part of it and make my return to the dancefloor.

‘I had an absolute ball during my nine-year stint on Strictly, during my time away I became a parent, which has been an exciting challenge in itself and now I’m ready to experience the Strictly magic again.

‘It feels so right to be coming back, I missed the fun, glitter and the judges of course and I hope to make my daughter Lyra proud!’

Sarah James, Executive Producer of Strictly, also expressed happiness at Aljaž’s return, as he will come with ‘his incredible choreography and passion for dance.’

‘During his nine series, he was a firm favourite with viewers across the country, I’m sure everyone is in for a treat as he joins us to entertain the nation for a very special 20th year of the show.’

Aljaz Skorjanec and Janette Manrara on the Strictly Come Dancing tour
Janette hosts spin-off show It Takes Two alongside Fleur East, a role she took on after stepping down as a pro dancer herself (Picture: David Fisher/REX)

Aljaž’s past Strictly partners have included Helen George, Daisy Lowe, Gemma Atkinson, and Sara Davies, the latter being his final partner in 2021 before he stepped down.

The 2024 celebrity line-up is yet to be confirmed but should be made public in the coming weeks. Currently, the likes of Martin Roberts, Hannah Waddingham, and Chris McCausland are all rumoured to be signing up.

Strictly Come Dancing returns to BBC One and BBC iPlayer later this year.

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