09:34 09 June 2010
Brian Fortuna has announced he is leaving Strictly Come Dancing following the BBC's proposed changes to the show.
The professional ballroom dancer decided to quit after he and some colleagues were told to focus on professional-only routines in this autumn's series to provide segments of 'dance spectaculars', rather than dancing with celebrities.
A BBC spokeswoman said: "We would like to thank [Brian] for all his hard work over the last two series."
The BBC has recruited three new male dancers for the 2010 series. It also five of its regular professionals (which included 2009 semi-finalist Fortuna) to give up their usual mentoring role.
The plan was for Fortuna, Ian Waite, Matthew Cutler and husband and wife Darren Bennett and Lilia Kopylova, to form a new professional supergroup who would perform "show-stopping dance spectacles" each week. The number of celebrity dancers has also been cut this year from 16 to 14.
Fortuna plans to work on his West End stage show 'Burn The Floor' instead. The stage show will see him perform with his 2009 Strictly partner, Hollyoaks and The Bill actress Ali Bastian.
The American dancer commented: "I really enjoyed working on Strictly over the years - loved the fans and loved all the people I got work with - but there are changes planned for the next season so I've decided not to return to the show.
"Both Ali and I are looking forward to seeing all our fans at the Shaftesbury Theatre."
BBC controller of entertainment commissioning Mark Linsey said: "I'm delighted to be welcoming three new, fantastic dancers to Strictly and am really excited about the introduction of a professional dance group, giving us even more opportunities to feature different areas of expertise and more genres of dance than in any other series."
Fortuna joined Strictly in 2008 when he partnered M People singer Heather Small.
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