Gorka Marquez: It’s sad for everybody when someone leaves Strictly line-up

Strictly Come Dancing star Gorka Marquez has said it is “just sad for everybody” when someone leaves the line-up, in the wake of Giovanni Pernice’s exit.

The Italian dancer, 33, has been part of the BBC One celebrity dancing show since 2015, when he reached the grand final with Coronation Street actress Georgia May Foote.

But the BBC did not announce him in its line-up of professional dancers for 2024, after claims of abusive or threatening behaviour, which he has strongly rejected.

Giovanni Pernice wearing a brown suit standing near a staircase
Giovanni Pernice has been part of the BBC One celebrity dancing show since 2015 (Ian West/PA)

Marquez, who is now the longest serving male professional dancer in the line-up, compared his departure with that of other veterans, including Aljaz Skorjanec and Oti Mabuse.

He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “I think it’s like when Aljaz left or Oti left, or when Anton (Du Beke) decided to go to the judge role.

“Everybody’s missed, everybody’s a big part of the show, so when someone decides to leave or change careers, it’s just sad for everybody.”

Asked if he is still in touch with Pernice, Marquez said: “Sometimes we speak. He’s so busy, I’m busy, he’s on tour at the moment with Anton.”

Anton Du Beke smiling and holding a top hat in the air
Strictly Come Dancing judge Anton Du Beke (Jane Barlow/PA)

The show will mark its 20th year on air this year, and professional dancer Karen Hauer, who is the longest-serving female professional, said: “Without the public, we wouldn’t be here. The fans absolutely love the show, it’s an institution.

“I always say it’s like a warm blanket, you always feel at home and you always feel safe.”

She added: “It’s definitely given us a platform to do things and to be able to inspire people and encourage and become role models and it’s great to be able to entertain.

“It’s going to be my 13th year and I absolutely adore it.”

Karen Hauer wearing a black strapless dress
Karen Hauer described Strictly as ‘like a warm blanket’ (Doug Peters/PA)

She paid tribute to one of her dancing partners, TV chef and Hairy Biker Dave Myers, who died earlier this year.

She said: “He was just everything. He was just a bundle of joy. And because of him, I started to enjoy Strictly and really making sure that I was being myself at all times and not to take myself too seriously.”

Sicily-born Pernice, who won the show in 2021 with EastEnders star Rose Ayling-Ellis, was last paired with Sherlock actress Amanda Abbington, who withdrew from the competition in 2023 for “personal reasons”.

Earlier this month the dancer said he is “co-operating fully” with an ongoing BBC investigation and is looking forward to “clearing my name and establishing the truth”.