Strictly’s Neil Jones opens up on co-star’s exit from BBC show ‘It was the right time’

Strictly: Nina Wadia mimics Neil Jones during training

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Professional dancer Neil Jones has been a staple on Strictly Come Dancing since 2016 and was partnered up with former EastEnders star Nina Wadia in the latest series of the BBC competition. The programme often sees new faces come and go, and last year saw the arrival of two new professional dancers, Kai Widdrington and Nikita Kuzmin. Meanwhile, it was Janette Manrara who made her exit as a pro dancer.

Kai was partnered up with AJ Odudu, while Nikita took to the dance floor with Tilly Ramsay.

Despite welcoming two new stars, viewers missed seeing Janette on the dance floor as she hung up her dancing shoes in 2020.

It was later confirmed she would replace Zoe Ball as host on It Takes Two and joined Rylan Clark-Neal on the BBC spin-off to give viewers the latest Strictly news.

Speaking exclusively to, Neil gave his opinion on why it was time for Janette to move on.

“Janette is incredible as a presenter and she’s been working so hard,” Neil explained.

Speaking of her decision to leave, he continued: “You know, it’s not just something that came around at that moment.

“She’s been working on her presenting, she had her podcast, and she was always doing that during lockdown and even before that she’s been working on her skills.”

He continued: “So I think it was the right time. It was a really good moment for her.”

Despite leaving the show, Janette will be joining her co-stars on the Strictly Come Dancing live tour.

Janette will be presenting the show and she will even get the chance to dance again.

Meanwhile, away from the dance floor, Neil has announced a rather unusual career change.

He revealed: “My main things are creative stuff, that’s my happy place and that’s what brings me joy.

“And so, during lockdown, I was learning how to tattoo. I am starting a tattoo apprenticeship.

“I’ve got some tattoos on my legs that I did to myself.”

The 39-year-old went on to add being creative and performing is something he has always enjoyed.

“At the moment I love creating and I love performing,” the dancer admitted.

“So, I get to do both of those on Strictly. This is what I like.”

Discussing the upcoming Strictly tour, which is due to begin this month, Neil reassured fans: “Hopefully they’re all still going ahead.

“I’m really excited about doing it, so that is the kind of stuff I like.”

Strictly Come Dancing is available to watch on the BBC iPlayer.

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