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Natalie Lowe quits Strictly Come Dancing

Len Goodman will also be absent from the 2017 series.

Strictly Come Dancing professional Natalie Lowe has quit the show.

The Australian dancer, who was partnered with Olympian long jumper Greg Rutherford for the 2016 series, has announced she will not be coming back to the reality show in the autumn (17).

"This was a very difficult decision for me not to accept the invitation to appear on this season of Strictly Come Dancing," she told the Press Association. "It is with a very heavy heart that I have arrived at this decision.

"I'll be forever grateful for the amazing time, opportunities and memories that Strictly has created for me. My time on the programme has been everything that I dreamed it would be and more.

"From the friendships I developed, the amazing dances I was able to perform in and the experiences that Strictly provided, it has been an incredible and extraordinary adventure."

The 36-year-old joined Strictly in 2009 after years on Australian equivalent Dancing with the Stars, and was partnered with celebrity contestants including former Hollyoaks actor Ricky Whittle, EastEnders' Scott Maslen, boxer Audley Harrison, cricketer Michael Vaughan, Bargain Hunt's Tim Wonnacott, and celebrity chef Ainsley Harriott.

The closest she got to the coveted glitter ball was with Ricky, who came runner-up, followed by Scott, who came fourth.

She's not the only familiar face who will be missing from the 2017 series; head judge Len Goodman announced before the end of the last season that he would be retiring, and BBC bosses are still on the hunt for his replacement.

According to The Sun, ballroom dancer Shirley Ballas has been called back for a second audition and bosses are "definitely interested" in hiring her.

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