Three new professional dancers will join the Strictly Come Dancing line-up, it has been announced.
Italian Latin champion Graziano Di Prima, South African Latin champion Johannes Radebe and four-time winner of the Italian Dance Championship Luba Mushtuk will take to the floor when the show returns for its 16th series later this year.
It has already been confirmed that Brendan Cole will not be returning for the new series – and now the BBC has announced that Chloe Hewitt, who joined in 2016, will also depart the show.
The three new dancers will give the show its biggest ever line-up of professionals, according to executive producer Louise Rainbow, taking the number up to 18.
Di Prima, 24, who was born in Sicily, has represented Belgium at the World Championships and for the past three years he has toured the world with the dance company Burn The Floor.
He said: “This is my dream come true! I still can’t believe I will be one of the professional dancers on Strictly Come Dancing.
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“I can’t wait to give all of myself on the dance floor!”
Radebe, 31, from South Africa, is a dancer with the Afro Arimba Dance Company and has also been a professional dancer on Strictly Come Dancing South Africa for two seasons, both times reaching the final.
He said: “Joining Strictly Come Dancing is one of the greatest achievements of my dancing career.
“It is such an honour to be chosen to be a part of an incredible cast and be part of one of the biggest shows that is celebrated worldwide. I cannot wait to get started and experience the magic with the UK!”
Russian-born Mushtuk, 28, was ranked second in the European 10 Dance Championships and was a finalist in the Latin European Championship.
She has also worked on Burn The Floor and was part of the Strictly Come Dancing Live tour and Giovanni Pernice’s and Kevin and Karen Clifton’s tours.
She joined Strictly Come Dancing in 2016 as an assistant choreographer, contributing to a number of group routines.
She said: “Words cannot express how thrilled I am to do what I love most on the greatest show on earth!
“I am super excited and so thankful for this priceless opportunity. I can’t wait to get started as a professional dancer on Strictly… bring on the sparkle!”
The new professionals will join returning dancers AJ Pritchard, Aljaz Skorjanec, Amy Dowden, Anton Du Beke, Dianne Buswell, Giovanni Pernice, Gorka Marquez, Janette Manrara, Karen Clifton, Katya Jones, Kevin Clifton, Nadiya Bychkova, Neil Jones, Oti Mabuse and Pasha Kovalev.
Rainbow said: “This is the biggest line-up of pros that we’ve ever had on Strictly.
“We are so lucky to have such an array of talent. A huge thank you goes to Brendan from all of us for 15 amazing series of Strictly. We wish him all the very best with his future projects.
“We would also like to thank Chloe and wish her well.”
Kate Phillips, controller of entertainment commissioning at the BBC, said: “There is no other show quite like Strictly Come Dancing, and the last series proved that becoming the most popular Strictly to date.
“Our celebrity contestants this year are going to have to work harder than ever to keep up with our biggest and best professional dancer line-up yet, in what promises to be another dazzling and unforgettable series.”