‘It Kills You’: AJ Pritchard Says It Was A ‘Relief’ To Quit Strictly Come Dancing

AJ Pritchard has said it was a “relief” to quit Strictly Come Dancing.

Earlier this week, the 25-year-old announced he was leaving the BBC dance show after five years.

The professional dancer had previously been confirmed for this year’s series of Strictly when the BBC revealed the professional line-up just two weeks ago.

AJ Pritchard (Photo: Dave J Hogan via Getty Images)

But now AJ has admitted he won’t be missing the gruelling hours and pressure involved in being a part of the biggest show on TV.

“It took up six months of my life,” he told The Sun. “Some days I would work 18-hour days because I was dancing and choreographing.

“I didn’t have a life and I wanted to be able to do more. I want to show people what I’m about — not just, ‘Here’s my celebrity partner this year that I’m going to showcase’.”

“Every single year I thought, ‘How the hell am I going to get out of bed to keep going?’ — because of the sheer energy levels.

“You would do 18-hour days, mentally there is a lot of stress on you and you’re on TV every day. It kills you.

“I won’t miss Monday morning rehearsals in a freezing studio at 8am. I will happily never do that again. There’s a lot of strain, both physically and mentally.”

He added: “I did have to turn down things in the past, which I was upset about sometimes, but I understood I was part of Strictly Come Dancing. Now I am going to pursue things I didn’t have the time for. It’s the right move.

“It’s a relief to finally quit. If I didn’t further my development now, while at my peak mental well-being, I would regret it.”

AJ is planning on launching a TV career with his brother Curtis (Photo: Jo Hale via Getty Images)

AJ now plans to embark on a TV presenting career with his brother Curtis, who found fame on Love Island last year.

He has said the pair have been inspired by Ant and Dec’s on-screen double-act.

He said: “We would love to be that presenting duo, like them. We want to bring our brand — that all-singing, all-dancing Saturday night style of family entertainment, a bit like Bruce Forsyth.”

AJ’s exit from Strictly comes just three weeks after fellow professional Kevin Clifton also announced that he was leaving the show.

Earlier this month, AJ and Curtis embarked on a UK tour together, having also made a joint appearance during the finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK last year.

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Fern Britton and Artem Chigvintsev

Fern and Artem danced together in series 10, just missing out on the halfway point when they went home in week six.

In 2015, she claimed that she hadn’t enjoyed working with Artem, claiming he used to “kick” and “shove” her during rehearsals, also suggesting: “He was like, ‘Shut your face. Go home before I kill you’.

“I would say, ‘Oh please just kill me, it would be easier’. Or what was his other one? ‘If you go for a cup of tea now, I will blow off like an atomic bomb.’ I thought, well I won’t correct him on that one.”

Artem later claimed Fern’s comments were not reflective of “any situation he recognised”, insisting he treated the former This Morning host with “respect and genuine care”.

Lynda Bellingham and Darren Bennett

The late Loose Women star lasted four weeks in the competition back in 2009, where she was partnered with Darren Bennett.

A year after her death, Lynda’s widower Michael Pattemore gave an interview claiming she “hated” her experience on the dancing show.

“She said her partner Darren Bennett was such a miserable git. There was no laughter, no fun,” he explained. “All the way through rehearsals she didn’t mind training hard, but it was solid dance. He was just hard work. If Lynda had had a partner like Anton Du Beke or someone, now they would have had some fun together.”

Gregg Wallace and Aliona Vilani

The Masterchef star was the first celebrity eliminated from his series, which he put down to the fact that his professional partner wasn’t exactly his biggest fan.

“I love dancing, but if I were paired with somebody who liked me then I would have done better,” he said.

Following their elimination, Aliona also retweeted a number of messages calling for her to get a better partner in future series, with select messages including “could someone please give Aliona a decent partner next year”.

As it goes, the following year would see her lifting the Glitterball trophy with help from former The Wanted singer Jay McGuiness.

Laura Whitmore and Giovanni Pernice

In 2018, Laura Whitmore published a blog on HuffPost UK in which she outlined the difficulties she faced when she took part in Strictly two years earlier.

“I cried every day,” she wrote. “And I really was broken, both mentally and physically, by the end.

“To the outside world I tried to suck it up and smile, and I did that to the best of my ability, but it affected me deeply. My friends and family knew that I was struggling. And they were there for me. The media, however, saw me as blonde bait in a sequinned dress.”

Giovanni Pernice had previously dated Georgia May Foote, Laura’s close friend, until shortly before the series started.

Danny John-Jules and Amy Dowden

Things between Danny John-Jules and Amy Dowden got off to a strong start, with the pair landing some high scores in their first few weeks of dancing together on Strictly.

Unfortunately, by the time they bowed out of the competition, the pair had been dogged by rumours of a fall-out behind the scenes, with tabloid reports claiming he’d left her in tears after a blazing row.

During an appearance on It Takes Two, the pair admitted an argument had taken place, but refuted any “bullying” claims.

When Danny left the show, he declined to appear on It Takes Two with Amy, and later accused the show of “creating stories” about him, which the BBC insisted was not the case.

Laila Rouass and Anton Du Beke

In what was genuinely a low-point for Strictly Come Dancing, Anton Du Beke made headlines during an early series of the show, when he used a racial slur to describe his partner during an off-air conversation.

Anton later issued a statement insisting he’d only used the term “p**i” towards her as backstage “banter” (his words, not ours), and unreservedly apologised for his choice of language.

Former Strictly host Sir Bruce Forsyth later took a bit of heat after the scandal, when he claimed that Anton hadn’t done anything wrong.He said at the time: “We used to have a sense of humour about this. You go back 25, 30, 40 years and there has always been a bit of humour about the whole thing.

”The presenter was later forced to backtrack in a more official capacity, with a statement saying: “To be absolutely clear, the use of racially offensive language is never either funny or acceptable.” 

Anastacia and Brendan Cole

Back in 2016, Brendan was forced to deny reports that he was bickering behind the scenes with his then-partner Anastacia, telling Digital Spy: “We’ve definitely had some conversations, I won’t lie about that. “I think we’re both two very strong-minded individuals in a process, but we get along very, very well.” Two years later, Anastacia revealed she was still in touch with “pretty much everyone” from Strictly, apart from her professional partner. “We don’t have that kind of connection. It was just for the show,” she said.

Nancy Dell'Olio and Anton Du Beke

During a public event shortly after he and Nancy were voted out of Strictly, Anton was asked for his thoughts on her dancing abilities, joking they were “shit” and that his celebrity partner “never got that good”.

When asked whether he thought the judges had been “cruel” in their comments about Nancy, Anton responded: “I think the producers were cruel giving her to me in the first place.”

Reports around that time also claimed that Nancy had blamed Anton for her poor performance.

Lulu and Brendan Cole

That same year, another couple were apparently clashing behind the scenes, with Lulu and Brendan Cole both later revealing their working relationship wasn’t the best.

Brendan has suggested the Shout singer was “not a particularly nice person” when they worked together, and has since branded her his worst ever partner during an interview on Loose Women.

“Blooming awful,” he said. “But she felt the same about me, so it’s alright.”

Kelvin Fletcher and Oti Mabuse

They danced their way to victory and became firm friends in the process, but Kelvin and Oti were candid throughout their Strictly journey about the fact that they didn’t always see eye to eye during training.

In fact, in the weeks leading up to the final, Kelvin revealed that he and Oti had “come to blows” on more than one occasion during a particularly “hard week”.

Michelle Visage and Giovanni Pernice

Similarly, Michelle and Giovanni were both open about the fact that their fiery natures meant that they clashed during rehearsals, even if they always made up in the end.

The RuPaul’s Drag Race judge maintained that she and Giovanni were still friends despite their occasional spats, most notably after a tabloid report that she was “unhappy” with her partner, shortly before she was eliminated.

“Gio is my best friend in this competition, he is my rock and I trust him with everything,” she wrote on Twitter. “We have the most fun and laughs together and to suggest otherwise is just sad.”

Brendan Cole and Shirley Ballas

But it isn’t just the stars and their partners who have rubbed each other up the wrong way over the years.

During her first series on the show, Brendan and Shirley had an awkward moment when he contradicted a critique she’d given of one of his performances, and the Head Judge later admitted that there’d been some tension between them.

“He’s confrontational,” Shirley said. “Every other professional was extremely respectful, very well-mannered, ‘How are you Mrs Ballas? You’re doing a good job’.”

Brendan later admitted that he thinks the confrontation may have cost him his job on the show.

Fiona Phillips and Brendan Cole

After Brendan was axed from the show, Fiona said in an interview with the Daily Star that the move was "karma" as he "wasn't very nice" towards her when they were partnered together back in 2005. "Brendan was a real bugger, actually," she claimed. "He wasn’t very nice. He was really naughty. “He’s not on the show now. Karma indeed. It works its way every time.”

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This article originally appeared on HuffPost.