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Neil Jones, 38, has been a part of the cast of professional dancers since he joined Strictly Come Dancing in 2016. Last year, he was finally given a celebrity partner as he coupled up with footballer and presenter, Alex Scott, 36. However, it was quite a dramatic partnership as the trained dancer sustained an injury, which meant he had to be replaced for a number of weeks. Unfortunately, his run on the BBC dance show hasn’t continued as he isn’t a part of this year’s competitive line-up, instead only featuring in group dances or as a support act for the musical guests.
The professional dancer joined presenter Zoe Ball, 49, on Tuesday’s edition of spin-off show It Takes Two to speak about his participation this year.
With fewer celebrities taking part this year as a result of social distancing measures implemented to combat the spread of coronavirus, it seems this is why he hasn’t partnered with a contestant.
Instead, he has formed a close contact cohort bubble with co-star Nancy Xu, 29, so he can still perform in some capacity.
Asking how Neil was feeling about being snubbed from the competitive line-up, the presenter said it was “their loss and our gain,” that he had a new role on the companion programs.
Sharing his take on not competing, the trained dancer said: “We don’t all have partners but it doesn’t matter.”
“Strictly is still happening and that’s all we care about,” he added and viewers shared their optimism over Neil’s new role.
One fan wrote on Twitter: “Flipping love Neil Jones! I really hope he gets a partner next year. He is too good to just be in the group.”
Another added: “Neil is brilliant in the choreography corner. Can he be back every week,” whilst a third raged: “Criminal Neil Jones hasn’t got a ‘celeb’ partner.”
As well as Neil and Nancy missing out on performing competitively this year, Graziano Di Prima, 26, and Nadiya Bychkova, 31, join them in waiting in the wings.
That’s all we care about
Neil first spoke out about not getting a partner earlier this year when appearing on a podcast with former Strictly star, Kevin Clifton, 38.
The professional said: “You’ll get articles where they say, ‘Neil’s angry he doesn’t get a part on Strictly,’ or something like this and I’m not angry at all.
“I’m actually feeling kind of lucky to have a job,” he continued, before going on to commend his co-stars who will be competing.
“If there are not as many celebs, there will be pros without partners. So it’s fine. We’re part of the show and we’re having fun,” he added.
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Although Neil won’t be able to get his hands on the Glitterball Trophy this year, there are still 11 professionals in the running for victory.
Despite missing out on the drama last year, it seems Gorka Marquez, 30, could be making a triumphant return thanks to his partnership with soap star Maisie Smith.
According to the latest odds from Coral bookmakers, the EastEnders actress’ chances of winning currently stand at 2/1.
However, she and her professional partner face stiff competition from chart-topper HRVY, 21, who is leading the way at 7/4.
On the other end of the spectrum, American football star Jason Bell, 42, could become the next celebrity to be eliminated from the competition.
The sportsman’s chances of leaving currently stand at 5/1, with former Royal Marine and television presenter JJ Chalmers, 33, not far behind him at 6/1.
This weekend, the remaining 11 couples will perform routines to the soundtracks of some of the biggest moves in history.
With just eight weeks of the show left, will the celebrities be able to change their fates to ensure they make the final?
Strictly Come Dancing continues at 7:25pm on BBC One.
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