THE Strictly Come Dancing cast suffered "real shock" when AJ Pritchard quit, pro dancer Karen Hauer has confirmed.
The Sun Online revealed bosses were left "blindsided" and fuming at the move amid the show's uncertainty over coronavirus cutbacks.
Professional Karen has spoken out about fellow dancers AJ and her ex-husband Kevin Clifton stepping down and insisted she's taking the show's return "day by day".
Asked if she knew AJ wasn't planning to take part in the next series, Karen said on This Morning: "Absolutely not.
"It was a real shock to all of us, I had no idea.
"We're definitely going to miss AJ and Kevin. We have such a wonderful team in Strictly. I'm excited to see what their upcoming projects will be."
And quizzed on whether the coronavirus pandemic will cancel Strictly 2020, Karen added: "Right now were taking it day by day. The most important thing right now is that we're staying home and staying safe.
"We're trying to dance and stay fit as much as we can. We hope that Strictly does come back but we need – and are hoping for – that Strictly magic that we all love."
Stoke-on-Trent born star AJ, 25, quit the dancing programme to focus on “becoming the next Ant and Dec” with his brother Curtis, who was on Love Island last summer.
But his decision has disappointed BBC chiefs.
A show insider told us: “It’s terrible timing, AJ was a big part of the show’s future and nobody saw this coming at all.
“Arriving so quickly after the departure of Kevin – it is a double blow.
“Things are really tough at the moment. The show doesn’t come back until the Autumn but, by now, the programme would have liked to have one or two big celeb names signed up.
“So far there is nobody on the books. Everything has been put on hold because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, as well as facing a search for big names, the bosses need to replace one of their top male dancers."
Today This Morning host Phillip Schofield asked if Oti Mabuse's husband would be joining now there's a space in the pro-dancer line-up.
Oti shouted: "That's a rumour that comes every single year.
"My sister called to ask if he was joining and I said, 'you're literally on the show, you would know'.
"Any announcements come from BBC officially, so no. "
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