Aliona Vilani: Strictly Come Dancing bosses set me up for an early exit

The axed professional dancer - who replaced injured Natalie Lowe - claims it's "obvious" why showrunners paired her 69-year-old Tony Jacklin

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It looks like former Strictly Come Dancing professional Aliona Vilani is making sure her bridges with the BBC show are well and truly burned. 

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The 29-year-old dancer, who was axed from the series earlier this year before being called in to replace injured Natalie Lowe, has claimed the show purposefully set her up to fail by pairing her with former golfer, Tony Jacklin. 

“I knew 100 per cent I’d be paired with Tony,” she told the Sunday Mirror. “It was so obvious to me. If the producers say they don’t want you on the show and then, because of circumstance, they need to ask you to come back then they are going to put you with who they think will lose the competition.

“If I got somebody who was favourite to do well, and had been in the show a long time, it would have made their decision to get rid of me look like a mistake.”


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Vilani – who first appeared on Strictly in 2009 and won the competition two years later with Harry Judd – was quick to express her support for Jacklin, who at 69 was the oldest dancer in the competition.

“I made the best of the situation. I love dancing with Tony because he was such a sweet man and in such a short time we became friends. It was a pleasure to teach him.”

But her good opinion did not extend to the Strictly judging panel who she accused of failing to “respect” the British golfing champion. 

“He was pushing himself and did great for a 69-year-old… I looked sad and upset [on the show] because their comments were so uncalled for. Everyone I’ve spoken to has said Tony did not get the respect he should have got at 69. He had so many nice things in his dancing but the judges just said really bad things.”

A Strictly Come Dancing spokeswoman commented: “Many factors are taken into account before pairing a dancer with a celebrity. It is a carefully considered process to give each celebrity the best experience.”

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