Strictly Come Dancing’s Neil Jones benched as pros without partners confirmed

There are fewer contestants than usual on this year's series.

Neil Jones Strictly 2019 (BBC)

BBC favourite Strictly Come Dancing has confirmed which professional dancers don’t have partners in this year’s shorter-than-usual series.

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BBC One is pushing on with an altered version of the cherished competition, with changes made necessary by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Strictly’s executive producer Sarah James told press including RadioTimes.com there are four pros without partners this year as a result of the reduced number of celebrity contestants.

Nadiya Bychkova, Neil Jones, Graziano Di Prima and Nancy Xu will not be competing in the main competition, but they will be forming a close contact cohort together to perform during the guest musical act.

According to a recent BBC document, a close contact cohort on a television production is “as small a number of people as possible who unavoidably need to be in close contact with each other”.

The news confirms some major names will be absent from the Strictly contest this year, with Neil making a big impression last year while partnered up with ex-footballer Alex Scott.

He was forced to take two weeks off from the competition after suffering an injury to his calf muscle, but was able to make a triumphant return in week eight, and ultimately placed fifth overall.

Last year, Nadiya fared not quite as strongly in a pair with ex-footballer David James, placing 12th overall but impressing judges with a strong quickstep in week four.

For Nancy and Graziano, this is the second year in a row they are without celebrity partners, but will remain valued participants of the group performances.

Di Prima was part of Strictly’s first same-sex performance last year, dancing with Johannes Radebe in a move that laid the groundwork for this year’s pairing of boxer Nicola Adams with a female professional.

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Strictly Come Dancing returns to BBC One later this year. While you’re waiting, visit our TV Guide to see what’s on tonight, or check out our guide to new TV shows 2020 to find out what’s airing this autumn and beyond.