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Strictly done dancing: BBC fends off new ageism row as oldest female performer Karen Hardy leaves sh


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Strictly done dancing: BBC fends off new ageism row as oldest female performer Karen Hardy leaves show


By Nicola Boden

Last updated at 12:35 PM on 03rd August 2009





The BBC is embroiled in a new ageism row after it emerged the oldest female dancer on Strictly Come Dancing is leaving the show.


Hardy, 39, who was crowned champion with cricketer Mark Ramprakash in 2006, will not take part in the new Strictly series this autumn.

The mother-of-one is quitting and will reportedly be replaced with two dancers in their 20s after a four-year history with the programme.

Her departure comes weeks after the BBC admitted judge Arlene Phillips, 66, was being axed in favour of former winner Alesha Dixon, 30.


article-1203947-05160953000005DC-312_468x311.jpg On the move: Karen Hardy with Mark Ramprakash on the way to victory in Strictly Come Dancing in 2006. She will not take part in the seventh series


A BBC source insisted Hardy had not been axed and that her departure was nothing to do with her age but because she wanted to pursue other interests.


'Any change has been amicable. It's not about axing someone,' the source told Mail Online, adding that Hardy would still be 'involved' in the show.


But the development immediately sparked new accusations of ageism and risks alienating fans who regard Hardy as one of the best dancers in the yearly contest.


'Karen wants to branch out with work, but the BBC were happy for her to leave. They made the decision,' an insider told the Daily Mirror.

'Despite Karen being one of the best dancers, she’s gone and it seems to be another sign that bosses want to make the series younger to try to take some of the X Factor audience.'


article-1203947-05F72B7F0000044D-118_468x358.jpg Victory: Hardy and the cricketer with the coveted Strictly trophy


Many are already furious that Phillips has been replaced with ex-Mysteeq star Dixon despite having decades of professional dance experience.

The singer was appointed as the BBC chased younger viewers in a bid to counter the popularity of ITV rival The X Factor after it brought in Girls Aloud's Cheryl Cole.

It is thought Hardy will still appear on the spin-off show on BBC It Takes Two and may yet have some cameo role in the main programme.

She is said to be being replaced with Katya Virshilas, a 25-year-old from Lithuania, and Natalie Lowe, 28, from Australia in the seventh series.

A BBC spokesman refused to comment about the line-up for the new series, which is set to be unveiled in a few weeks. Hardy's agent also refused to comment.



article-1203947-0355734F0000044D-322_468x557.jpg Debut: Hardy immediately won over fans during her first appearance on the show with BBC Breakfast presenter Bill Turnbull


Hardy, who turned 39 last month, had a glittering professional career as a dancer and is a former British and world champion.

She retired in 1999 and was first asked to join the Strictly team in 2004 when head judge Len Goodman suggested her to the production team.


By then she was pregnant with son Callum and so it was 12 months before she actually appeared, immediately becoming a firm favourite.

She partnered BBC Breakfast presenter Bill Turnbull in her first series, Ramprakash in 2006, actor Brian Capron, and then chef Gary Rhodes last year.


Her performances with Ramprakash are still some of the most memorable in the history of the show.

Hardy, originally from Bournemouth, became a coach after she quit dancing ten years ago and also moved into judging professional competitions.

She runs her own dance studios - launching the latest in Chelsea, London, last December - and has been staging a series of summer dance shows this year.


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1203947/BBC-fends-new-ageism-row-Karen-Hardy-leaves-Strictly-Come-Dancing.html#ixzz0N7ceH6R5

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